Blue Ocean Strategy, But For Personal Brands

Note: a lot of the data I used in the tables below are just anecdotal and from what I’ve observed. Use the information to your advantage but don’t treat it like a complete dataset.

The market is flooded with competition. The water is bloody and the sharks are out. And the solution is to swim away from the competition and create a Blue Ocean.

That’s the premise of The Blue Ocean Strategy. It’s a book focused on “making the competition irrelevant” according to the subtitle. It’s written about businesses, but I’ve found it works just as well for developing your own personal brand strategy.

It might give you what you need to grow your audience quicker than you thought.

The Strategy Canvas

A big part of the Blue Ocean strategy is simply removing stuff. Plenty of great business decisions involve taking something away (think of iPhone dropping the physical keyboard in 2007, and Tesla scrapping the car dealership experience). 

More is not always better, and the Strategy Canvas chart shows that.

Southwest vs. The Rest

The classic B-school example: Southwest Airlines.

Southwest zigs when the other airlines zag. At Southwest they’ve slashed seating choices, lounges, and meals. But when it comes to speed, friendly service, and awesome prices, they go all-out.

While every other airline is fighting to claim better legroom in Business Pro Max+, Southwest is ignoring it all and passing the savings on to the passenger.

Here’s how it looks on the Strategy Canvas:

Southwest is winning. And so are real people who’ve built a personal brand by beating the fuck out of certain metrics and ignoring the rest.

Let’s dig.

Jack Butcher

Jack Butcher is at the head of a fast-growing media empire that’s centered around his personal brand. As a designer, Jack brought his own black-and-white visual style to Twitter. Even his writing style is his own--it’s as if Robert Frost and Kevin O’Leary got together to write tweets. The most lovable part about Jack is his transparency: he publishes his financials, and his apologies are first-class.


This guy is funny. He’s not politically correct, but I just can’t ignore the genius of his strategy: pick fights in the Twittersphere to drive engagement. Some of his content even makes its way to Reddit where it becomes outrage porn. It’s only stupid if it doesn’t work.

Nat Eliason

Nat Eliason makes significant income from his blog. One of his secrets: he’s built a powerful and tight personal network of big hitters such as Perell who amplify his content. (Note: Nat is getting started on Youtube and growing fast there)

My Strategy Canvas

Today I was forced to think hard about my own strategy canvas. Where should I be cutting out effort in order to go all-in on other verticals? It took me a while and made me realize how little thought I’d given to where my focus needs to be. 

My plan involves almost no Instagram growth. Why? I find Insta draining, so I’ll deploy my energy here on my blog and also on Twitter. It’s something that making my own chart helped me to clarify.


If you plot your personal brand’s line on the chart, what does it look like? I hope it’s the furthest thing from a straight line.

The best personal brands lean into their strength. Jack Butcher is a world-class designer, and it’s a skill he’s leveraged to become instantly recognizable. Coltybrah likes to create controversy, and he’s turned it into a revenue-generating activity. Find your special advantage and lean into it.

Fuck “well-rounded”.

Well-rounded was a great strategy for a butcher in 16th-century Thuringia. 

The internet is a sieve, and the well-rounded pieces fall right through. It’s the spiky items that get sorted out and get all the attention. 

Obsessives are having their moment. Join the party.