Black Girls Rock: Branding Lessons from Issa Rae’s Awkwardness

This week, BET’s Black Girls Rock 2017 honored Insecure’s mastermind Issa Rae. Insecure is a 30-minute sitcom that explores social and racial issues that relate to the contemporary black experience. Rae’s character is based on her web series “Awkward Black Girl.” She plays the role of an insightful, raunchy, and hilarious 20-something black woman that cuts through stereotypes with sharp wit and an effusive spirit.

As a result of her stellar performance, Rae received the Star Power Award. Rae’s award speech was captivating, hilarious, and poignant. As she wrapped up her award speech story, I thought “Wow…Her awkwardness is what sets her apart from her anyone else in her line of work.” This made me reflect on the realities of being an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, it is vital to identify facets of your brand that differentiate you from competitors. In this case, Issa was able to realize and embrace the reality that she was not the normal kid while growing up—which has worked in her favor. Her unique brand of awkward became the drawing tool that propelled her career forward.

Here are 6 branding pointers I came away with after watching Issa’s speech:

  1. Market Niche – Issa was able to carve out a niche – awkwardness. There are many awkward entrepreneurs in our networking circles, but how many have been able to take who they are and turn a piece of their personality or quirkiness into a revenue stream?
  1. Service – Issa offers a valuable service which differentiates her in the entertainment industry. Her witty character has captured the audience of many HBO viewers every week simply because of her willingness to own who she is.
  1. Unique Habit & Guarantee – Issa’s refined skill is guaranteed to keep you laughing through each episode. The take-away from this point is that you should be so committed to your brand’s craft that there is a guaranteed benefit for your target audience/demographic.
  1. Position – As Issa stated, she realized she was a bit atypical when her ongoing remarks in class were met with laughter or complete silence. No matter how hard she tried, she was always the kid in the room that stood out like a sore thumb. As an adult, this has allowed her to position her skills and talent to writers and producers who were looking for a character with the wittiness she possessed.
  1. Equity – Based on ratings, viewers have become invested in the show. Insecure has a loyal viewer base, and motivates viewers to make sure they’re plugged into their television on show night. If viewers miss an episode, you can bet they’ll be viewing the episode at a later time and date. This is proof that building credibility for your brand also builds equity.
  1. Promise – Issa’s promise is to deliver herself –awkwardness and all. Similarly, you must be unwilling to compromise your brand to fit in.

Rae stated, “For a long time, I defined myself by what I wasn’t which constantly set me up for failure [after] failure.” Had Rae not possessed the power of resilience, she wouldn’t have been able to brand herself and generate another revenue stream or wield the influence she has as an actress.

How does this epiphany relate to you as a business owner? Truth is, I know how confusing branding can be. In years past I would have said branding is about my logo, business cards and more. However, as I’ve grown and sought advice from branding experts, I now realize branding is so much more. Branding creates loyal customers and it provides customers and clients something to believe in and something to stand behind, to engage with…much like viewers are engaged with Issa Rae’s character in HBO’s Insecure.

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