Her five powerful words—though shaped in the form of a question—pack a punch. The look on her face shows concern as she asks. The tone of her voice betrays any attempt to hide her intent. Like a leap off the high dive without hesitation, she is in, a-l-l i-n! This matters.
Me, what am I feeling in that moment? I feel something familiar. Like a friend you run into three times on a Saturday. And then one of you says, “Hey are you following me?” And you fake laugh. Because that’s predictable, not funny. I feel like that. Any sense of pushing back against her has slipped away like a cat sauntering off for a nap. If a rebuttal was ever there, it’s gone now. So I’m left with agreement as the only viable option. My head wilts as my eyes drop. My answer is stuck in my mouth like a five-year-old caught with candy before dinner. Yes, I’ll change. Then I make the walk down our narrow hallway and head to the closet in hopes of redeeming myself.
Now before you start to panic or worry, I should add some context. You must understand two things. First, this scene has played out many times in our 23.93 years of marriage. (The big 24 year anniversary will make an appearance in about three weeks!) Second—and don’t miss this—she’s talking about my clothes.
(Surely you didn’t think she was talking about my magnetic personality. Shame on you.)
My wife is asking if I plan on changing my clothes before we head out the door together. And the reason she’s asking has a direct parallel to your branding, which is why I shared my little tale.
How Your Brand, Your Customer, and My Wife Are Exactly the Same (Even If the Three of You Have Never Met)Why did my wife ask me if I planned on changing clothes before we left the house? I’ll tell you, friend…because she has shared it with me…about 400 times. (If I’ve been told once, I’ve been told a 1,000 times—repeat important things. Repeating always works… except the word “stop!” on big brothers. History has proven that is vanity.)
My wife asked me to change clothes before leaving the house…
Because what you wear reflects on me! —my wife
Let me repeat that.
Because I read somewhere to repeat important things.
What you look like gets attached to what I look…and I’m not looking like that. —my wife, again
Now thankfully, she’s not mean when she says this. Honest? Yes. Disrespectful? Nope. Right? Very!
Let me explain why she’s spot on. Because she’s NOT only talking about my clothes, she’s all up in your business too.
‘The Dressing Room Affect’ Makes No Sense…Until It DoesWhen you’ve been married 23.93 years, you realize how smart your spouse is. My wife is not a brand strategist or brand designer. But she has schooled me on the connection between your brand and your bottom line.
One of the most important branding lessons she taught me I’ve coined—The Dressing Room Affect.
And I would like to teach it to you. Because when it comes to your business, we all want a BIG bottom…line.
What Is ‘The Dressing Room Affect’? (A Real Life Example)Smart women like my wife try on clothes. Okay, let’s be fair—all women try on clothes. If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a 1,000 times from my wife…
She pulls a stunning top off the rack and skips to the dressing room bounding with hope. Fast forward five minutes. She exits the dressing room in the same clothes she went in with. At this point, she doesn’t need to say a word. Her footsteps are punctuated with disappointment. The look on her face is identical to learning she did not make the 7th Grade cheer team. “Nope. I didn’t like it. Let’s go!”, she says tightlipped.
Now, if we rewound the tape five minutes, one could point out the contradiction. She did very much like it. Even a fuzzy security camera with no audio caught her liking of it. Take that tape alone to Did They Like It Or Not Court—case closed! ‘No further witnesses, Your Honor.’
(An Important Sidenote: If you want to be married 23.93 years later…or 23.93 seconds later…you NEVER rewind the tape. I repeat—NEVER!)
Here’s the business lesson for you to see:
What it looks like on the rack is NOT the same as what it looks like on someone.
But hold up. I want to turn up the heat. Let’s put some hot sauce on that principle. I want you to share the visceral feelings pumping through my wife. Here’s what she is really saying…
No matter how good it looks on the rack—that is no foe for what it looks like on me.
That’s Nonsensical, Which Makes SenseThis doesn’t make sense. We already established this is something highly desirable. She took it off the shelf and gleefully glided into the dressing room. It’s as if her finger is hovering over the Call To Action button. She’s millimeters away.
But she doesn’t click.
Brands are like clothes. They can look great, but looking great isn’t enough. Your brand has to help ME look great, feel great, be great!
Brands are relational BEFORE they are transactional.
The cologne may smell great on the sample card, but fall flat when you spray it on me. Brands are like that. We interact with them in relational terms. We say, ‘What you look like gets attached to me. And what you make me look like (and feel like) is essential.’ It’s not scientific. It’s not objective. It’s not rational. It’s relational. Which makes sense. Because we’re human.
So what’s the brass tax for your branding and business?
‘The Dressing Room Affect’ Happens With Your Business Every Day (And It’s So Easy To See Why)I could assure you The Dressing Room Affect happens to your business. But I don’t have to. You prove it yourself.
You look at clothes. And you try them on. And then you make a choice. To buy or not. You do the same thing with businesses and their brands.
(And don’t miss this. It’s solid gold for your business!)
Your brand represents an aspirational identity.
This is how branding works. A synonym for “branding” is “identity.” (I’ll break down just how huge that is for your branding in another article. For now, trust me.)
Everyday you are checking out brands like clothes, especially new brands. The conversation you have with yourself is some form of these questions:
Does this brand help transform me into the person I want to be? Does it help me become the kind of person I want to be? Do I want to hang out with them? Do I want to be seen with them?
This is The Dressing Room Affect of your brand. And you better believe it impacts your bottom line.
Customers are real people. (I’m talking about that in my other series around empathy.) People are made for relationship. And every person cares about his or her identity. One of the primary ways we express our identity is who we relate with. This is true for your brand and your business.
A potential customer looks at your brand decides if he or she likes you, or wants to be seen with you. Here’s the central question for your brand…
Does your brand represent something your customer aspires to?
If you want the inside scoop on how to win the branding game, stop building a brand you like and start building a brand your customer aspires to.
At this point, you’re convinced the dressing room affect is real. But you asking yourself, ‘Yeah, but how big of a deal is this for my business’?
It’s capital letters BIG.
Guess What? ‘The Dressing Room Affect’ Took Out The Biggest Brand Designer In The BizWhen I help clients with their brand, I always have them name several brands they love. Obvious question, right?
Not surprisingly, I get the obvious answers. Apple. Nike. The big guys.
But there is one brand that NEVER gets named when I ask my clients to list their favorite brands. And that brand is…(drumroll)… Enron.
You think of Enron as that giant corporate scandal company that collapsed in 2007. But those of us who are brand geeks…I mean, brand strategists think of Enron as the work of a branding giant.
The visual aspect of Enron’s brand was the final work of famed designer Paul Rand. You know his work, even if you never sit at the “brand geeks” lunch table.
IBMUPSABCWestinghouseNeXT (Steve Jobs company when he first left Apple)
Paul Rand gets debated as the top dog among other famous brand designers like basketball fans arguing for Lebron over Jordan.
Put Yourself At This Historic Brand Reveal To Appreciate The Power of ‘The Dressing Room Affect’The debut of Paul Rand’s brand redesign for Enron was a thing of beauty. Put yourself in the crowd back in 1997. It’s a Tuesday morning in early January. You, along with everyone at corporate, gather. After some hyperbolic opening remarks, the time of unveiling comes.
Recorded trumpets blare. Lights flash. Smoke envelopes the stage. Someone pulls a rope, lifting the covering cloth. On the stage rests a giant sculpture—a single slanted E. Multicolored lights surround each prong of the letter. The crowd crammed around you loves it. And so do you.
You all celebrate the logo’s birth for the next hour, then trickle back to your office where delightful surprises await. The logo is posted in the hallways; new letterhead and business cards are at your desk. It is official: Enron has a cool new icon to show the world. (Adapted from Conspiracy of Fools, Kurt Eichenwald's 746-page history of the Enron’s rise and fall.)
That’s electric excitement, isn’t it? If you were there, you would remember that as the day when the Tom Brady of brand architects flexed his flair right before your eyes. And yet, when I ask my clients for great brands they love…
Not one client has EVER mentioned Enron as a killer brand they aspire to.
The Dressing Room Affect!
No one wants to be caught walking out of the store wearing an Enron.
The Practical Takeaways for Your Business and Brand (Or How to Come Out of The Dressing Room Like a Superstar)Here’s your takeaway in principle form…
Brands gain value in connection with the organization, business, or person they represent!
Here’s the bumper sticker version: Your Brand gains Fans when YOU are fan-worthy.
Great brands and great organizations are hand and glove. So one of the best things you can do for your brand is be your best. Embody your values. Serve your customers. Care about real people. Give back. These are just as important for your brand as your logomark.
3 Implications for Your Logomark (Especially for Personal Brands & Startups)
I have a lot of friends in the personal branding space who get hamstrung here. They need a logo, yes. But they’re waiting for an inspirational mark to drop from the sky. They struggle to think of branding beyond solving the logo riddle. If that’s you or someone you know, I’ll write more on this later. For now, here’s how I would advise you.
The Enron Dressing Room Affect teaches us…
- You don’t freak out OR go bonkers when designing a logomark. Branding is a long play and has as much to do with you as your logomark.
- Don’t evaluate your logomark in a vacuum. Don’t just stare at the mark sitting there by itself on your screen. You’ll almost always feel deflated.
- Don’t put too much weight on your logomark to carry the entire load. A brand is so much more. If a brand is the personality of your business, your logomark is your outfit. (Yes, important. But you’re also beautiful on the inside too, right?)
Where Are You With Your Brand? Is It One of These 3 Camps?I find myself helping clients in one of three camps when it comes to branding:
If that’s you, reach out. I’d love to help you find clarity and confidence in your brand so you have a big bottom…line. Email me »
- Walk them off the cliff. (‘This is so confusing I wanna jump’)
- Get them off the couch. (‘This is so overwhelming I can’t move’)
- Slap them on the cheek. (‘This is no big deal so I’ll figure it out later’)