Do you have a really nice car? Years ago, a wise friend told me to buy an expensive car so I would be seen as successful. While a nice car should not, in theory, have anything to do with my skills or value as a person, many people make assumptions about other individuals, companies, products or services based on a first impression. And this perception is reality.
Whether you are building a personal brand or a business brand, that brand must create an accurate first impression of who you/the company are and what you represent. Consumers today have very limited attention spans. We make decisions in seconds. Even in a situation where we do research for a larger investment like a house or car, our initial starting point is often dictated by that first impression. We may not even look at a house in a specific neighborhood because of a bad “vibes.” A recent career tip from the American Marketing Association mentioned that most employers reviewing your resume will make a decision on whether or not to interview you within 15 seconds. While you might be the perfect candidate for the job, if you don’t make that first cut, you won’t get the chance to present your case to the hiring manager.
So what can you do to make sure the first impression your brand makes is accurate and represents the value others will receive by doing business with you?
- Spend time up front on developing your brand. Do the research and pay attention to details to ensure your brand creates the impression you want.
- Get input from a variety of others to verify that they see your new brand as intended. What are their first thoughts when they see your new logo? Is your new website of the quality expected? Include friends, family members and fellow industry professionals you engage with on a regular basis.
- Don’t copy what others are doing! It is your core truth that is being defined here – and you are unique.
- Watch out for fads or shortcuts that may not get you where you want to go. Before you buy or spend time on something, ask yourself what value it has in building your brand. If you don’t see clear value, or if on closer inspection it conflicts with your brand, don’t do it!
Brands can evolve over time, but ultimately must reflect your core truth. Don’t buy the Lexus if a Prius is a better reflection of your values. When you think about firms with successful brands, you can typically sum up the essence of that company in a few words. Think about the words, feelings and images that represent your brand. If your perception matches that of your clients and potential consumers, you are on target.