I have a Jawbone Up -- received as a gift from my brother and sister-in-law for graduation earlier this year. It's always intrigued me being a guy who loves to quantify myself because I'm always looking to be smarter, faster, stronger, whatever. I've always been a terrible sleeper, and the Up band's ability to track my sleep patterns was a pretty cool function (how accurately is another question). I did have a couple issues with my band, but I found myself wanting to get it remedied with Jawbone quickly not necessarily because I wanted to track my sleep or count my steps. I missed having it on my wrist not just because I felt lighter without it on my wrist. Instead, I missed having it to showcase to the world that I care about exercising and I'm kinda nerdy so I want to quantify it. Odd thing it's become.
Ryan Hoover, a blogger, wrote an article about how he has a Jawbone Up, but admittedly, doesn't track anything anymore (see the article here). The original novelty had worn off for him. However, he continues to wear it simply because of the "branding" it provides. When I go out and see someone with an Up band, there's almost this subtle head nod to the other person. Or if I see someone with one or one of the other wearables, I automatically have a notion that this person is an exerciser, and I immediately shift that person in my head to a different category of person. (Because I value fitness and health.)
The underlying notion I've appreciated more as I tote this wristband is the idea of personal branding. It's this notion that we're all marketers kind of like how we're all salespeople (see Daniel Pink's To Sell is Human) -- we sell who we are to get a date, we sell a suggestion for dinner, we sell our athletic prowess to get a spot on the team, or just outright, we sell for our job. And with this thinking, here's what I've kind of learned in general and as an entrepreneur...
- You do care. Everyone says they don't stereotype, but what you wear, how you present yourself in an email, everything is being scrutinized. Why? Because you care about who you interact with. Plain and simple. What someone wears, what someone says, it all paints some story for you. I think we all like psychology to an extent because we like to hypothesize that person's story. So mind how you communicate...
- You're a walking, talking billboard. You might actually have a company's logo plastered on your chest, or you may have a partially eaten fruit icon lit up all nice and bright on your computer. Other than that, little details are sometimes amplified depending on what others value. Something like a small wristband can convey a big message. As an entrepreneur, you should realize that what you wear, say, and do can represent your company, too.
- Market to the audience. I think one of the challenges some entrepreneurs... actually, everyone has is that sometimes we get hurt if our idea or who we are doesn't resonate with certain people. I did a pitch of Body Boss to a room full of investors, entrepreneurs, students, and teachers in business school. It resonated with half, while the other half felt otherwise. At the end of the day, you should understand that not everyone is going to have the same value for what you do or who you are. You have to understand that you're marketing to a TARGETED audience, not everyone. Side note: respect everyone even if that "value" is not the same.
- Be one with your audience. Speaking of marketing to your audience, know what your target audience values and who they are -- talk the talk, walk the walk. I once was pitching Body Boss to some potential coaches, and I was using some silly b-school lingo. The coaches called me out, and I realized we weren't even speaking the same language.
- Be ready. You never really know who you're going to run into. Be respectful, courteous, and potentially, your eccentric self. I got a flat on my bike while mountain biking once, and while walking my bike back to my car, a fellow mountain biker stopped and gave me one of his bike tubes and helped me fix my flat. I later learned he was an Senior Vice President of a large bank.
- Love yourself. That sounds cheesy and kinda "hippie", but I'm sticking to it. I think that we're all at this interesting point in the world where things are getting generic. People are trying to fit into some trend (Crossfit, certain phones, maybe even this trend of "entrepreneurship") or trying to fit in to get a job, for example. However, I also see this other half of the world where personalization and people are trying to be different with loud-colored shoes, more free-spirited communication. Technology ubiquity has led to a broader range of products and services to reach audiences everywhere. Be yourself, and people who matter (audience, remember?), will value you, too.
- Be careful of stereotyping or being stereotyped. It's a tough balancing act to temper our original scrutiny with what is real. No good answers for that here. Instead, I can only say that you have to be ready to pivot that original idea. Build your personal brand to market to the right people so you get that introduction to validate/ change perceptions.
- You represent more than yourself. Like it or not, you represent more than you. I represent my family, my friends, Atlanta, Georgia Tech, Emory, etc. Different situations, different audiences... they will put you in some category(-ies). This can be controversial because people oftentimes don't want to be "pegged" as something. However, you will be; it's human nature. In this case, use this as an opportunity to either shift those notions or as a way to adjust how to change your personal brand. You'll have to decide how you want to represent yourself and those you may be affiliated with.
What do you think about personal branding either through what you wear, how you interact with others, what you wear, etc.? How have you changed public perception through your own personal brand?