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3 Branding Traps Actors Fall Into… and What to do About Them

Written By Jodie Bentley—

Branding is the key to getting in the doors you want as an actor. And more importantly, it's the key to getting called back into those rooms again and again.

Chances are, if the concept of branding makes you roll your eyes with disdain, it’s because either you or the people around you aren’t talking about branding in the right way.

Perhaps you find it limiting.

Perhaps you don’t want to be pigeonholed into a specific ‘type’.

Perhaps you just hate the idea of being labeled.

But in order to market yourself effectively as an actor, you MUST understand branding and your Brand.

The issue comes when you get your headshots, design your resume and build a website BEFORE you know what you sell. Before you understand your product! Most actors do this.

Hear me when I say, when you do that - You are wasting time and money.

You’re missing the first crucial step of understanding what you sell. When you can name it, only then can you package it and sell it.

I’ve been teaching Branding for over 13 years now, and I've discovered there are three main traps that actors fall into.

Trap #1 : Listening to everyone else.

So, are you a people pleaser? A lot of actors are.

Look, people will tell you who you ’should’ be and what you ‘should’ do ALL THE TIME. But you must ask yourself - is it who you want to be and what you want to do?

If you approach your brand only with how others perceive you in this business, you will get bitter and jaded and burnt out.

Articulating and owning your Brand is much more about peeling off the layers of the armor you hide behind, not putting on what people ‘should’ on you. That armor only covers you up from TRULY being seen and protects you from living in your vulnerability.

Isn’t that why you became an actor?

To be fearless and vulnerable for those who are too afraid to do so for themselves?

To be seen and heard?

To hold up a mirror to society and show people it’s okay to feel and express their humanity?

You do it on stage, in front of the camera or in a booth…so why not give yourself permission to express your full range in your life and business as well?

If you are ONLY listening to your agent, your manager or other people in the business, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice because you’re leaving yourself out of the equation.

Ask yourself:

  • How do you want to show up in this world?

  • What makes you unique?

  • Who are you authentically?

  • What are the stories that you want to tell?

If you know the answers to those questions, that is compelling, memorable and will draw people in EVERY time to want to know more about you.

Trap #2 : Listening ONLY to yourself

So…on the flip side, if you approach your branding with only how you want to be seen in this world and ignore perception, you’ll also get bitter and jaded and burnt out.

You can’t force people to see what you want them to see. Therefore, research on how others perceive you is vital. This Business is subjective AND you can’t deny what is innately in you that people see.

Part of that perception is simply based on your facial features.

For example – I know my strong jaw, eyebrows and cheekbones, lend me to play women of power who are typically obsessive, mean and narcissistic. That’s no reflection on who I am as a person. Simply just how I look.

That also gives me information on what to do when I get an audition for a compassionate nurse or single mom persevering. If you know how you’re perceived, then you also know how to package that and lean into it or away from it when you want. You can subliminally guide people to what you want them to see.

Branding sets expectations about the product you’re offering, in a way that’s clear, concise, and to the point. If you are hindering that process by being unclear, vague, or vanilla, you’re doing your career a disservice.

Trap #3 : Branding is about the roles you play

Listen to me very clearly, Branding is NOT the roles you can play.

I can play Doctor, Lawyer, CEO and probably half of you reading this right now can play that too. But we would all be very different Doctors, Lawyers, CEOs.

Why? Because it's about the essence of the characters. By thinking your brand is a role, you are not being specific enough. Vagueness is not going to help you at all in this business.

If you're not being specific, you're not helping others to really see you, the stories you tell and the themes that you bring to your work.

So what's the solution to this? Just stop it. Stop thinking your brand is a role or a genre.

Think of your Brand like an iceberg.

When you picture an iceberg in your mind’s eye, what is it you actually see? The teeny, tiny tip, right?

The tip of the iceberg typically comprises less than 10% of the entire iceberg. Before you do your brand research and product development, what people initially see of you is much more limited and one-dimensional.

It’s up to you to unmine what’s below the surface, so people can see the 3-dimensional nature of what’s underneath.

Your job is to bring what’s underneath out of the darkness and to the surface so you can show people what you want them to know about you, and what you’d like them to see.

This is holistic branding. It's showcasing all of you. And the clearer you are on your brand, the easier it will be to package that brand. And the faster the industry will understand what you bring to the table.

I invite you to think of your brand as a promise From your initial headshot, to the follow up, to getting your foot in the door - it is a promise that you are who you say you are and that you are consistent in the message and point of view that you’re putting out in the world. Then people will understand who you are and get you instantaneously. And when that happens, it builds trust in who you are and what you do.

That is how you will be remembered.

Jodie Bentley

Check out Jodie on LimeLight!

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