Blackbeard’s Guide to Personal Branding
The year was 1716, and it was the height of the Golden Age of Piracy. A young English deckhand by the name of Edward Teach had just moved to the Caribbean. He was hoping to join the ranks of the region’s most feared privateers.
Teach, who had previously made a name for himself as a privateer in the Queen Anne’s war, was eager for the opportunity to command his own ship. While sailing under Benjamin Hornigold, young Teach had a chance to prove his worth. After several successful campaigns, Teach was given control of a small ship and began committing his own acts of piracy.
Now chances are you’ve never heard the name Edward Teach before. You’ve more than likely never colored a picture of Edward Teach in grade school and most certainly never dressed up as him for Halloween. There is a reason for that.
Edward Teach was, simply put, just a man. A man who was trying to make a name for himself among a whole sea of other pirates. A man among thousands of others who were all coming to the Caribbean searching for fame and riches. All of them, desperate and willing to do whatever it took to succeed. So how did young Edward go from a no-name deckhand to the most well-known and feared pirate in history? Simple, he stopped being a man and became a brand.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, famously said, “Your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room.” Edward Tatch understood this concept quite clearly and set about the mission to transcend himself from a man to a brand. To do this, he needed to create a new identity for himself. To achieve this new identity, he would need three things: a ship, an identity, and a logo.
His first action was to get himself a ship, a ship that would be a representation of that new brand. He and his crew captured a French merchant ship and renamed it the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Queen Anne was the former Queen of Spain who lead an uprising against England. Naming his ship the Queen Anne’s revenge, it sent a message to all non-Spanish vessels that they were primed for the taking.
In addition to changing the ship’s name, Tatch outfitted the ship with 40 cannons. Most sea ships at the time would have had between 16 and 20 cannons on them. So when Tatch armed Queen Anne to the teeth, it became one of the most heavily fortified ships in the entire region. Causing seafarers and even the British navy to fear the ship, and reputation alone was enough to cause seafarers to surrender to the Queen Anne.
As a Pirate Investor, you, too, are going to need a ship. A ship will be the physical representation of your Brand. A “ship” can include an office, a vehicle, tech equipment, a work from home station, and any other physical items you need to run your business.
Your “Ship” will have to have the following characteristics:
- It must resonate with your target audience.
Let’s say that you’re a plumber and you’re interested in working with millionaire home builders. You’re going to have the physical presence that will identify with millionaires. You are going to need a clean, professional working work truck, logoed uniforms for all your staff, and a professional-looking office space that millionaire home builders can come to discuss their builds.
- Its costs and upkeep must match your pricing structure.
The cost of upkeeping these material possessions will have to be factored into your pricing structure as well. All too often, budding entrepreneurs sell themselves short and don’t take the price of their services in comparison to the cost of doing business. So it will be up to you to find the balance in your business’s budget.
- An Emotion Inducing Name
The Ship will have to have a name that inspires an emotional reaction with your target audience. In Blackbeard’s case, he wanted to inspire fear. But for you, you might want to pick a name that inspires luxury or ease of use. Naming your Business should be a fun and creative process. There is no way to go wrong here. So long as the name itself induces some type of emotional reaction.
The Brand Identity
Edward Teach was a typical name for an Englishmen. Teach needed something more fearsome. He needed a name that would instantly drive fear into his enemies. This new identity would be crucial because being a pirate was all about stealing plunder as peacefully as possible. Surrender was always preferable to actual combat, as that would run the risk of loss of lives, damage to the goods on board the enemy ship, and worst of all, an accidental sinking of an enemy vessel.
So Edward Teach created the persona of Black Beard. In addition to his name change, Blackbeard made a whole new physical appearance for himself. He grew out a long black beard; he would wear an oversized black hat and wear a vest with dozens of pistols strapped. He even took long fuses and rolled them into his beard. He would lite the fuses, and they would emit a terrifying smoke from his beard. He would howl like a madman when he closed in on his prey. Often this was enough to cause his enemies to surrender their cargo without a fight.
And the more and more Blackbeard fought, the more and more his reputation grew. Soon he was known throughout the Caribbean. He had eventually got to the point where enemies were so terrified of his name that they surrendered willingly without even putting up a fight.
This strategy is the same type of strategy you want for your brand identity. The goal of a brand identity is to have future clients already know who you are, even before they meet you for the first time. Over time you will build brand equity in your name, and that equity will bring value to you in many ways. So to establish brand equity, you will need to consider these three things.
As a professional in any field, it is essential to establish a name for yourself. Often I see resumes and LinkedIn profiles where people are advertising themselves as representatives of their current employers. They advertise who they are working for rather than what they can do. No matter your field, it’s imperative that you start re-writing your resume or LinkedIn profile to showcase your individual brand.
Changes can be as simple as changing your title from “Employed by XYZ Company” to “Digital Marketing Strategist Currently working for XYZ Company” Another great idea would be to get a professional headshot added to your resume or LinkedIn page. Depending on your industry, you can go for a traditional formal headshot or a unique photo geared towards a more trendy clientele.
- Sharable Social Media Presence
You’re going to want to have a sharable digital link to help you increase your network.
You’ll want a combination of a website, Facebook Page, an Instagram Page, and possibly a Tic Tok account. It is through this sharable social presence that you can introduce potential customers to your unique brand. It will be essential to put great effort into this page because chances are your customers will see this page long before they get to meet you in person.
- Create a Digital Portfolio / Resume Website
In addition to social media, you are going to need an actual website. Your portfolio can be a website to promote your existing brick and mortar store, or an online portfolio, demonstrating your past successes.
I’d recommend Wix.com. Wix is a Cloud-based website provider that is easy to use and offers a free version of their award-winning platform. Wix plans start at $14 per month, with the freedom to purchase additional upgrades such as SEO packages, automated email tools, CRM support, and many others.
With Wix you aren’t responsible for security updates; you will have built-in tech support, and with Wix’s easy-to-use platform, you can have your website up in literally minutes. But because Wix is a cloud-based platform, you technically don’t own the site; you simply rent it from Wix. And you won’t be able to move your website off of Wix, once you establish it there. But what you give up in control, you gain in simplicity and ease of use.
To top off the entire identity, Blackbeard also created his own logo. This logo was unique and represented Blackbeard’s empire effectively. This logo could easily be seen by a telescope, hand-drawn onto formal surrender documents, or even tattooed or branded on loyalists.
And through this logo, this small bit of artwork, Blackbeard was able to do his most damage.
Imagine you’re an English sailor aboard a ship, and you’re tasked with keeping watch. Suddenly they’re on the horizon, and you see a large ship. It’s far away, but it’s flying a unique flag. You instantly recognize it as the dreaded logo of Blackbeard, the Pirate.
You already know what to expect from the logo, as everyone in the Caribbean knows the brand. You know k the viciousness of Blackbeard’s crew, the impossible to defend against 40 cannon Queen Anne’s Revenge, and you also know the kindness Blackbeard shows to those who surrender without a fight.
So as you can see, there is power in a logo. And while we’ve advanced far beyond flags, the timeless principle still applies. You need to have some type of small symbol to represent you and your own personal brand.
In today’s world, there’s more than one way to create a sharable logo. For help with designs, I’d recommend using Fiverr. Fiverr is a giant online marketplace full of freelance designers, web developers, and graphic artists. Rates for logos can start for as low as $5 and go upwards from there. And don’t overlook the value of a business card. A business card will quickly add legitimacy to your growing empire, and people will treat you more like an actual entity than merely a person.
- Pick the right ship
- Create a professional Persona
- Create a Sharable logo
By following these three simple steps, a random English sailor to become the most legendary pirate of all time. And while Blackbeard’s official reign of terror only lasted about one year before Royal British Navy killed him and his crew, Blackbeard’s legend lives on in movies, video games, stories, and songs. But we least not forgot Blackbeard’s personal branding lessons