Recently I wrote about a ‘new you’ for New Years. Style is not the same as ‘brand’ nor is style the same as appearance. I am a big believer in people being themselves, however I also believe in people respecting the people around them. Colour is one thing that I use consistently to help people know me.
It is no coincidence that to celebrate my coming of age the theme of the party was ‘bright’. My first attempt at entrepreneurship was a consultancy business called ‘Bright Marketing’. My home is filled with brightly coloured paintings and furnishings, and I have always been attracted to wearing bright colours. My childhood bedroom was the brightest sunflower yellow that you could imagine. For me, colour has always represented happiness, vibrancy and vividness. Colour gives me energy and inspiration.
I named my business RedBalloon after a beautiful 1956 Oscar award-winning French children’s movie called The Red Balloon, a beautiful tale of friendship and adventure (which I wrote about in the last post). Balloons are a symbol of ‘party time’ — and red is the most memorable, the most evocative colour of all.
In the early days of RedBalloon I was at an event and just happened to be wearing a red dress. I had only one or two back then — not my whole wardrobe, as it is now. My colleague Jemma Fastnedge had recently given me some pretty frank feedback about my dress sense. At the time the business was still operating from the front room of our home and we had about seven employees. ‘If you are going to call yourself the CEO,’ Jemma said to me, ‘I think you need to start dressing like one.’ Confronting? Yes! But she had a point. Sometimes I would rush to my desk still in my gym gear. ‘You dress for others, not yourself,’ Jemma lamented. ‘How do you want to come across?’
So at this event someone asked, ‘Do you always wear red?’ These two separate comments landed at about the same time. I asked myself if I wanted to be the brand ambassador for RedBalloon. If I did, that job would be all the easier if I wore red. Red is memorable. People might not remember me but they will remember the colour I was wearing. In fact I have overheard people talking about me as ‘the red lady’.
So the reason I started wearing red was not accidental. Red is my public uniform — it helps identify what I stand for. The colour is distinctive. Red is the most used colour in brands and it’s memorable. People take nanoseconds to work out who you really are. Is she who she says she is? Well, if you’re consistent, that reinforces the trust factor: she is indeed who she says she is. She is the woman in the red dress.
My wearing red also helps my audience relax. It doesn’t matter if the audience is male or female; it’s human nature to ‘check each other out’. Malcolm Gladwell spoke of this succinctly in his book Blink. Once a person has you ‘worked out’ they are far more available to listen intently to what you have to say. It is my job to help an audience feel comfortable.
For me, the red dress has been an important part of being identified easily. But what is really great is that if I put on another colour or wear jeans on the weekend people literally don’t see me — not even people who know me. People are programmed that if they see red it is me.
You too can be content in terms of your look, whatever it is. Remember, you don’t have to look at yourself whenever you’re out and about: you can’t see your own face, after all. But you do need to look like the role you’re playing. I learned a long time ago that we dress for others. Ask yourself: ‘What impression do I want to leave with the people I meet?’
I watched with interest the controversy some time back regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s continued wearing of hoodies during the lead-up to the stock-market launch of Facebook — and the impact it had when he did not in the presence of the American president. Steve Jobs only ever wore a black skivvy and jeans for launches, and I’m sure it was so the press talked more about the technology and less about him as a person.
I definitely don’t wear the red dress for me. I wear it to help people identify me. I took Jemma’s point and have invested in my uniform ever since. (Wearing red also makes it easy when I go clothes shopping! as you can tell by this pic of me selecting the costume for the filming of Channel Ten’s Shark Tank easy)
Consistency is important. I have learned much which I share much about (including the disasters) in Live What You Love which you can preorder here:
I published this excerpt in my LinkedIn collection too