Do you smell what The Rock is cookin’?
Better yet, do you remember when The Rock asked that question?
If you’re like me, then you grew up a fan of WWE in the late 1990s. (Where we may begin to differ is that I’m still a WWE fan.) Either way, you most likely know that wrestling served as the platform to launch Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson into international superstardom.
To me, The Rock is quite possibly the best modern example of successful personal branding out there. Because even if you have no clue what “Do you smell what The Rock is cookin’?” means, I’ll bet that you’re familiar with The Rock.
On that note, in personal branding, there are two paths to take. I like to think of them as The Rock path and The Hulk Hogan path.
The Rock Path
Between his athletic ability and the way he worked a microphone during interviews, The Rock rose to wrestling fame in the late 1990s. Then, in the early 2000s, he left WWE to become an actor. His successful transition from the wrestling ring to the big screen transformed him from a wrestling star into an internationally acclaimed celebrity.
And that was certainly a risk, but by taking that leap, The Rock proved he was dynamic and multidimensional. Instead of being defined by his occupation (in this case wrestling), The Rock owned his qualities of athleticism, charisma, humor, and determination—and used these skills as the foundation for a consistent brand that is “The Rock.” He’s not only a wrestler now (in fact, some people don’t even know that he used to be a wrestler)—he’s a wrestler, an action movie star, a comedy movie star, a model, a fitness icon, and a television host.
For example, when The Rock made a part-time return to WWE and headlined Wrestlemania XVIII in 2012 and XXIX in 2013, he used the appearances to promote his upcoming G.I. Joe and Fast & Furious movies. And, if you’re keeping score at home, he was the top-grossing actor of 2013.
The Hulk Hogan Path
Hulk Hogan became a household name in the 1980s as professional wrestling and the WWE soared in popularity. Hogan continued to dominate the wrestling world in the mid–to-late 1990s with WWE’s rival company, WCW. In the early 2000s, WWE purchased WCW, and Hogan continued to be an entertaining and admired figure in the wrestling world. In 2014, Hulk Hogan was the official host of Wrestlemania XXX, WWE’s version of the Super Bowl.
Hulk Hogan has grossed millions and millions of dollars through wrestling. He is, no doubt, very successful in his field. He’ll forever be a wrestling icon, and he’ll forever have a seat at WWE’s dinner table.
But Hulk Hogan has a very tough time doing anything else.
When you think of The Rock, many images might come to mind. Conversely, when you think of Hulk Hogan, you probably think of a cutoff tee shirt, bandana, and bleached blonde mustache. I actually had a friend send me a text last year of Hulk Hogan sitting at the airport terminal across from him, and a caption that read, “Hulk Hogan travels...dressed as Hulk Hogan.”
The difference between The Rock and Hogan is that Hogan still needs wrestling to stay relevant.
Both The Rock and Hulk Hogan are incredibly accomplished in their respective ways. But when people think of The Rock, some think of the wrestler, others think of the movie star, while still others think of a fitness guru. In all cases, they think of The Rock. When people think of Hulk Hogan, they think of the wrestler—the same way they have for decades.
When it comes to personal branding, you may be advised to become an expert in one field and then stick to that particular expertise. That’s all well and good, but what happens when your interests change? What happens if you want to switch industries or try something different?
The comparison between Hulk Hogan and The Rock teaches us that sticking with one area of expertise can make you one-dimensional and unfortunately pigeonholed. But by focusing on yourself and your skills, you can use your mastery in one field to catapult to stardom in another.
You have a choice in your personal brand. You can certainly choose to be known for one thing, and that can lead to great success. But perhaps a more flexible way to think about personal branding is to brand yourself for who you are, not what you do at this moment.
It certainly worked for The Rock.