Personal Branding Tips from Nancy Drew

by | Mar 16, 2021 | Strategy | 0 comments

I began a new research project this year – the history and mysteries of Nancy Drew. She’s influenced the world over the last ninety years and the world has changed her, and it’s been fascinating to consider the changes over nearly a century of mystery novels.

In my research, I couldn’t help but notice that Nancy maintained and leveraged her consistent personal branding. As different as every generation’s Nancy is, there are some things that never change. I suppose it’s the marketer in me that would notice clear and consistent messaging over car chases, kidnappings, and jewelry heists, but it can’t be denied! The thread is there, and marketers can learn from it.


What do your friends ask you about?

This whole idea popped into my brain when I was reading The Professor and the Puzzle, the 15th book in the Nancy Drew Diaries series. This series began in 2013 – over 80 years after the first Nancy Drew book was published – and still publishes new books today. Nancy is still a plucky teenager who continually finds herself in the middle of a mystery on a regular basis, but despite any reference to what decade she’s living in, it’s clear that it isn’t the 1930’s. Whether you consider the frequency of women in leadership roles, the references to cell phones and computers, or the language used, it’s clear we’re reading about 21st century Nancy.

The book begins with Nancy and her pals visiting a local university. The current president of the college is an old family friend, so when a mystery unravels on campus during her visit, the family chastises Nancy not to blow a small incident out of proportion and then ultimately ends up asking for her help to solve a crime. From the start, the people who knew Nancy expected her to react a certain way and then needed her to put the skills they knew she had to work! If, like Nancy, people around you predict how you’ll react and then desperately seek you out as the expert they need, you are doing personal branding right.


What recognition have you received and how are you leveraging it?

There are frequent references to Nancy’s cases making the news. Meeting someone new often means the person says, “Oh, yes, I read about the case you solved…” Publicity rarely serves a detective well, so she typically tries to stay off the radar of the general public, but the recognition she can’t seem to avoid often opens doors for her.

For example, when Nancy’s trying to get local law enforcement to hear her concerns, her reputation helps. When her keen senses pick up on pending danger, her history of solving cases increases the odds that people will listen to what she has to say, even when her message is hard to hear. The recognition she receives and leverages as needed moves her personal brand forward.


What types of continuing education do you pursue?

In some of the Nancy Drew series, she never ages past 18. Poor Nancy is a perpetual high school student! But in a few series, she’s in college. And what would a super sleuth study? Journalism, of course.

Nancy could have made psychology, forensics, or criminal justice courses work, but I think journalism was a good choice. Journalists are always asking the hard questions, following clues to whatever story unfolds, and uncovering answers that would otherwise go unnoticed. Nancy’s choice of education allowed her to improve her skills but being a student of journalism also reinforced her personal brand and reminded people of who she really is.


Who are you hanging out with?

How you spend your time and what you choose to learn about also often puts you in the company of like-minded people who can help you further your goals. For Nancy, thanks to shared publishing rights, she has the benefit of running into Frank and Joe Hardy on a regular basis. Their shared interest in crime-solving, notoriety, and common values make their relationship mutually beneficial. Whenever their paths cross, they seem to learn from each other, and I can’t help but notice that their clear common interests – what we might call their personal brand – is what brings them together.


How have you changed over time?

If you aren’t familiar with Carolyn Keene, the author of hundreds of Nancy Drew books that have been published for 90 years, you may be wondering exactly how this woman has been publishing so much and for so long. The answer is quite simple; Carolyn Keene is a pseudonym used by many different writers! It is a fascinating design – a tremendous marketing campaign worthy of its own blog post – but as we consider personal branding, the length of the Nancy Drew series has a different meaning.

When “classic Nancy” first appeared in the 1930’s, her life, language, and cases were significantly different than when Nancy Drew reappeared on the CW in 2018. Some things about Nancy remained the same. To continue to connect with her audience, she made changes, but stayed true to her values. She was still inquisitive by nature, smart and resourceful, and fiercely loyal to her community. She needed to evolve over time, and for many of us in the same situation, we can learn from how she maintained her personal brand while responding to changes in the world over nearly a century!


Author: Amy Jauman

Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.


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