Why The World Loved The Steve Irwin Personal Brand

By Thomas Murrell MBA CSP, International Business Speaker

‘Crikey’, the khaki shirt and the boundless enthusiasm.

Steve Irwin created the most well known international personal brand of any Australian.

Now that he is dead at 44 years of age, his personal brand will live on forever.

Why? Because he has been the most successful Australian ever to create and manage a unique, memorable and authentic public persona.

The ‘Crocodile Hunter’ has achieved enormous personal and professional success and status in a mere 14 years because of his marketing wizardry.

He’s touched the lives of many millions and at a business level has been one of Australia’s greatest exports.

BRW Magazine estimates his annual earnings at A$16 million a year with his programs being seen by more than 500 million viewers in 130 countries.

At his peak, BRW estimated earnings of $15 million from sales of TV programs, $1 million from advertising appearances and $300,000 from merchandise sales.

The magazine reports his $US12 million movie The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course took US$33 at box office.

So what can we learn from the Steve Irwin marketing and business legacy?

1) Visibility

Irwin understood the power of the media in public image making. He and his business partner John Stainton didn’t worry about a small regional market like Australia. They went straight to the large US markets via the influential TV network Discovery Channel and the Animal Planet Channel.

This is why Irwin was bigger in the US than in Australia.

2) Multichannel Platform

Irwin did it all seamlessly – books, magazines, merchandise, TV programs, Hollywood movies, media appearances, and personal presentations at Australia Zoo.

They all worked together to create momentum.

3) Authenticity

Irwin was ‘the real deal’. While Australia’s highest grossing movie ‘Crocodile Dundee’ was pure drama, Irwin was real and provided dramatic reality.

4) Drive, Passion, Energy and Enthusiasm

In an interview published in the book Guinness World Records 2006 Irwin was asked “How would somebody follow in your footsteps?” Here’s his answer:

“If you want to become a zoologist you’ve got to do all the tertiary education, but don’t lose your passion or enthusiasm despite the hard work or homework you have to do. Just follow through. Passion and enthusiasm will get you everywhere you want to go in the world.”

Irwin was living proof of this principle.

He could answer with laser-like precision the question:”Who are you and what do you do well that other people will respect you and reward you for?”

5) Find A Cause

Irwin was an advocate for nature and the environment. He called himself a “wildlife warrior”. His voice on this issue was loud and clear.

6) Memorable and Distinctive Point of Difference

There are hundreds of TV wildlife presenters. Irwin was different. He was very clever in selecting or inventing a distinct combination of factors that became a unique point of difference to competitors.

The three critical elements were:

Wardrobe: khaki shorts and shirt
Language: crikey, down to earth, simple
Danger and drama: he actually handled live animals

7) Aussie Larrikin Archetype

Irwin was able to define and then become a social type that resonated to mass audiences across the world.

He was the living Aussie Larrikin Archetype and everyone could relate to this idealised and lovable ‘hero/larrikin/father’ figure. Irwin built this through the media. Because the media deliver huge audiences, Irwin was able to humanise and symbolise complex stories and issues through this archetype. This was central to his personal brand.

8) Consistency

Irwin understood the fact that it is more important to be clear and consistent than original. Symbolism is very powerful. So even when scuba diving he wore that khaki uniform. It was wacky but it worked.

9) Controversy

Irwin was never far from it. It built his visibility despite the risks.

10) Family Values

Protecting the family is the world’s number one value. It is a universal truism. Irwin was an outstanding family man and perhaps this will be his greatest legacy.

Want to improve your personal brand?

Wednesday November 8th, WA Club, Perth.
Powerful and Persuasive Speechwriting will help provide a guide to increasing your visibility through public speaking.
Details here.

Small class sizes ensure everyone gets personalised attention in a safe learning environment.

This program is also available in house for your organisation at a date, time and location that suits you.



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