Branding 101: How Dolly Parton Won Me Over

Dolly PartonI may live in Nashville, but prior to a few weeks ago, I had never really given Dolly Parton much thought at all. In fact, she was pretty low on my radar, receiving only slightly more attention than the brain space I allocate for Cher and Men at Work.

Well, that all changed when I attended Dolly’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction in Pigeon Forge, TN. People, you have no idea. For an hour and a half, I ate a multi-course dinner with my wife and in-laws, as we watched ostrich races, vanishing acts, buffalo herding, and a rider leap through a ring of fire, her feet firmly planted on two horses. We were all resolutely impressed.

Now, several weeks later, Dolly Parton’s on my mind a lot. Over the last several decades, the East Tennessean has built her brand to be one of the strongest and most altruistic brands in show business. Here are some things I can’t help but admire about Dolly…

Dolly Parton & Her Sense of Community

Dolly Parton has a tremendous sense of loyalty to her own community. Her Imagination Library was founded in 1996 to provide books to pre-school-aged children in East Tennessee. Books were mailed directly to children’s homes in an effort to promote literacy.

The program caught on, and in 2000, Dolly expanded her program to the rest of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Today the program provides books to nearly 700,000 children in more than 1,600 communities. By the end of 2012, more than 45 million books had been given away since the program’s inception.

Dolly Parton: Social Media Powerhouse

We’ve been talking a lot about the importance of Google+ on the CEM blog. Dolly definitely gets it. So far, 1,923,800 people have Dolly in their circles. Her other social media figures aren’t too shabby either:

(Access all of her social pages via DollyParton.com.)

While she has impressive social media figures, we all know that it’s not just about numbers, but about what you do with those fans and followers. When it comes to her social media, Dolly Parton is building her brand with care and genuine interactions. All of the social media outlets I’ve seen are regularly updated and actually somewhat interesting (which, as you know, can be tough to find these days).

Dolly Parton Does It All

At this point, you might be getting the impression that Dolly does it all. You’d be right. Her name appears on records (58 studio albums alone), amusement parks, water parks, dinner theater shows around the country, and more.

While branching out into many different arenas may not be the lesson you need right now in building your brand, Dolly definitely provides business owners with plenty of food for thought…

As you build your own brand, consider the fact that you aren’t just building a brand image for one particular line of products or services. A good brand transcends the goods it’s directly associated with and creates a sense of value and trust that can be extended to any number of products or services. After all, “Dolly Parton” is the only thing that a pirate dinner show and a country music album could have in common. And when Dolly does it, it works!

Any other lessons you see in the Dolly Parton brand?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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