Sophie Tucker & 6 Points for Crafting a Killer Brand

She taught Judy Garland to sing. Frank Sinatra was her protégé. The Beatles called her “the most interesting person in America”. What does Sophie Tucker (affectionately known to audiences and her boyfriend Ernie as Soph) vaudeville singer and comedian and the most popular performer of the early 20th century, have to teach us about creating a personal brand?

The answer- EVERYTHING.

Here are my 6 points for crafting your brand story- which is the road that leads prospective clients to the conclusion that you are the sole provider of the service or product they want to buy.

Read that again.

The SOLE PROVIDER of the service or product they want.

The 6 points and and at the end of this post- a sample of Soph’s amazing, groundbreaking humor. WARNING- it’s naughty.

Point ONE: Who’s your competition? Sophie was in competition with svelte young singers and crude, joke-telling men. She reviewed the landscape and saw that she could beat both groups by delivering really raunchy jokes “like a lady”. Taking lessons from her competition she gave her audience what they loved, in a new and unexpected way. Takeaway? If your competition is succeeding- examine what they are doing- how it works for clients, and how you can do the same (or more!) in your own, inimitable, way.

Point TWO: What’s your WHY? Sophie related directly to the vaudeville audiences scraping dimes together to see her by showing she came from. She famously said: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.Takeaway? Ask for the job, be transparent about your company and capabilities, and the client will hire you for who you really are.

Point THREE: What’s your promise? Soph delivered more than the crowds could think to ask for- she said “Playing two months or more in one city meant new songs all the time. If people paid their dimes to see and hear Sophie Tucker, they didn’t want to hear the same songs over and over or see the same clothes.Takeaway? When making a pitch or proposal, and throughout your relationship with the customer, deliver your A-game. You won’t get a second chance to make a first impression, you won’t keep clients long-term with stale work and they won’t recommend you to others unless doing so makes them look good.

Point FOUR: Why should your audience believe you’ll deliver? In the words of a famous Soph song “50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong”! Takeaway: If you have testimonials, recommendations and client reviews, let them speak for you- and if they can do it in French- ooh la la!

Point FIVE: What’s Your unique brand story? This may sound a bit like your “WHY” and it is about transparency – in a uniquely Soph way. “I’ve never sung a single song in my whole life on purpose to shock anyone.” She said; My ‘hot numbers’ are all, if you will notice, written about something that is real in the lives of millions of people.” She understood that her performances were beyond edgy for her time and unthinkable for a woman, but she also understood that her material was what made her relatable. Takeaway: You may be pitching for a job not completely in your realm of experience or a level you have not yet achieved but look for moments in your life that can illustrate why you are the perfect person for the job- even if you haven’t gotten that job just yet.

Point SIX: What are your barriers to success? Promoters on the vaudeville circuit called Sophie “Ugly” and “Big” and had her performing in her early years in blackface singing with a southern drawl. The story goes that Soph had a “wardrobe malfunction” that resulted in her going onstage without blackface. Where she wowed the audiences and never wore blackface again. Takeaway? Listen to the detractors, examine your business processes, but have faith in your talent.

Now, as promised:

A Soph Joke: “I will never forget it, you know. Doorbell rang the other day- I answered the door and there was a delivery boy with two dozen roses. I grabbed the card and opened it, it said, “Love from your boyfriend Ernie”. I was having tea with my girlfriend Clementine and I said “Clementine, you know what this means? For the next two weeks I’ll be flat on my back with my legs wide open.” Clementine says to me “What’s the matter, ain’t you got a vase?”

Get more Soph jokes here.