Joshua Bell

Do You Exist if No One Recognizes Your Brand?

I’d love to be famous for a day — reveling in the accolades of fans, with assistants responding to my every wish and making more money in a day than some people make in a year.

But does fame guarantee that everyone will know who you are and appreciate what you do? Do you have a well-defined and recognizable personal brand?

Remarkable Talent Isn’t Enough

The world-famous violinist Joshua Bell discovered that fame and his remarkable talent weren’t enough to entice passersby in a busy train station to stop and listen. The Washington Post a number of years ago conducted an experiment in cooperation with the violinist.

Wearing a baseball cap and in jeans, he was only recognized by one person over a 45-minute period of playing several of the most famous pieces in the classical repertoire. The subsequent Post story quickly went viral.

Bell’s experience prompted me to ask myself: am I doing enough to promote myself to potential clients? I may be the best writer in the world, but if no one knows me, it really doesn’t matter. As the Post said about Bell’s experiment, “If a great musician plays great music but no one hears…was he really any good?”

Judge for yourself in this video taken with a hidden camera in the train station.


Context counts. Too often, we limit ourselves to a small circle of business acquaintances that include only clients and members of our professional association. Joshua Bell learned he was unrecognizable when appearing out of context in a train station instead of a concert hall.

Expand Your Network

As business coach Andrea Nierenberg, author of the book “Nonstop Networking” writes, “You have the opportunity to exponentially expand your circles of influence, professional and social connections by building relationships with groups and individuals in your community. Consider joining local organizations dedicated to making a positive impact.

“Key players in your community may include local government officials, school board members, alumni groups, religious leaders and executives of local charities. Generating consistent face-time with these individuals tends to afford you a degree of credibility over time within the community. You can markedly expand your circles of influence by developing friendships with these groups and members of your community.”

So maybe it’s time to spread your wings when promoting your brand. Meeting prospects can happen in the most unlikely places that aren’t your usual business hangouts. After all, potential clients also coach Little League and volunteer at soup kitchens.

It’s possible to meet them by becoming a volunteer while also making a difference in your community.

Leave a Reply


  1. Yep, that is the way it can work. Most of my career moves were from building my brand and networking. That same thing applies to other aspects of our lives. In my case my blog. I’ve got work to do with that. ??

  2. Exposure to your business is key. People should be able to link you to what you do otherwise you are invisible. Exposure will mean networking regularly on social media and showing an interest in what others in your field are doing. It requires give and take.

    • Phoenicia — you’re quite right that developing your brand does require giving as well as receiving. Too many people forget the giving part to their detriment.

  3. The question title brought a little giggle to me Jeannette. I couldn’t help my brain from going to, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

    The JoshuaBell video is great! I remember it circulating.

    If someone wants to reach the world, go big, or go bigger, certainly expand your network. Yet there are still going to be those individuals, even in a small reach, that we make a difference with. One that likely we may never know about.

    I suppose my answer to the provocative question – It depends.

    Terrific post Jeannette!

    • Patricia — I had forgotten the “tree” quote. It’s so true that there are plenty of people we don’t know who could be helpful, if only we’re willing to reach beyond our narrow circle of connections.

  4. We definitely exist even if nobody recognizes our brand. You and I both have well built up brands online. But for quite some time I’m focusing on other things and just handle my brand with my left little finger. And believe it or not, I still exist.:-)

    Am not interested in being famous because I have seen what a negative impact it has on celebrities I knew. Even people who were for some reason too closely associated with them had to hide from paparazzi. Would personally hate to wake up every morning with a drone outside my window spying on me and trying to get photographs.

    Branding is important and there is a lot we can do. Personally am more and more moving into doing what my country needs i.e. integrating refugees. My blog actually comes in handy in that respect. Show them photographs of me in abaya in Riyadh and tell them: “Considering that I integrated in Saudi Arabia you can integrate in Sweden. We, unlike that Saudis, help you.” It’s worth noting here that they sometimes find me on Facebook and want to be friends. Probably because of the picture of me in Saudi Arabia because I only tell them that I’m called Catarina.

    • Catarina — you have a unique background where you are well known outside your country. I applaud you for helping to integrate refuges into Sweden. I wish we in the US were as bighearted.

  5. What can I do to make you famous for a day, Jeannette? Would love to see that happen!

    You are right. I get frustrated that certain people in my universe don’t do enough to promote my writing…but I learned that early on and therefore started to seek out like minded people…soical media, local groups. There’s a lot more work to be done!

    • RoseMary — wouldn’t it be fun to be king for a day?! You’re right, there’s always more work to be done…more people to meet.

  6. There’s so much to be said for networking in unlikely places. Too often we focus on the obvious places, and that leads to obvious results. It hard to stand out no matter what, but we become more memorable when we can connect in more ways. One of my friends who writes algorithms can network with anyone because he’s great at striking up conversations. I’m okay at that, but not great.

  7. Great post, Jeannette. I have worked very diligently (as you know!) over the past 8 years building my brand. It is SO difficult. As your post mentions, I am indeed recognized by followers and some people in my region and industry. But it seems that it is a never-ending process in expanding our circles and making our brand a truly recognizable entity. Thank You as always, for your support and encouragement.

    • Doreen — I think you’ve done a marvelous job in building your brand and widening your circle of admirers. Just look at how far you have come as the Queen of Chocolate!

  8. Jeannette our existence cannot be defined by our Brand existence like I might not be existent in the outside world for now since if you see 8 months prior from now I was focusing on working locally on my work but since I realized I had hit a plateau here and there were few other issues I started working on revamping my company and now I am exposing myself as well as my Brand on a larger scale.

    Hence, I believe you may exist but only for your inner circle as your Brand value grows the circle may grow but the inner circle will be exclusive for few.

    • Sushmita — You’re quite right that we all have our circle of heroes who are the backbone of our support. But they are not enough if you’re trying to build a business as you always need to add customers who might not know you now.

  9. Excellent advice Jeannette, and I’ve seen just how effective the kinds of things you are recommending are. When I worked in the travel industry back on Maui my boss was passionate about community involvement. In addition to the usual activities such as sales trips and presentations, I represented the hotel in charity golf tournaments, chaired fundraisers, served on county boards and frequently gave interviews on local radio stations. It made a huge difference for our business and for me personally as a professional. I must confess that once I began writing full time I pulled back from all of that. But now that I’m pretty much settled into my new home I look forward to getting out and visible again. In fact, I recently volunteered to do some work to prepare for the 2018 elections. 🙂

    • Marquita — you were doing all the right things in Hawaii and I’m sure you’ll get more involved in your community as you begin to see where the influencers hang out.