Recession Dressing: Why Personality beats Personal Brand

October 17th, 2011 LIKE WHAT YOU READ? SHARE IT!

‘You’re not going to Gok me, are you?’

A client asked me this question as we kicked off an image advisory session.  I was intrigued.

She was a senior executive at a pivotal point in her career.

Frankly, I wondered why she was here.

She was successful, and didn’t need advice on makeup or which shapes of clothing suited her.

She didn’t need help on making a good impression.  She’d nailed that too.

Still, she hired me, interested in my deeper approach to executive image.

It turns out she was after something more complex: connecting with and inspiring her expanding team.

As I listened, I realized that as her career progressed, she needed to optimize the alignment of her appearance with her personality and her skillset.

She’d ‘outgrown’ her existing personal brand.

Metaphorically speaking, she said:

“Mandy, I need a foundation deeper than Clarins.”

I couldn’t do a process on her, like I could, say, with a graduate trainee who needed help with grooming or colour analysis.

She needed something more sophisticated.

Yes, we tweaked her corporate appearance (a process I did).

But I also coached her (a process where she did the discovering).  Together, we aligned our work with her new role.  Exciting stuff!

Having been a “ball-buster” (her words) to get ahead in her career, she needed a new approach.

My client realized that:

She knows who she is.

She looks fine.

She gets how she adds value at work.

But she needed to allow her more human, funny and vulnerable side to come forward.

She wanted to look more approachable, less hard-edged.

So we ditched the angular Annie Lennox suits.

I softened her hair and make up.

I coached her on connecting skills – smiling and listening genuinely, offering support and mentoring.  My client also had a cracking sense of humour, which she started sharing more often with her colleagues and during presentations.

The A-HA moment was our discovery of the key difference between:

Personal Brand’ (a set of useful skills – writing a great CV, and dressing for success, for example)

and what speaker and writer, Sally Hogshead, calls:

Personality Brand’ (an authentic expression of who you are, when you’ve mastered the other stuff).

People like my executive client need ‘a more sophisticated instrument’ to use Hogshead’s apt phrase, to express their evolving personal brand.

Looking good is part of the ‘personality brand’.  Being an ace at what you do plays a role.

But most importantly, it’s about imbuing both with your personality.

That’s where the magic happens, both for you and those around you.



The Takeaway?

Gok rocks.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with his show, Gok Wan is a television stylist in the UK.  He often does a full makeover on a woman – clothes, make up, hair – which is ‘unveiled’ to her at the end of the show.  It’s a surprise, a fait-accompli.

The woman has not participated or guided Gok.

He is the expert.

She is the recipient.

There are tears and hugging.  It’s jolly good entertainment.  We all love a ‘before’ and ‘after.’

The thing is, my executive client didn’t want a “ta-da moment.”  She needed to be there, a hands-on participant and guide in the process.

I assured her, I don’t Gok.

A few months later, one of my client’s colleagues came for an image advisory session.  She offered some feedback on her boss.  “She’s so inspiring.  We’ve really gotten to know her!”


How about you?


What’s your view on personality vs. personal brand? (Have a read of Sally Hogshead’s blog on this)


Would you rather an expert just told you what to wear?



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“Transformational, life-enhancing stuff.” Joanna Chin, COO, Langland