It’s no secret that companies invest a LOT of time and money into branding. The reason being… people LIKE to be different, they LIKE to stand out, they LIKE to be part of something special, they LIKE being perceived as better than others, and they LIKE having their own little microcosm of customized services. Fair enough. It works wonders for business. Buyers don’t like to admit it, but they consume for status. They consume for image. They consume to show that they’re better than others. That’s just part of it, of course, they consume for practical reasons too (but that’s less interesting to talk about, isn’t it?)You may not realize it, but YOU are also a brand. This brand is formed by your appearance, but also by your habits.
In an obvious sense, there are some really jacked-up “brands” out there. I’m at Whole Foods and I see some chick wearing a belly shirt, obnoxious frog-patterned pajama pants and flip-flops and her brand is just screaming out DOLLAR STORE. I knew someone who was interviewing for a $42,000-a-year job at a science research firm and she was worried that the (totally appropriate) clothes she was wearing for her job interview weren’t “designer” enough… only to find that the person giving the interview was wearing ripped up jeans and a baggy, faded t-shirt! Even if they offered her the job on the spot, she knew instantly there was no way she was taking it. If you were paying for professional psychotherapy sessions and you walked in to see a mustachioed man in a top hat, white gloves and tuxedo holding a gold wrist watch… would you stay? If you went to a fitness club for your personal training session and your PT was Dog the Bounty Hunter or Rosie O’Donnell, would you ask for your money back? Or what if your certified nutritionist were Callista Flockhart or Mary-Kate Olsen? Physical brands matter. That’s why us fitness gurus do so well financially. The same holds true for style consultants and business coaches. We know what it takes to get exteriors into impeccable shape.
But let’s look one step further. You can’t control the blessings (or lack thereof) your maker gave you (tell that to Joan Rivers, right?) but you CAN control the choices you make as far as how to present yourself. More importantly, you CAN control the habits that make up who you are and how your brand comes across to others.
If you arrive to an appointment to meet with me late, your brand is like Taco Bell… it gives me the runs – I’m OUT of there. I’m not going to wait around to hear your litany of pathetic loser excuses. If, on the other hand, you arrive a few minutes early and wait for me with a smile, then you’re like the local Californian burrito truck – always fresh, always reliable, always the best.
Look, what you do on your own time is your prerogative. But when you’re in the company of others, you should have a professional demeanor at all times. If you’re blowing smoke my way or sucking back twelve dirty martinis during lunch, your brand is like BP Oil – gratuitous, dirty and all-around careless. If, on the other hand, you are neat and put-together, you control your vices and avoid telling me stories about your past as a frat boy or exotic dancer, then you’re a General Electric type of brand to me – clean, forward thinking and exciting.
There are soo many types of crappy communicators, it’s unbelievable. In any given day, you probably come across one or two or ten of them. There are micromanagers who don’t even realize how neurotic they are. There are people who lack all self confidence and mumble everything. There are people who come unprepared for every meeting and ask completely idiotic questions to waste everyone’s time. Worse yet, there are people who use you as their personal therapist and bombard you with stories of childhood trauma, drug addiction, weird family members and inappropriate fetishes. These are all brands I like to stay away from. Give me someone who is well-versed in human relations, who understands there is a business brand and an off-work brand, and someone who presents him or herself with poise and etiquette – NOW you’re talking!
It’s time to clean out your closet and get RID of all those belly shirts. It’s time to get RID of all those bad habits. Try to step outside your skin and see yourself as others do. (Imagine if Elvis, Lindsey Lohan or Tom Cruise had done that! Where would they be now?) Open your eyes and meet with your full potential. You only have one life to live and one chance to create a positive branding experience with a new person. What kind of brand are you?