Monday, 26 May 2008

You Brand, you…

If you were a brand, how would you like people to describe you? In fact, how would you describe yourself?

When we consider the brands that we enjoy buying and using, it’s our right brain that’s engaged in the process. The right side of the brain is ruled by feelings and imagination, it’s where our emotions reside. The left side of the brain relies on logic, facts and caution. When we think or talk about a product we like, one that has strong brand recognition, we usually describe it in these terms: “My favourite brand of paper towels is…” or, “I love the XXX brand of skin care products”. What underpins our brand loyalty is almost always emotional – what we feel about the brand. (Ask yourself what you’d like people to feel about you.)

We all love brands that promise to improve our lives, or make us feel better. Remember, “Persil washes whiter” and “Guinness is good for you.” Equally, brands that touch us in some way, earn our loyalty. Perhaps you’ve remained faithful to a brand since childhood. That brand is likely to hold memories of a time you remember fondly. Maybe you’ve come to rely on a particular brand because you trust it and it makes you feel safe and secure. Take a can of Heinz baked beans. When you look at the distinctively shaped black label on the blue can, (red and white logo in the USA) you can almost see and smell the beans. You know what to expect, it’s both familiar and emotionally satisfying. In fact, you might say that “It does exactly what it says on the tin”. (For my American friends and relatives, that saying is equivalent to walking the talk; ‘tin’ is interchangeable for “can” in the UK.)

Here, you might want to ask yourself if you do exactly what it says on the tin. Or indeed, does your ‘tin’ say what you do? And if it does, is the description accurate? One of the ways you can begin to answer these questions is by asking yourself this: if you were a product, what might that product be? One of my corporate female clients told me if she were a product, she’d be a bottle of Louis Roederer Crystal champagne. She explained why – it’s reassuringly expensive, of excellent quality, reliable, bubbly, always in style and contained in a shapely bottle. If you knew this woman, you’d see how closely she comes to those descriptions. Oh, about the ‘expensive’ bit, she commands a deservedly extremely high salary.

In order for you to establish what you’d like your tin to say about you, first, you’ll need to find out what’s inside the tin. Then your ‘label’, that which represents you, the brand, can be tailored to mirror the contents. It’s a kind of an inside-outside project: is what’s going on inside, aligned with what’s going on outside? When you’ve established a congruent match, as a brand, you’ll become easily recognisable, and if you get lucky, you’ll become highly desirable!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Resurrection of Style

Oliver Sacks, the accomplished author and neurologist, says this about style, “Style, neurologically, is the deepest part of one’s being, and may be preserved, almost to the last, even in dementia.” So what’s that got to do with style as we know it? A person who has style, that is, personal style, has it in the deepest part of their being. And yes, it can be preserved until the last. That’s why it’s called style… it transcends fashion and yet is always in fashion. Unfortunately in today’s culture, it isn’t being preserved; it’s been prematurely buried. And now is the time to dig it up, open the coffin and unleash it on an unsuspecting public.

Fashion has replaced style… unsuccessfully. That’s because style is irreplaceable, and unlike fashion, you can’t buy it. For some, it’s as if it’s attached to their DNA. Take Kristin Scott-Thomas or George Clooney, they continually exude effortless personal style. They are not exactly fashion icons, however, they are iconic, that’s because they don’t look like everyone else. People who have personal style don’t want to look like a fashion victim. Thinking about it, who’d want to look like a victim of anything? They want to be remembered for who they are, not what they wear.

In the last ten years, in the UK, and in particular, London, personal style has been replaced with The Stepford Wives - everyone looks the same. We’ve lost our Personal Style Mojo. Most of the fashionable shops look the same. I swear, if you swapped around all the designer names of all the fashion shops on the High Street, the consumer wouldn’t know. That’s because each fashion retailer purveys ‘the look’, the same look. How boring. What happened to individuality, someone who doesn’t follow fashion, who’d actually rather be followed, and is known for their uniqueness?

Your style is personal, it’s all about you. And it’s up to you to determine what your personal style is. That means taking responsibility for how you want to come across, and as importantly, how you’d like to feel. To a large degree, how we feel dictates how we look. And although we may not be aware of it, others can ‘see’ how we feel. So it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a trendy handkerchief-style dress and 7 inch heels, if you don’t feel good about you, that’s what we’ll see first.

Here are some practical tips that will help you to resurrect your Personal Style Mojo:
Let’s start with the three F’s: Fit – Flatter – Feel. If any clothing item (shoes included) doesn’t fit to flatter or ‘feel’ right, say “No”. If you look in the mirror and see a Stepford Wife, say “No”. If you have to ask more than one person’s opinion about how you look in a clothing item, say “No”. Your Personal Style is about who you are on the inside and the outside. It’s to do with what you stand for and won’t stand for. So don’t be influenced by the media’s insistence that in order to be ‘somebody’ your body has to be stick thin. Or, that if you don’t dress like a Footballer’s Wife, you’ll be a social pariah. Learn how to be you. Then, when you next go shopping, you’ll know who you’re shopping for!

“Fashion fades, only style remains the same”
Coco Chanel