Personal Branding, Personal Presence, Professional Presence

What You Wear Can Be Meaningless

Sometimes, what you wear can be meaningless. After the second 2016 presidential debate, I have heard crickets about what the candidates wore. Is this good? I'm not sure. The character assassination happening between the candidates, and each candidates supporters has taken the conversation away from substantive issues.
Sometimes, what you wear can be meaningless. After the second 2016 presidential debate, I have heard crickets about what the candidates wore. Is this good? I’m not sure. The character assassination happening between the candidates, and each candidates supporters has taken the conversation away from substantive issues. Of course, what they wore to the debate is far from substantive as compared to the critical issues that our country faces. Still, if their personal brands weren’t being obliterated by such venomous vitriol, being able to assess what they are wearing could indicate to us how they each want to be perceived. Given the current political climate, this really doesn’t matter at the moment.

Did I just really say that what you wear can be meaningless?  Yes.

The presidential election cycle has captured my attention like a runaway train. I want to stop it, but do not have the power to do so.  Damn…  Whether you dislike either, or both, of the major party candidates, the narratives of each outweighs how they show up.  Detractors see one candidate as a secretive, opaque liar.  Disbelievers of the other candidate see him as a racist, woman-hating psychopath.  However which way you see the candidate [or candidates] that you will not vote for, your perception about either is not based on what they wear.

Most times, what you wear can be meaningful.  When you have promotable good values, wearing clothing reflective of those values helps to tell your story in the best possible way.

So, what’s really happening in this election cycle?  Why aren’t we enjoying the good old days when everyone is an armchair fashion critic, picking on the attire of the candidates?  And, if you think that you didn’t like that political pastime in the past, don’t you wish we could just go back?  Somehow, it feels a bit more genteel than the current political climate.

Talk about climate change.  Sheesh…

I’ll take a stab at answering my own question about what’s really happening in this election cycle.

First of all, we are not just in the Information Age.  We are now in the Information Overload Age.  Millions of people think that because they saw a news report, or read a blog post online [except for mine, of course], that they have got all the facts.  The Information Overload Age has come to be because there’s so much “information.”  There’s news, opinion, proof, innuendo… Everything.  It’s a lot to sift through.  We seek out media that supports our formed beliefs, both in favor of and in opposition to, the candidates.

The problem with all of this is that we may be misguided in how our opinions are formed. We may not be reading fair and impartial information. [While there is a candidate who I support, my attempt here is to be impartial for the sake of my big point.] Today, the news media is under scrutiny by the electorate and by the candidates. Everyone is in the game of taking sides.

After all, media empires are also brands.

Speaking of which, we are dealing with two candidates with very well established brands.  Like in a boxing match-up, in one corner we have a man who licenses his name to everything from steaks to hotels.  In the other corner is a woman who has both corporate law and vast public service experience.  In the best light, her brand has stood for giving voice and support to those excluded from the equality equation.  Yes, there have been missteps. And, she has come around on certain issues, such as being a full partner for equality on LGBT rights.  In his best light, he has been seen as a shrewd businessman and dealmaker with an impeccable taste for luxury, particularly with his hotel and residence properties.

In the worst light for either candidate, we have the examples I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post.  And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the negativity, if we are going to be totally honest here. 

Your personal brand is fundamental to how you are perceived.  It’s such a crucial point that what you wear can be meaningless.  If your brand is tarnished, it really doesn’t matter what you wear.  I don’t think that if one candidate or the other changes the way they look in any noticeable way that it will alter our perceptions. 

Election Day is coming upon us now. There is no time to rehabilitate anyone’s brand.  Both candidates are conducting themselves as the walking wounded.  They need to limp along to the end of this thing. And, it does not appear that there is much civility or dignity left in this campaign.  As we might say, things have gotten quite ugly.  This ugliness has certainly tarnished the brands of both candidates.

So, what can we learn from this as private citizens and successful businesspeople and entrepreneurs?  Brand development and maintenance is a constant process.  Your brand as a businessperson, as a philanthropist, as a parent is always in need of your own TLC.  Perhaps you feel very fortunate to be uninvolved in such divisive politics.  But, it is very important to be more in control of your own brand messages.  When you are in communication with others, you are responsible for promoting your values, passions and strengths.  Let people see in you the person who you know you are.  What you wear is, truthfully, very crucial to helping to telegraph those positive messages.

But, if you aren’t mindful, and allow your brand to be tarnished, either by others or by self-sabotage, there can be a point of no return, and everything goes to hell.  This is what we all want to avoid in our lives.

Ultimately, your “brand” is not some dry concept of public positioning and persona.  What your brand stands for is your truth, authenticity, values, passions, strengths.  Your brand is your personality.  Keep it strong.

Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and executives discover their personal brands and design their personal styles.  Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “6 Secrets to Success in Silicon Valley.” Get details about Joseph’s proven program that transforms your life through personal brand and style development.

My role, as a personal brand and style strategist, is that of a storyteller. I learn about a person’s personality and strengths, translate that into an appropriate personal style aesthetic, and help each client to visually and non-verbally tell her or his story with ease and authenticity.