This post was written in 2015…just FYI as you read it and wonder what happened to the pink 🙂
When I was in college, I majored in accounting. I was also treasurer and an active member of the theater club, where I acted and wrote script. What do these two things have in common? Absolutely nothing. Which is why I was the only business major in the the entire theater club. My business friends couldn’t understand why I would want to be with all the ‘alternative’-types in the crazy theater, and my theater friends looked at me as if I got lost on my way to Wall Street, and mistakenly took a wrong turn onto a sketch comedy stage.
I’ve always been this eclectic concoction of a person. And while it has been difficult at times to find my voice and identity, it has also made me unique and given me the opportunity to have something different to offer. When I joined the theater club, it was myself and a few others that revitalized it after nearly a decade of being extinct. We had no money and no budget. But thanks to my business background, I wrote a plan, presented it to the school senate, and got us a nice size budget to work with for the upcoming school year. Something the literature majors may not have been able to accomplish.
But while this eclecticism has been useful, it has also made branding difficult.When you have a diverse persona, how do you sum it all up in one logo or one brand message? As I have been building my own platform, I have struggled with many aspects of branding such as:
I am color-obsessed. I have a reputation of painting rooms in my house several times over, until I get it “just right”. Color can impact how you feel, how you react, and what opinions you formulate. Some colors are boring, some outdated, some too strong or too weak. How do you want your customers to react when they see your colors?
For me, my struggle is with pink. I have always liked a dark, strong pink because it represents boldness, being unique, and is non-conformist (after all, when I was interviewing for jobs in college, I was specifically told to wear only black, brown, or navy suits…boring!). But we have also been taught that we must look serious to be taken seriously. So should I have chosen a color like navy blue?
Pink is also the traditional girl color. And my message is to break tradition and lead your own path. Recently though, pink is changing and represents power and strength.
Like every smart marketer, you analyze your competition and see how you compare. As I look at some other women business coaches and strategists, I feel a sense of ugh when I see how many of them look like they are selling Mary Kay or residential real estate in the 1980’s. The feathered hair, the oversized shoulder-pad business jacket, and the cursive, dainty font with a flower somewhere on the page. What are they thinking?!? Will people think I’m one of them? Oh please, no!
I have to be honest. I don’t take these type of women seriously. I’m not trying to criticize them (I’m simply critiquing them in my New York fashion), but why did they choose this image? It’s the 21st century. Use a modern font, keep it simple and lose the lacy, dainty appearance. If I’m your client, I need to know that you can use a smartphone and know what inbound marketing is, not that you finally mastered the fax machine.
So what image do I want to project? Here’s the tricky part. I want to be seen as ambitious, driven, smart, and serious. But I’m also a lot of fun, friendly, and engaging. So how do you create that image? It isn’t as easy as you might think.
Can you display an image that makes you look approachable and friendly, but also like you can kick business ass? Will people take you seriously if you create an image full of personality?
It’s also more difficult for women because we feel pressure to prove ourselves, fearing no one will trust our expertise if we don’t look and act in an exact manner. In the end, a lot of this has to do with the conflict between being authentic and learning how to handle stereotypes.
ACCEPTING YOUR NICHE
(AND EMBRACING THE UNPOPULAR)
Finally, the biggest issue with branding is the conflict between playing it safe and being authentic, knowing you may not be popular with the masses. We worry about attracting clients, and we don’t want to make them upset or give them reason to not like us. We want to create a brand that resonates with them.
But with over 300 million people in the U.S. alone, your tribe is out there, even if you break from tradition. Quite frankly, you may only build a tribe, if you break tradition. You have to accept the fact that you won’t be liked by everyone, but that niche market meant for you, will love you if you’re authentic. And they won’t find you if you’re not.
One of my favorite branding experts, TEDx speakers, as well as a coach I have worked with, Erika Napoletano, wrote The Power of Unpopular, a book about how to build your brand and become successful by taking pride in being unpopular. It’s a great book, I highly recommend it.
In summary, as much as I, or you, struggles with color, image, and building a platform for your clients to embrace, keep your eyes focused on creating a brand that is truly you. Your tribe will find you.