The Personal Brand Revolution


We all know about the brands that don’t require a full name – Oprah, Lady Gaga, Martha, Elvis, The Donald… their brand says it, without saying a word.

Do you think these “mega brands” looked closely at personal branding? Do you think they identified the key components of the brand they wanted to present to the world? Did they have a brand strategy and a team to build their unique personal brand? Have they succeeded? Are they not now “the brand?”

These individuals have built huge successful companies making large profits. Why?

They understood the power of branding (the imaging) of one product – themselves.

Other business brands in banking, insurance, automobiles, food and cosmetics, fashion designers, etc., also spent a lot of time, money and energy to create brands that are eye catching and appealing enough to sell their specific product through to market. They want the buyer to build a strong connection with that brand.

A recent survey in the Wall Street Journal notes that the more charismatic CEO – the better the firm performs… from 10 to 15 per cent better.

We not only pay more for those who are perceived to have brands such as CEOs, lawyers or architects, we also put a higher value on their properties. As an example Sotheby’s sold Jackie Kennedy costume jewelry earring by Kenneth Jan Lane for $28,000.

Have you ever thought of yourself as “A Company of One”? How much time, money and energy have you spent in developing a personal brand that is unique enough to sell through to your market?

Chances are you haven’t even given it a thought – correct? Perhaps, like many of my clients, you too, dismiss paying attention whatsoever to personal branding as frivolous, fluffy or superficial until you, like them hit a brick wall, lost business, that big contract fell through or you failed to get the promotion.

A UCLA study proves – “85 per cent of all decisions are made with our eyes.”

Whether you like it or not, the personal brand you project affects other’s decisions as to your intelligence, character and ability and further determines whether or not they want to do business with you. The way you dress – and act – has a remarkable impact on the people you meet professionally and socially. This greatly affects how they treat you. Clients have told me that they have lost promotions that deals have fallen through, memberships were denied and friends have disappeared because they dismissed the importance of personal packaging (personal brand).

If your personal brand (image) is not professional and congruent, attractive and attracting you will be passed over – guaranteed. Therefore, to be competitive, to have a greater influence on others, attract more business and be more successful it is critical that you pay greater attention to personal branding. 

Before you sell anything, your product, company or service you sell yourself first. Shift the balance of power in your favor.  When you brand yourself you are perceived to be more desirable and in demand. Brand status increases the bottom line… both personally and corporately.

An individual who has a well defined personal brand has more status and a tremendous advantage over the competition in the market place.  Whether it’s social or in business, when you are well branded you are definitely pre-sold.

A great example: Marsha Clark, the prosecuting attorney in the OJ Simpson trial, transformed right before our eyes. She went from a serious, poorly dressed, frizzy haired woman to a well-polished and stylish one who got a whopping $4.5 million book deal. Why? … she got branded.

When you want someone to date you for example, you don’t just stand there in the street naked… instead you put on the outfit that reveals just enough and covers up just enough to make people want more. To get someone interested in you, just give away a few pieces of info. You want to tease them, whet their appetite and make them drool for more. In the beginning it is simply style over substance… substance comes later.

A personal example. Recently I attended a business networking function where I met several individuals personally. One woman introduced herself and began to chat.  I sized her up immediately deciding by her out of date clothes – at least by 15 years – her style-less, badly scuffed shoes, lack of  makeup and long stringy hair that fell down to her waist that she was probably used to being behind the scenes.

To my surprise she was the president of her own company attending to meet potential clients to sell her service. She had absolutely no idea how negatively she was being perceived, what her image was saying about her ability, knowledge and credibility. Without even opening her mouth, her “brand” shouted louder than words “how can I keep up with tomorrow if I can’t keep up with today?”

Perception is reality. Unfortunately, we all make snap judgments about others in the first 10 seconds and that’s just what I did. I admit I do tend to judge a little harsher than most, after all, personal branding is my business.  In a few seconds, I decided that she was not someone I would recommend or want to do business with. There are many unknowns in business… but her personal brand shouldn’t have been one of them. I saw her potential and exchanged business cards with her, wished her well and hoped she would call. 

Perhaps like many of the individuals I work with – and Marsha Clark – you have not even thought about how you are being perceived. Can anyone leave something as important as your most valuable asset – your personal brand to chance? So… just maybe there is something to this. Think about it.

Do you really know what your first 10 seconds are saying about you?  Are you paying attention? Where do you really rate on a scale of one to 10?
In the current economy, competitiveness has increased dramatically. Business has become more serious and conservative since, not only in attitude and business attire, but in etiquette and manner as well. We are being hired by companies to train their employees in the fine art of manners, business etiquette, dining and appropriate dress. Even though intelligence, experience and education count, they tell us they are simply not hiring those who do not possess these all important soft communication skills.

It is the Whole Package that Counts

The hallmarks of successful individuals in a fast paced global marketplace are their confidence, manners, personal poise and authenticity.

“Young Man, make your name worth something.”

– Andrew Carnegie

Perhaps, if he witnessed the disgusting decline in professionalism, including attire and manners, he might say “mediocre is dead” – and I’d agree with him.
It’s not acceptable to dress inappropriately or conduct business with the wrong fork. There is return to formality, elegance, manners and sophistication. It’s evident in what’s happening all around us. People are getting dressed up again and dining in fine restaurants. We are entertaining clients and being entertained as well.

It’s been my experience that when an individual understands the power of perception that individual will make the changes necessary to ensure that he or she communicates more effectively through the power of his/her personal brand. People are required to dress up, for business, social events, presentations abroad, dealing with other cultures, dining in fine restaurants. They are entertaining clients and being entertained as well.

After 25 years of assisting individuals create personal brands, I realize that those who pay attention to developing strong, authentic personal brands contribute value for themselves and others as well as gain instant trust and credibility.

“A strong personal brand is paramount for effective leadership and for building long term, significant relationships.”

The hallmarks of successful individuals in a fast-paced global marketplace are their confidence, positive attitude, gracious manners and authenticity.

Yes, the personal brand revolution is afoot…we have turned the corner. The sloppy attire, poor work ethics, disrespectful behavior, lack of civility and manners must leave the scene for us to succeed and compete on the world stage.

We all know that when we look good …we feel good.  When we are well packaged …it’s only natural that we will attract more of what you want in life.
Be a smarter marketer… to attract the best, you need to be the best.  Developing an attracting and attractive, genuine personal brand is your passport to universal acceptance. 

Shannon Smith is a leading image strategist, writer, and TV personality who travels extensively throughout North America presenting customized training programs in personal branding. She is the author of Power Manners – How to Use Your Personal Skills for Business and Social Success. For further information visit the website