After a week without power post-Irene, I decided enough was a enough and took a well-deserved vacation to the beach. While I was there I was overwhelmed daily with thoughts like the following: What in the world was she thinking? Does he realize he doesn’t look as good as he thinks he does? Why aren’t the other members in that family telling her about that?
It finally occurred to me that sitting on a beach watching people walk by in all manner of get-ups offers some spectacular metaphors for branding.
If you really have ‘got it’, flaunt it.
I saw an attractive woman at the beach with a lovely God-given body (ie, no visible plastic surgeries or implants, which makes her 20x more attractive in my book) in a suit that was meant to show it off in a tasteful manner. The cut of it was perfect for her, no bulges or unsightly wardrobe malfunction potential anywhere to be seen. While she was the envy of every woman and the desire of every man, everything about her body language said that she was awkward in her own skin. After about a half hour on the beach, despite it being warm and her having no sign of a sunburn (and having shellacked her skin with sunscreen) she wrapped herself in a caftan and put on a large brimmed hat to sit under an umbrella. I watched other people to see what their reactions were, and from what I could tell, besides wondering what her story was, most people moved away from her.
Branding moral: You can be the best looking brand out there, but if you behave in a self-conscious manner, you’ll convince others that you’re not worth squat and will therefore be overlooked.
Transparency is good—unless it’s not.
Going to the beach and being comfortable in one’s skin is awesome, but going to the beach and making everyone around you uncomfortable because you are is definitely not. This may be a little sexist, but if a woman decides to go to a public beach in America and remove her top, it’s nothing more than a momentary shock. If a man decides to go to a public beach in America and remove his shorts, that’s TMI for most people. I’m all for letting it hang out at the beach, but I certainly don’t want to see that hanging out anywhere near my three-year-old daughter.
Branding moral: If there is something about your product/service that might make potential customers uncomfortable, find a way to present it that won’t leave them feeling like they need to shower afterwards.
Be consistent in how you package your brand.
The house we rented was in a fairly dense neighborhood, so I saw a lot of people on and off the beach through the course of a week. Some take the opportunity to let their hair down very, very seriously, and while I respect that this might be the only 7 days of the year in which this can happen, it can still be shocking. While Mr. Transparency (see above) definitely won the prize for lack of clothing, I still saw a lot of people, who off the beach (and I assume in regular life) dressed extremely conservatively, wearing suits that were wildly revealing. It wasn’t often that this was a good thing, either.
I’m not coming at this from a prototypical American beach wear Puritan perspective; I appreciate feeling the sun warming my lily white skin as much as the next person, and in no way set myself up as a paragon of beach babedom. However, I do try to find suits that at least somewhat match my offshore sensibilities. After all, what if I meet a Fortune 500 client on the beach and I’m wearing a Borat suit? Would they take me seriously as a brand professional? Only if they’re looking for a Borat on the Beach sequel, I suppose.
Branding moral: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. If it doesn’t do at least two of these, it could very well be a rhino.