The first time I heard Brand used in context with personal image was fifteen years ago, during a co-presentation to NYU Business School students. I knew about brands from business school, but only as they relate to companies and logos. So, while the concept of branding has been around a while, relating it to personal image and appearance is relatively new. Personal branding is basically determining what is unique about you, or the way you deliver your product or service. Then, making it your own by applying it to various aspects of your life, such as clothing, body language, makeup, headshots, and social media postings.

It’s circular logic, your brand contributes to your image, and your image becomes your brand, so which comes first? It all originates from within.

Send Messages Using Color and Style

Corporate logos utilize color to send messages all the time.Think of the Coca-Cola logo with red for energy, the blue of Chase Manhattan Bank (for trust), and the orange for vibrancy and fun at Nickelodeon or Firefox. What makes using colors for branding simple is that there’s wide agreement on the messages that various colors send. Do you want to convey drama? Use black. Royalty and elegance? Purple. Environmental concerns and/or money? Green. When thinking about how color affects your brand, try to consider what message your brand represents, and then choose the color that comes closest to sending that message. You can combine colors as well. Please see the complete list here. Colors.

Dressing for the business you’re in, and choosing styles is more difficult, especially with the barrage of media messages we receive.  When choosing styles specifically to represent your brand, it’s best to start with the basics. Consider if you’re showcasing something creative or conservative, casual or formal, simple or complex. Then take it up a level to your clothing and look at patterns, cuts and styling, and details. Or begin with some basic pieces, such as a black pencil skirt, white shirt, navy suit, or jeans. Then add an item, either clothing or accessory, that is more unique, and related to your brand. By combining colors that send your message, along with styles, you have a powerful tool to promote your brand.

Post Online Photos Carefully

Online photos that show up in your social media posts or on LinkedIn are often the first impression that others get of you. That’s why it’s important to make sure they’re flattering and that your facial expression conveys confidence, warmth, approachability, or whatever message you want to send. Consider the colors that you wear in your online photos, and what your body language projects. Make sure you’re making eye contact with the viewer (camera), and have at least the hint of a smile. It’s recommended to use a professional photographer. Even when someone only glances at your photos, they will be left with a certain impression, and it may as well be the one you choose.

Your Body Language is Speaking

Body language, whether in person, in photos or on virtual calls, should be sending the same message that you want your brand to project overall. Depending on your brand promise, that could be competence, empathy, innovation, reliability, or problem-solving. Facial expressions are a big part of body language, and often what comes across first in a photo or virtual meeting. Keep your body language and facial expression aligned with what you are trying to say about your brand.  The photos below show suggestive and closed off body language, neither of which you want to be promoting! Keep hands at side or in front of you.

One more thing I want to mention is grooming. Being well-groomed is a way of showing respect both for yourself, and others. It’s not so much that good grooming will distinguish you from everyone else, it’s that poor grooming sends a message of not caring enough to pay attention. Grooming is basically self-care regarding your hair, nails, skin and clothing. In addition to increasing your own confidence, attention to grooming will benefit your brand by being consistent with the positive aspects that it represents.