CO - Markinnovation

When personal brands go to war...

When personal brands go to war...

The start of this past weekend was highly interesting for Twitter users. It wasn’t actually a feud, since only one side did the attacking (which began online but then landed on Twitter), but it is what transpired when two strong, famous women get real and one schools the other publicly on social media.

Take one Chrissy Teigen - supermodel, TV host, foodie, author and wife of Grammy-winner John Legend, and one Alison Roman, social media celebrity-chef/darling, and food columnist with the New York Times. When the latter threw some serious shade at the former, Twitterverse became a hive of activity.

Okay, assuming you all know who Teigen is, let’s get acquainted with Roman. Born in Los Angeles, Alison Roman is an expletive-spewing author of two best-selling cookbooks. To say that her communication style is bristly is one take, while another is that she’s genuinely telling it like it is. It’s part of her personal brand - the no-holds-barred approach - much like entrepreneurial icon Gary Vaynerchuk (often known as Gary V).

The f***s and sh**s fly freely, but to a certain target audience perhaps, the perception is that celebs who swear aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade, are unpretentious, real and unbridled.

Back to Roman v. Teigen. So, this flare-up was ignited by an interview given by the celeb-chef to online publication >newconsumer.com, just days ago (full interview here >https://newconsumer.com/2020/05/alison-roman-interview/).

In it, she claims not seeing any value in attaching her personal brand to products for the mere sake of making money. Nothing wrong there, right? Except, in almost the same breath, Roman also took a big swipe at two women who have product lines - Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo. That they are both Asian women was the first thing many angry voices took issue with on Twitter.

Let’s go over what Roman said in the interview. First, the knife came out for Marie Kondo, who, last year, started selling her own home decor and storage bins, among other things. Roman’s take? Here's the screengrab of the interview online (I've taken the liberty of blanking out cuss words):

Then she aimed her sights at Teigen:


 

The backlash came swift and harsh. And before anyone says this is typically women going after successful women, it must be pointed out that Roman was first called out on Twitter about picking on WOC (women of colour), because she said nothing of Martha Stewart, Giada de Laurentiis or Rachel Ray, who EACH have multiple product collabs or lines available either in stores or online (I mean, Ray even had a bed and bath line, and going by Roman's logic, is glaringly unrelated to her fame as a chef). It was also noted by a few that she avoided naming or criticising any famed male chefs who also had extensive product lines.

After several of these tweets displayed the same angry tone, Roman then defended everything said in the interview with a tweet, which said “when women bully other women for being honest about money and how much they do or do not make, well, thats (sic) amore”

Rather disturbing was a perceived racial jab aimed at organising queen Kondo in the interview, a line which was removed for over a day, but under continuous pressure from readers and social media users, prompted its re-insertion as per the original interview (the move is publicly acknowledged by the writer under Editor's Note). Here's the screengrab of the published article:
 

The line "For the low, low price of &19.99, please to buy my cutting board!" was deemed poking fun at Kondo, whose limited vocabulary in English is well-known.

Roman’s explanation on Twitter, still visible at the time of writing, appeared weak and unconvincing to many. Here’s the tweet admitting to having used the term, supposedly in reference to a book with that phrase as its title, which critiques rubbished as simply nonsensical.



 

By this time, Teigen, who had become aware of Roman’s harsh comments, had carefully articulated her response, and unlike many of her tweets aimed at Trump, this thread had zero sarcasm. Instead, this was just about the hurt and disappointment she felt by Roman’s attack. See below.





 

Two hours after Teigen’s post, Roman replied, and perhaps because Teigen herself had revealed that she had just signed on to be an executive producer of Roman’s latest TV show (before the interview went live), Roman tried to appear both conciliatory and remorseful.

 

When anger runs high on social media, no matter how remorseful you sound, there still may be those who will say something about it, as seen below:



 

By the time Roman tweeted her apologetic reply, Teigen had already tweeted that since the former’s feelings about her were already "out there", they ought to unfollow each other (a check at 1.20pm Malaysian time on 11th May 2020, however, showed that Teigen had taken her Twitter account private, and unless you are already a follower, would not be able to see her earlier tweets on the matter).

 

To many, accusations of Chrissy Teigen being an opportunistic celebrity and Marie Kondo’s supposed hypocrisy didn’t damage either one of their personal brands. Roman’s, meanwhile, appears to have gone a few rounds with Manny Pacquiao.

When it was pointed out by a Twitter user that Roman’s media team were doing a terrible job advising her, she quipped that she didn’t have one.

As one Twitter user replied – it’s about damn time that she did…

Never underestimate the importance of carefully managing your personal brand, especially when giving interviews. If your thing is to call out what others do, especially in non-PC language, remember that in print, the audience can't see your facial expression or hear the tone of voice used when you said it. When read, everything can appear just that much harsher.

Rebuilding one's personal brand after such a backlash (whether warranted or not) can be a hard, long road, always beginning with a mea culpa, with battle-scars on your self-confidence, even if for a day or two. Don't give up, though, because there's always redemption for those who learn their lessons well. Those who forgive you will remain with you, and the naysayers may leave and not come back, but that's OK. Stay the course. The sun will shine again.

  • Kudsia Kahar
    Kudsia Kahar
    Co-Founder, MD & Chief Enrichment Officer Metaformosa

    Kudsia Kahar is a name synonymous with the Malaysian commercial radio industry, with 30 years of traditional and digital broadcasting experience with the Astro and Star Media Groups. She conceptualized, launched, and managed the country’s number one stations like Hitz, ERA, and Sinar FM, taking them from the start-up stage to super brand status in less than two years. She was also the first female President of Commercial Radio Malaysia, the country’s only professional body for the industry.   A former C-Suite executive, Kudsia is highly experienced in content creation, media management, and audience experiential events. She underwent a stint with Austereo or Village Roadshow Radio Network, Australia (now known as Southern Cross Austereo).   She completed the Harvard Business School Senior Management Development Programme and has a Bachelors in Mass Communication (Journalism) from Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara. She also attended L’Institute Catholique de Paris. Kudsia is an accomplished speaker and an HDRF-certified trainer.

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