D’banj: The Man Behind the Brand

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj - Cover

In 2001, D’banj, Nigerian songwriter and singer was working as a security guard. But, 16 years down the line, he has had huge endorsements with brands like Bank of Industry (BOI), Globacom, Heritage Bank, Beats By Dre and Ciroc. The question is, how did a security guard become the richest Hip Hop artiste in Nigeria? Answers can be found in his personal branding. Meet D’banj, a master of personal branding, which Nigerians like to refer to as ‘packaging’.

Here are highlights of D’banj’s personal branding strategies and branding lessons for you, from his flourishing career.  

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj photo

Define Your Personal Brand

From the very start, D’banj made it clear what his personal brand was about. Even when he was a security guard in 2001, he highlighted the fact that he was all about music. “It was okay because I did nights,” said D’banj, “so I could listen to music on my headphones.”

Lesson: When building your personal brand, focus on a specific skill or field and strive to become an authority. You can’t have a career in digital marketing and build a personal brand around accounting or artificial intelligence. Your career and personal brand must be aligned.

Let Your Name Sink In

D’banj was born Dapo Oyebanjo but while establishing his personal brand, the singer coined his brand name, D’banj from picking the first alphabet of his first name and merged it with the last 5 alphabets of his name. He also cultivated the habit of repeatedly mentioning his brand name in his songs. The same was done during public performances.

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj

The phrase “I’m D’banj…” slowly but gradually found its way into the consciousness of his fans and more importantly, his target audience. The psychological impact of this strategy can simply not be overlooked.

In the song, Fall in Love, one of the first things he says right after he mentions his music producer is,”I’m D’banj”. In the song, ‘Mr Endowed Remix,’ (featuring Snoop Dogg) he also mentions the phrase “I’m D’banj.”

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj

His personal brand is replete with a litany of names, catchwords and catchphrases. Some of them include ‘Koko Master,’ ‘Bangalee,’ ‘File!,’ ‘No Long Thing,’ ‘Oshey,’ ‘Kokolette’ and ‘Eja Nla’.

Lesson: Learn to mention your name when building your personal brand. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, put your brand name where people can see it. If you are a social media manager, place your official handles on creatives you use.

Collaborate with Major Players

It’s not unusual for performing artistes to have exceptionally beautiful models in their music videos. D’banj went a step further in the process of building his personal brand.

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj and Genevieve

In 2008, D’banj released the song, ‘Fall in Love’. In the music video, instead of settling for a regular video vixen, he went for the award-winning actress, Genevieve Nnaji. This music video went ahead to have well over 3 million views at a time when the D’banj wasn’t even close to reaching his personal branding peak.

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj and Kanye West

Over the years, he has collaborated with other heavyweights in various capacities. Some of them include Kanye West, Don Jazzy, Snoop Dogg, Becca, Big Sean, Wande Coal, 2Face, Akon, Fally Ipupa and a host of others.

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj - Becca
Becca | Photo credit: Instagram

With D’banj, nothing hardly ever happens by accident especially when it is related to his personal brand. Did you know that the video vixen who asked one of the opening questions in the video, ‘It’s not a Lie,’ Bernice Burgos (@realberniceburgos) has over 3 million Instagram followers while he has 1.8 million?

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj - Bernice Burgos
Bernice Burgos | Photo credit: Instagram

Lesson: Learn to ride on the strength of a powerful network and influencers. Regardless of what you do, you will need to promote your personal brand. It is one of the fastest ways to build your personal brand. It helps you build trust and brand awareness.

Blow Your Own Trumpet

Music history has witnessed famous artistes falling from grace to grass. Since 2005, when D’banj dropped his first monster hit, ‘Tongolo,’ he hasn’t slowed down.

One thing D’banj has done really well when building his personal brand is blowing his own trumpet. The fact that he still does it makes it even more impressive. What is even more interesting is how he does it. D’banj is able to sing his own praise without sounding obscene or boring.

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj (1)

In the song, ‘It’s Not a Lie,’ he opens the video fielding questions from a young lady with an American accent asking him about African music and then asking “…who is D’banj.”

As expected, he ends up talking about his personal brand and singing about it alongside Wande Coal and Harrysong. In less than 6 months, the video is currently inching towards 2 million views.

Lesson: There will always be people who do not know your personal brand. The higher the number of people in this category who fall into your target audience, the stronger your personal brand becomes. Don’t be afraid to highlight your successes and problems you solved with your skillset.

There’s Always a Business Side

Music is undoubtedly entertaining but for D’banj, it clearly doesn’t stop there. Over the years, D’banj has used the results of his personal branding to show that music is merely a means to an end. He has shown that music will always have a business side to it.

His songs have earned him the respect and fame that many have eternally struggled to catch up with. When Google launched an advertising campaign, D’banj suddenly dropped a song (It’s Not a Lie) that has the words ‘Google D’banj’ within its chorus. A scene in the video also shows a video vixen checking his images on Google. Is this a coincidence or another marketing tactic and target delivered by ‘Eja Nla’ as he sometimes likes to call himself? Such is the power of D’banj’s personal brand.

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj - Google logo

As entertaining as the video of the song ‘It’s Not a Lie’ is, D’banj uses his personal brand to deliver another promotional objective for the Beats By Dre Headphone brand in the final quarter of the video.

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj - Beat by Dre

Lesson: Regardless of what you do, if you position your personal brand well enough, there will always be business opportunities for you to explore. As a graphic designer in Nigeria, what happens if your personal brand gets you a contract to design and deliver 6,000 branded shorts for a company with 15 branches across Nigeria at the cost of N2,000 per shirt? Your guess is as good as ours.

Social Media Makes a World of Difference

In 2019, it is estimated that there will be around 2.77 billion social media users around the globe, up from 2.46 billion in 2017. D’banj understands the power of social media as exemplified in how he uses it to strengthen his personal brand.

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj

As of October 2017, he had 1.8 million followers on Instagram (@iambangalee). On Twitter (@iamdbanj), he had 2.14 million followers as of October 2017. These numbers highlight the instrumentality of social media to his growth.

6 Personal Branding Lessons from D'banj - Twitter

Lesson: Don’t neglect your social media accounts. Use them to strengthen your personal brand. Learn to connect with influencers, promote your profile and choose 1-3 areas of expertise.

D’banj is a complete entertainer whose personal brand has grown to attract some of the most powerful brands across the globe. Personal branding does not happen by accident. You have to make a conscious decision to build it just like D’banj has done.

Are there other personal branding strategies D’banj used? Kindly let us know in the comment section below.

Bukola Okikiolu
I'm passionate about managing and growing brands in the digital space. I do this by creating engaging content that ultimately lead to conversion, and crafting copy that inspire action.
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