“Personal Brand” is a buzz term these days.
The importance of it has increased dramatically as job seekers and business owners try to stay afloat in a temperamental economy. The art of identifying and communicating what makes us unique, relevant and differentiated for our target audience is crucial, especially for those of us who want to set ourselves apart from our competitors and position ourselves as a niche expert in our industry.
One of the most powerful elements of personal branding is our image. You see, we humans are visual creatures. So visual, in fact, that neuroscientists have revealed that we make eleven decisions about someone within seven seconds, based solely on the way they present themselves.
Ultimately, our image becomes our personal brand’s biggest marketing tool. And, just like any marketing campaign, it needs to be unique and consistent to be really powerful.
Misconception #1: Dress “professionally”
The common piece of advice for “dressing for success” is to dress professionally, and that typically gets translated to a standard corporate suit. Yet, whilst you may be presenting yourself in “professional attire”, your image may not be truly reflecting what you stand for, and in turn, you blend in to the sea of other professionals.
The real skill to authentically “self-packaging” your personal brand is ensuring it becomes an illustration of your inner identity. It should be aligned with your strengths, personality and values.
A friend in Human Resources was hiring a Marketing Executive. She was down to two women, both with the same skill set on paper. Both were pitching that their strengths were the likes of their creativity, their attention to detail and ability to develop great ideas.
“Woman One” showed up to the interview in a black suit (that was a little too big for her), no belt, a stiff white cotton shirt and flat shoes. Her hair was in a loose bun and she wore minimal make-up.
“Woman Two” dressed in a red pencil skirt, a blue and white patterned flowing blouse, court heels and was holding a unique handbag. Her hair was left out and well groomed, and her make-up was done.
Who do you think got the job? “Woman Two”. Why? Because as soon as she walked through the door, within seven seconds, the recruiter knew that her strengths were true. Her outfit combination (screamed creativity), her unique handbag (appreciation of great ideas) and her look flowed from top-to-toe (attention to detail), giving proof to this. She looked believable.
Misconception #2: Dress like the person whose success you want
One of the misconceptions of personal branding is that one thinks they need to mould their image to be like that of a successful person in their industry.
This is where “modelling” can get dangerous. It’s the quickest route to loss of individual identity.
I have seen people morph into their mentors (or idols) and become clone copies – they dress, walk, talk and behave the same way. I have three words for this – Single. White. Female. Let’s make a pact here – never, ever, do that. Because it’s not authentic, it’s not sustainable and it gets exhausting to keep it up. It’ll feel like you’re slipping into a uniform.
Case in point; Marie Forleo is kicking butt online as a business mentor for entrepreneurs. Many women admire her and as a result of that business owners are popping up everywhere with photographs on their websites that look like hers, dressing like her and behaving like her.
Instead, what one must do is pinpoint the essence of what they like about the brand they aspire to be like and make it their own.
The essence of Marie Forleo’s brand is her down-to-earth nature, her humour, her vitality, her authenticity and her sense of fun. Every single piece of her branding says this – especially her images and how she presents herself on camera.
Say you like the angle of ‘sense of fun’. Marie expresses that through her hip-hop dancing antics, her humourous pieces of advice and her choice of vibrant clothing. But, what’s your idea of fun? And how can you individually express that through the way you present yourself?
Misconception #3: Dress to fit in
A common piece of advice is to “keep the people that you’ll be working with in mind, before you choose what to wear”. In some cases, a very small part of this is true.
However, the strongest personal brands dress to make their mark – their market remembers them for it and are attracted to them because of it.
I remember this one gentleman that I would see often at events. His style point of difference is “polka dots”. You read it right. One time he wore a polka dot tie, the next time a polka dot pocket square, then polka dot socks. I began asking for the man with the polka dots. I found out he was an accountant, so every time I think of accounting, I associate that man and his polka dots to it. He’s owned a piece of real estate in my mind. Genius.
Ask yourself this: “what’s my style point of difference? What’s the one simple thing that I can implement into the way I present myself that can be a consistent part of my “marketing campaign”?
It may be your colourful glasses. Or red lipstick. Or statement handbags. Or even a particular haircut. Or your never ending pairs of stylish shoes. Whatever it is, just make it a consistent part of what you wear and own it. It’ll be your unique secret weapon.
Founder and CEO of Colette Werden Australia, Keynote Speaker and Red Lips Addict.