13 Secrets of Personal Branding from #SaltBae and Chicken Connoisseur (@pengestmunch)

Every once in awhile the Internet will produce something so marvelous, so magnificent, so astounding, it seems like the entire World stops to take note.

We crudely call this “going viral,” which doesn’t even begin to capture how amazing these human experiences are.

Enter #SaltBae and Chicken Connoisseur.

Unless you have been living under a rock, are from another planet, or have no access to the internet, you probably know who both these men are.

Nusret Gokce, restaurateur and owner of posh steakhouse Nusr-et, known to the internet as #SaltBae


Elijah Quashie AKA the Chicken Connoisseur, host of the Pengest Munch

I’m not fussed about their “going viral”

Virality is hard to predict and almost impossible to replicate.

I’m more interested in looking for insights relevant to us as small agencies that we CAN replicate.

#Saltbae and Chicken Connoisseur present us with a rare opportunity.

Let’s look at what’s common between them.

  • Both went viral within a month of each other.
  • Both are video content.
  • Both are food-related.
  • Most importantly, both are one-of-a-kind characters. The kind of character you can’t even imagine even if you wanted to make one up.

So instead of talking about virality, I want to talk about personal branding because there’s a lot we can learn from them.

It’s all highly relevant to the Marketing & Advertising scene in Dubai.

Super-crowded market, lots of competition, lookalike agencies everywhere, and ripe for disruption.

Stand out from the crowd with personal branding

Personal branding is one of the easiest ways to differentiate yourself in a saturated industry like marketing, in a saturated geography like Dubai, where everyone offers the same services in much the same way.

It can be particularly effective for small agencies in Dubai who are trying to compete with the big boys – the Leo Burnetts and Memac Ogilvys of our region.

In this post I am going to go through 13 personal branding lessons from #SaltBae and Chicken Connoisseur you can, hopefully, use to grow your business and make more $$$.

1) You need to find your niche

The first thing that immediately stands out is #SaltBae and Chicken Connoisseur focus on ONE thing.

A niche of a niche.

#SaltBae does big-ass steaks, Chicken Connoisseur does chicken wings and strip burgers.


Do you think either would have gone viral if #SaltBae was just another wannabe celebrity chef or Chicken Connoisseur was a generic food-review Youtuber?

No, the schmancy eatery game and food Vlogging game are saturated as f***.

Marketing & Advertising in Dubai is the same.

As a small agency, you don’t have the luxury of offering every service under the sun.

You will get smashed by the big agencies who have the economies of scale to do everything in-house.

I’m so sick of every agency website I visit having the same value generic proposition.

“We are a full-service agency who specialize in…”

No, dude. You’re not a “full-service” anything.

You’re 5 guys, sharing office space with 2 other “full-service agencies,” outsourcing everything but your sales team to India.

Repeat after me…

“I need to find my niche. I need to find my niche. I need to find my niche.”

Especially in an industry that’s as broad and deep as marketing:

Print advertising, mass communication, TV/radio ad buys, PR, PPC, SEO, Social Media marketing, Re-marketing, Inbound marketing, content marketing, e-mail marketing, affiliate marketing, brand marketing, yadda yadda yadda.

It’s a sea without a shore.

How are you going to differentiate yourself from your competitors for “marketing” as a whole?

You can’t. It’s impossible.

And if you can’t differentiate yourself, your business is fungible.

If your business is fungible, the only way you can compete is on price.

So, now we have a s***ton of lookalike “full-service agencies” who have to be the cheapest to get work.

And they have to cut corners to make any kind of profit, which means the quality tanks.

It’s a vicious cycle. So, break the cycle.

You need to be the go-to guy for one specific thing.

Notice I’m not saying you need to ONLY do this one thing.

Eventually, once you’ve maxed out your credibility in your niche (or even gotten to 80%,) you can branch out. (More on this in #4 and #5.)

At Dropkick Copy we:

  • Only work with small agencies
  • Only do web copy and content strategy
  • Don’t work with certain industries

So, for example, we’ve turned down brand marketing writing jobs and jobs in the insurance space.

It was easy money and we could have taken them, but we want to play the long game.

There’s a cool side-effect of being #1 in your niche – you can charge a premium for your services and people will gladly pay.

2) YOU are the value proposition

I’ve seen a lot of haters online saying “I can be #saltbae. All I need is a sharp knife and sunglasses.”

Nah, son. You can’t.

Same goes for Chicken Connoisseur.

I actually had the idea to copy him – I would go around Dubai reviewing Mandi spots.

Then I came to my senses and realized that:

  • I’m not obsesed with Mandi and it would get old, fast.
  • I do very poorly with carbs (seriously, one time I was THIS CLOSE to crashing my car because I went into a carb coma after eating biryani.)

Anyway, my point is this.

YOU are the value proposition.

More specifically, your personality.

Not your business, which is a licensed name, a logo, and an office – all inanimate objects.

You, the person.

Every agency has one person (or several) with a charismatic personality who can act as the “face” of the agency.

It’s a combination of a lot of different things but they’ve got that “it” factor.

Some people are born with it, but don’t get it twisted – charisma is a skill that can be learned.

It’s probably best if your Faceman is the founder or CEO, but it could work just as well with someone else in your team – Head of Marketing, PR, etc.

Every agency needs a Faceman

We’re only a two man team at Dropkick Copy but both my brother and I have memorable personalities. More on this in #11.

3) You need a “calling card”

While the core of having a likable personality is key, you also need to have something unique about you.

It’s the one thing people will always remember about you. Like a calling card.

For #SaltBae, it’s his grandiose, salt-sprinkling flourish.

#saltbae sprinkling salt

For Chicken Connoisseur, it’s his Crepcheck at the beginning of every episode.

#crepcheck chicken connoisseur pengest munch

For Ramit Sethi, it’s his eyebrows.

For Neil Patel, it’s is crazy marketing experiments like “Who is Neil Patel?” (no link because it’s NSFW) and “how Spending $162,301.42 on Clothes Made Me $692,500.”

I have my own signature – shaved head and massive beard.

(The red tie is deliberate, too. More on that in #7)

In a world of short attention spans, you need an edge to stand out from the crowd.

Pick something that’s unique about you, and magnify it. Draw attention to it. Regularly.

It could be anything – the way you look, the way you dress, your body language, your speech patterns, your smile, a color you’re never seen without. Whatever.

Just stand out. Or be forgotten.

4) Use the Halo Effect

This is a byproduct of having a niche.

By first focusing on a niche to create credibility and trust with your audience, you can leverage a cognitive bias known as the Halo Effect.

It’s the tendency we humans have for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area.

Here’s a great example, when Elijah (Chicken Connoisseur) is asked to review turkey sandwiches by BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Charlie Sloth (watch from 1:55 onwards):

Here’s an example of Nusret (#SaltBae) commenting on Family.


The caption reads:

“A man who does not spend time with his family is not a real man.”

(Those aren’t his kids, btw. They are his extended family. He’s allegedly not married.)

The key here is to use the Halo Effect ethically.

Don’t use it to extend your credibility to subjects you know f***all about.

For you, as a marketer, once you’ve developed trust in your niche, the Halo Effect is an excellent way to branch out into other niches.

How we use it at Dropkick Copy is, we will only write about topics related to Conversion Copywriting and Content Strategy until we generate enough credibility in these niches to branch out.

5) Focus on one channel

This is somewhat related to having a niche.

#SaltBae’s thing is Instagram.

Chicken Connoisseur’s thing is Youtube.

They know how it works and it’s working FOR them so, for now, there’s no strong reason to divert valuable resources on other channels (e.g. Facebook Live or Periscope.)

Look, there are only so many hours in the day.

And you have an agency to run.

So you need to limit your personal branding efforts to 1-2 channels, especially when you are starting out.

It’s also another opportunity to use the Halo Effect described earlier.

For example, if you are a blogger, you can leverage your existing audience when you start a podcast.

There’s a caveat here, though.

You can have your fingers in several channels by saying yes to invitations to do guest appearances.

Technically, depending on your availability, you could be blogging, guest posting, Youtubing, podcasting, live streaming, and public speaking.

When you’re starting out, say yes to every invitation.

As you become more popular and start to get incessant requests, you will have to be more selective.

We’ve been slacking when it comes to the Dropkick Copy blog (mainly because we are busy with passion projects – more on this in #11) but blogging is our primary content marketing channel.

Now, I’m not advocating anything crazy like shutting down all your social media accounts. (Cal, you trippin’.)

On the contrary, you need to “be present” on at least the 3-4 major social media platforms.

Just don’t let them distract you from your primary content channel.

6) The value of a cameraman

This only applies if Video is your chosen medium but you can apply the same concept to other channels.

When it comes to execution, this is the most important tactical insight you will gain from #SaltBae and Chicken Connoisseur.

They aren’t the only one’s that do it – notable examples are Gary Vaynerchuk:

And Mike Rashid:

Just think about how much mental energy is freed up if you don’t have to fiddle with your phone, GoPro, or DSLR.

How much better will you be when you can focus entirely on your performance and communicating your knowledge and message?

Can you imagine #SaltBae salting a steak while distracted by whether or not the camera angle is just right?

Or Chicken Connoisseur trying to comment on how “peng dem wings are” while fumbling with his iPhone, fingers slathered in chicken grease?

Do you think your viewing experience would be even remotely close?

Even from a practical perspective, this is a no-brainer.

Imagine you like to blog but you’re not a very good writer.

How much more motivated to blog would you be if you paid someone to edit your content?

Imagine you have a podcast but don’t have the time to create detailed show notes.

How much faster would your podcast grow if you paid someone to create transcripts for every episode and published them on your show’s website?

It’s well worth the investment.

We haven’t implemented something like this yet, but we plan to.

7) Appearances Matter

#SaltBae and Chicken Connoisseur are always well-dressed and well-groomed.


#SaltBae in particular, on top of being handsome, looks after himself very well.

dapper chicken connoisseur

First impressions matter.

Listen fam, you ain’t Zuckerberg innit.

You don’t get to walk into client meetings in jeans and a hoodie.

ESPECIALLY in a place like Dubai where even college kids show up on campus dressed like they’re going clubbing.

At the very least you need to rock a crisp, button-down shirt, slacks, dress shoes and a matching belt. That’s the bare minimum.

My uniform for client meetings is a navy-blue suit and red tie – pure color psychology.

8) It takes time, so be consistent

#SaltBae’s first Instagram post was almost 4 years ago. It has 2k likes.

Dude’s been consistent ever since.

He only went viral this week.

Now, his posts get 10s of thousands of likes. Some are over 100k.

His latest Instagram videos have millions of views.

Episode 1 of the Pengest Munch was a year ago.

Elijah and his team dropped 4 episodes and were inactive for 9 months until releasing episode 5.

Episode 5 of the Pengest Munch was when the show got traction and went viral.

I was put on to Chicken Connoisseur / Pengest Munch by Zohra Khaku, CEO of Halal Gems and one of the stars of BBC’s hit reality TV show “Muslims Like Us.”

I remember checking out his channel back then when episodes 1-4 had only a few thousand views (hadn’t even broken 5 figures.)

Now, it could be that Elijah and his team got busy and didn’t have time to produce more content.

However, I will take an educated guess and say they produced 4 episodes, got low engagement, got demotivated and quit.

Then 3 months ago decided to give it another shot. And we’re so glad you did, guys.

It takes time to build up your personal brand.

There are no shortcuts.

Are you going to produce epic content right off the bat? Unlikely.

What you can do, is get better. Every post or episode is a chance to improve

As a marketer, your skill-set means you have an edge over non-marketers.

But you need to put in the work and pay your dues.

And don’t try to chase “going viral,” either. Better to build something lasting than be a flash in the pan.

9) IDGAF attitude

What if #SaltBae cared about criticism from Vegans over “animal abuse?”

What if Chicken Connoisseur cared about criticism from Black Lives Matter for “promoting racial stereotypes?”

They would have never started their channels and 10s of millions of people would have been deprived of immense joy.

You think Neil Patel gives a s*** about haters whining about his aggressive marketing campaigns and using barely clothed Instagram models to promote his brand?

The insights he provides based on results from his constant experimentation have made businesses 100s of millions of $$$.

At some point, as a content creator, you must resolve to just “do you.”

You’ll never be able to please everyone and you will always have haters.

People who are like you, will like you.

As for the rest, why would you care about them anyway?

You probably started your agency so you can have freedom over who you work with.

Your personal brand will automatically attract clients who you will have chemistry with and repel clients who won’t.

How do we do this at Dropkick Copy?

Check out our first blog post.

It got an amazing response – positive and negative.

It was the first blog post I had ever written, originally published on LinkedIn before I launched DropkickCopy.com.

It went viral, made it to /r/bestof, and ranked top-5 on Google for a few long tail keywords.

The current version, though much more polished, doesn’t have nearly the same amount of juice (my fault – I made a lot of changes to this website.)

10) You need to enjoy it

While I’m certainly a fan of Scott Adams’ “goals are for losers and passion is bulls***” advice (it just makes sense,) you need to at least

  • Have some aptitude at the medium
  • Enjoy what you are doing

(The second follows from the first, as people like Scott Adams and Cal Newport explain.)

You can’t blog if the thought of writing makes you crumple to the floor, curled up in the fetal position or your English (or whichever language you want to write in) is so poor you can’t communicate your ideas.

You can’t Vlog if you are mortally afraid of being on camera, are so socially awkward it physically hurts others to watch you or are hideously ugly.

“Enjoying it” is what keeps you coming back and creating consistently.

I know a guy who’s a beast at digital marketing – dude can hang.

He really knows his stuff and has tons of experience, but he’s a poor writer.

He does a lot of selling so he’s great communicator.

Blogging is a bad idea for him. What he can do easily, is podcast.

In our case, one of the reasons we’ve been slacking with blogging at Dropkick Copy is, we haven’t found anything interesting to write about. (More on this in #11)

I’m certainly not going to blog for the sake of blogging just to produce forgettable, lackluster, “meh” posts.

Read: “Mirage Content” Is The Reason Your Company Blog Isn’t Generating Leads.

Even if I wanted to create super-detailed evergreen content, I’d be competing with badasses like Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers.

Read: The Ultimate Guide to No-Pain Copywriting (or, Every Copywriting Formula Ever.)

BUT I saw #SaltBae blow up on social media a couple of days ago and saw Ramit Sethi give props to Chicken Connoisseur in his most recent blog post, and was inspired.

Something just clicked. This post is now at 2500+ words and I’m still not done writing.

11) Start a Passion Project / Side Project

#SaltBae is a successful restaurateur with spots in Istanbul, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.

So, he likely does plenty of traditional marketing for his restaurant.

Which would technically make his Instagram a Side Project.

I know, it’s a loose association, especially since Chicken Connoisseur is ONLY a Youtuber for now.

BUT, It’s relevant to our experience as Dropkick Copy.

We’re a brand-new (less than 1 year old,) tiny copywriting agency and this is a saturated market.

We just don’t have the experience, social proof, or client list that other copywriters do.

Which makes it hard to write, speak, or pitch authoritatively.

That changes, however, when we add my credibility as a masculinity and men’s issues blogger and Irshad’s credibility as the Middle East’s #1 rapper (English) and as a podcaster.

This also goes to #3, having a calling card, and it’s something Raj Kotecha, CEO of Creative Content Agency and one of Gary V’s proteges, talks about as well.

If a potential client asks Irshad “what do you do?” and he replies “I’m a copywriter,” meh, whatever. There are 1000s of him.

If instead, he says “I’m a rapper,” suddenly the potential client is like “OHO. Tell me more!”

And then the natural response will be, “so what else do you do?”

NOW, when Irshad says “I also run a copywriting agency with my brother – we do conversion copywriting and content strategy,” how much more impact do you think he will have?

Also, think back to #10 for a minute.

How much easier would it be for us to create content related to our passion projects?

As a new agency, it even makes it easier for us to create remarkable content for Dropkick Copy because we have these unique experiences to draw from that no other agency has.

Plus, these side projects act as their own labs for us to test our skillsets in conversion copywriting and content strategy, which we can then use as case studies later.

I’ve even started another side project with our friends at Ubrik Media – the Digital Disruptors podcast – and we’ve got some really fun content planned. (The first episode is coming out soon, so keep an eye out for our announcements on social media.)

So yeah, start a passion project / side project. It makes personal branding fun, as opposed to work.

12) Put yourself out there

This goes without saying but in order to grow your personal brand you need to get the f*** out there and make yourself known.

Neil Patel talks about this in a recent episode of his podcast. Listen: 7 ways to become a thought leader.

In it, he talks about how He was recognized as one of America’s top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 30 by President Obama.

It’s a frickin’ application process! You submit your tax returns to some 3rd party and they make the selection on behalf of the White House.

Neil openly admits there were more successful entrepreneurs than he who didn’t make the list, only because he applied for the award and they didn’t.

#SaltBae and Chicken Connoisseur would never have gone viral if they didn’t create content and release it into the World.

The Marketing School episode I linked above perfectly summarizes the key takeaways of this blog post.

  • Find your niche, find what SETS YOU APART.
  • If you don’t stand out, you don’t get remembered.
  • Don’t think that you’re too big or important for anything—just get your voice out there!

At Dropkick Copy one way we’re implementing this is, we’ve started reaching out (and people have reached out to us) to deliver copywriting workshops to various audiences.

Last year we were a guest at a live webinar hosted by Optimizing for Happiness.

By the way, if you have a podcast or Youtube channel, or you’re hosting a conference, and you are looking for guest speakers, send us an email at nabeel [at] dropkickcopy [dot] com.

13) Leverage the personal brand of celebrities and other influencers

This one is straightforward. Leverage the personal brand of celebrities and other influencers to boost your own.

#SaltBae regularly posts selfies of himself with celebrity diners. Here’s one of him serving His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.


Here’s Elijah with U.K. rapper Bonkaz.

Bonkaz and Chicken Connoisseur

Bonkaz was a guest on Episode 10 of the Pengest Munch.

You can make use of this by publishing case studies of high profile clients or interviewing subject matter experts with large online followings.

Another way to do it is by mentioning and linking out to influencers in a post, Vlog, or podcast (count how many I have mentioned so far) and either reaching out to them manually or letting their Google alerts ping them.

I have used both tactics effectively in the past and it’s driven 10s of thousands of readers my way.

Over to you

I hope you’ve learned as much from #SaltBae and Chicken Connoisseur as I did.

Most importantly, I hope you implement these lessons and take growing your personal brand seriously.

One last thing – have I missed anything? Do you have any personal branding insights you’d like to add?

Leave a comment below and let me know. I try my best to reply to every comment.

13 comments… add one
  • Enanny Link Jan 14, 2017 @ 20:39

    Great information especially about the channels to use on social media and liking what you do…I am blogging and have a youtube channel and honestly I like the youtube better and found I am having so much fun with the channel then thinking of posts to write. I also have more followers on my youtube channel then on my Blog. I have 2 months worth of material planned out for youtube and only have
    1-2 ideas of a post to write on the blog. Thanks for the list it is a lot to think about with our ideas and how to use the right avenue to promote them…thanks.

    • Nabeel Azeez Jan 14, 2017 @ 20:50

      Hi there. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I really appreciate it.

      You can transcribe your Youtube videos and post the transcript along with the embed in your blog. Each video is one blog post.

      That way, you don’t have to stress about finding topics to write about. You just write when you have something you want to write.

      • Enanny Link Jan 15, 2017 @ 4:11

        Thank you…that’s a great idea…I embedded them but had them stacked up on each other in one post I never thought to just keep them solo and then I could even add some background info on the making of the video….thanks!

        • Nabeel Azeez Jan 15, 2017 @ 13:33

          Sounds like you have it all under control. Just a few minor tweaks and you’re good to go. Wishing you all the best. 🙂

  • Syed Irfan Ajmal Jan 15, 2017 @ 6:44

    I loved the article. I sure learned a good deal from not only how you write but what you write. My only piece of critique: I don’t think we should tell those we find ugly to abstain from vlogging. Beauty is a relative subject and we should encourage all to do what they love (within reason of course).
    Keep writing and wish you all the best my man 🙂

    • Nabeel Azeez Jan 15, 2017 @ 13:32

      Hey Irfan, thanks for commenting. Much appreciated. The “ugly” comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. 😉

  • AzzamS Jan 15, 2017 @ 18:54

    I found this an exceptional read, thank you. I am going to revisit it again this year several times as I rebrand myself to……???…… i’m still finding it, but I got my space.

    • Nabeel Azeez Jan 16, 2017 @ 5:11

      Hi Azzam, thanks a lot for taking the time to leave a comment. Much appreciated.

      The most important thing is finding a niche. No niche, no personal brand.

  • Seveti Studios Jan 19, 2017 @ 9:41

    Tough crowd. I enjoyed it. My ADD kicked in though and I didn’t make it past past secret 5.
    I’m curious, why use “secret” vs a word like “tips?”

    • Nabeel Azeez Jan 19, 2017 @ 10:31

      Thanks for leaving a comment. Much appreciated. 🙂

      Hope you’ll find time to read and apply the rest of the advice too.

      I used the portent headline tool to generate the headline.


      I also used BuzzSumo and found articles on personal branding with “secrets” in the title did well.

  • Monash Muhamed Unny Jan 24, 2017 @ 18:00

    Brilliant read!
    You have hit home regarding agencies being “full-service”, its always about offering all what the client needs. Mostly clients contract work to people they are most comfortable with, so when you have a relationship in place and when they have requests outside your core area, one tends to get it done through partners(outsource). In the short run its feels good with the extra work flowing in… but in the long run, it does hamper focused growth to being a niche “superstar”

    • Nabeel Azeez Jan 24, 2017 @ 18:25

      Hi Monash. Thanks, glad you liked it. And thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Much appreciated. 🙂

      I think the niche is important especially at the beginning. Once you have established your credibility then you can branch out into your other areas of expertise.

      There is something called the “T-shaped” marketer which every internet marketer should strive to be. I.e. he or she has to have broad knowledge about marketing in general but specialize in one area.

      So, it’s not that the marketer is a one-trick pony, but that he chooses to focus his efforts and deep dive into one subject.

  • Rania Oct 28, 2018 @ 12:07

    Hi Mr Nabeel,
    o be honest, it;s been very long time to read such a informative, powerful, and awesome post.
    am a really big fan of your writing style , and your powerful ideas.

    Thanks for this marvelous post 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.