I know a university president who wears green socks every day. Whether he is in a meeting or playing on the faculty basketball team, he wears those green socks. He says the socks are his brand and, indeed, they may be, but so what? How are green socks as a personal brand helping him or his institution?
In another situation a young woman was dressed for an interview wearing a bright scarf around her neck. It was a nice scarf but it was hot and not quite right for an interview. She believed that the scarf would ensure that she stood out in the eyes of the interviewer. She said she wears a colorful scarf every day and it is her personal brand. I am sure the scarf did make her stand out, but in what direction? Good or bad? Did the scarf help her “nail” the interview?
Which is it? Are socks and scarves a personal brand or do they make you stand out in a weird way? The answer is both.
The green socks are the trademark of the university president but he needs to have happy faculty, thriving students and so many other things hanging on his brand. The woman in the scarf better have more things to discuss with the interviewer than her scarf.
Cool socks and colorful scarves are fine and can make you stand out and be memorable. But standing out based on socks and scarves is not enough.
A personal brand is about you, not your socks. A brand needs content. Steve Jobs wore a black mock turtleneck as part of his brand but he had a lot of other accomplishments to back up his brand. James Bond has a cool Aston Martin as part of his brand but there are other skills and abilities he can show. Lady Gaga’s brand includes wild hair and outfits but she can sing too!
Content doesn’t have to be in the form of music or business acumen to build a brand. Personal brands can be built through an online presence through blogs, websites, tweets, and any social media outlet. A successful brand is consistent – photos, messages and content that help you create perceptions about you.
Sometimes you need to spell it out. One of my favorite brand builders is venture capitalist Stewart Alsop. He describes himself and lives up to it in everything he does.
Stewart Alsop: Venture capital investor looking for hard-technology companies. Fisherman. Foodie. Art & craft junkie.
When you are considering building a personal brand, green socks or a scarf may be a good start but there better be something more than that. A successful brand, once built, should help you achieve your goals in a fun way. A brand should also let you be yourself.