Making an Impression

I was once in the middle of a heated months-long debate on whether a male artist should cut his hair in order to get more traction on the radio. Another time, it was whether a male artist should ditch the favorite scarf that made him seem more metro than all-American. Yet another time, it was a battle over cowboy hat versus no cowboy hat. It may sound trivial, but these decisions are critical.

It’s never just about the hat; it is what the hat says about the brand.

A brand’s IMAGE is the visual representation of the product and the narrative. It speaks when there is no voice. It tells the consumer what the product and the purpose are and why they are unique to the marketplace.

For instance, the classic men’s cologne Polo by Ralph Lauren is bottled in a forest green glass flask with a gold cap resembling the tip of a polo stick. The bottle and box showcase a gold imprint of a polo player in mid-swing on a horse. The audience sees this bottle and imagines a country club, where men are sipping brandy and smoking cigars. This is the scent captured inside that bottle. If the scent inside smelled like dandelions on an ocean breeze, ole Ralph would have a serious branding problem.

How important is image? It is so important to a brand, that a first impression can make or break long term viability. A team of scientists at MIT proved that it takes milliseconds for the human brain to process an image. This means the consumer has already passed judgment based on visual elements alone before a word is spoken or someone has taken the time to smell that scent.

Taking this one step further, positive psychology proves that a mind is more closed off at stressed or negative. Therefore, not only will consumers pass immediate judgment, it is very difficult to reverse that initial judgment if it was not favorable. I have seen this firsthand in focus groups gone sideways: the initial reaction to an image, before a note is even played, taints an entire room against what they have yet to even hear.

To incite a positive first response, the image must speak for the brand’s identity in an appealing and authentic way, and that is no easy feat. It takes a team of highly trained creatives to capture the visual elements of a brand. It takes planning and strategy. It takes investment. Corporations spend millions upon millions of dollars each year on their brand identity because they know it’s an invaluable asset. So, why would a public figure/influencer not do the same for their company?

And, do not be fooled by a growing misconception in the marketing industry. Image does not begin and end with a logo or a photo. Image is ALL visual elements associated with a brand working together to tell a story: colors, fonts, stage presentation, videos, icons, wardrobe, makeup, hairstyle, photos, advertisements, graphic design, Johnny Cash’s black suit, and Katy Perry’s left shark.

The possibilities to showcase an authentic brand identity in a visual way are endless. Have fun, get creative. Just make sure you spend the time to get it right! Hire the right team who understands your brand and can bring that brand to life. And, don’t assume you don’t have enough money to be professional and competitive in the marketplace. I’ve made a broadcast-quality Top 10 music video with $0…that’s right…ZERO dollars. It aired right next to the music video I also promoted that cost $1 million to make. The consumers couldn't even tell the difference. Anything is possible if you put forth the effort!

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Until then…

What’s Next?

The talented group of folks who somehow managed to make me look like I have my Sh&T together (Cameron Powell (photographer), Brenna Mader Perkins (glam), my BFF Tara, and Colson Horton of ADR Creative (stylist, creative direction)