A large part of branding involves setting the stage. Creating the environment within which the impression of you will be made is a crucial part of managing your brand, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Which entrance more positively impacts your brand: showing up at an event and stepping out of a Mercedes Benz or showing up at the same event stepping out of a hooptie? Clearly, unless you’re a clown, stepping out of a Benz is the more impactful entrance.
Each day, we make entrances. Whether its what we wear, our hairstyles or our personalities, the way we ‘arrive’ helps to shape other people’s perception of us. Since our entrance or arrival is something over which we have singular control, it bears some discussion.
If you’re going to a function, for example, its best to orchestrate your arrival, presence and departure, in such a way as to create the proper perception of you. You’ve undoubtedly heard of the term ‘fashionably late,’ which, as you might image, has its roots in the practice of not showing up to a function until most of the guests had already arrived, ensuring that the maximum number of eyes would be on the entrant upon their arrival. The guest who bore this moniker was two things: (1) fashionable (what good would it do to show up looking shabby?); and (2) late.
On the flip side, its best to always depart from a social engagement, prior to the balance of the other guests. Having ‘another engagement’ to attend, is a sure way to create the impression that you’re in demand (whether its true or not). Its also useful to extricate yourself from uncomfortable situations (such as showing up to a function that’s crap, and not wishing to stay a minute longer).
Be sure to tailor your appearance so that its signature. Wear unusual articles of clothing, a pocket square or ascot, for example. If everyone is rocking Kangols, you wear a fedora. If everyone’s in Nike’s, grab yourself a pair of Greedy Geniuses. Stay fashionably ahead of the curve. Now this doesn’t mean that you should drop duckets simply to rock the latest gear (because that’s not fashionable, is it?). But acquiring a choice piece of apparel every once in a while, to augment your collection of signature pieces, is a wise investment in you.
Know your audience. SunTzu, in The Art of War, advises that before engaging in battle, one should know the terrain upon which the battle is to be fought. Make it a habit to check out wherever it is you intend to go, in advance. Get a feel for the place. Is it a resturaunt? What’s their Zagat rating? What have other diners said about the food? Service? What are their specials? How does one get there? You should also have ‘dossiers’ prepared if you’re going to be meeting people, and be familiar with their personalities, etc. This is especially true where you want to make a particular impression, and need to assess how you’ll be received.
Setting the stage may require a little bit of work, but the returns on your overall impression are well worth it, so do it right!