In the ten years I've been in sales I've attended a lot of networking events where a lot of people stand around in black suits. Black suits are safe. Black suits blend in. Black suits don't get noticed. There's nothing wrong with wearing a black suit, just don't expect anyone to remember you. A few months ago I was browsing through one of my favorite department stores when the loudest, most brightly colored jacket caught my eye from across the room. It was so bold that several sat on the clearance rack for a whopping 75% off. It was almost as if you could hear the voices of the people who had picked it up prior saying, "there's no way I could wear this - I'd stand out too much."
Suddenly, I had a thought. If this jacket could stand out among racks of other brightly colored clothes, imagine what it would do in a room full of black suits. I found my size, tried it on and was pleasantly surprised at how well it fit. It seemed to perfectly embody the image of the "fun, young, hip, creative chick" look that I was going for. Bingo.
So it's been three months and here's the result. I've worn this jacket 4 times to networking events (considering I go to 3 -5 events per week, that's not very often). Yet, I've had the following experiences:
- A friend of mine gave me a pair of earrings she had that "just seemed to match that jacket of yours perfectly."
- A fellow networking professional remembered me as "the girl in the bright colored jacket I met last week."
- A colleague confessed that she thought of me and my jacket when she purchased her shirt.
Proof that it's working - this jacket helps me not only stand out in a crowd, but people remember me more afterwards because of this jacket. Association and recall are two goals of any branding effort.
So where is your technicolor jacket in a room full of black suits?
- If everyone else uses words like "innovative", "quality", "turnkey", "synergy", and the other overused business phrases do you opt instead for a genuine and conversational tone to your writing?
- When every other IT service firm is using blue corporate colors and pictures of politically correct people for their websites are you being bold with bright colors and custom illustrations?
- If every other financial services professional is focused on pushing a product do you flat out say (and mean it!) "I do this because I'm passionate - not because of the money. I do this because my clients become friends for life. I want to grow with them and be involved in helping them grow. If you're looking for someone to simply transact on your behalf, I might not be the fit for you."
Keep in mind that markets change and shift. People catch on to a good thing. In time your once bright jacket begins to blend in. In which case, a black suit just may stand out against a room full of color.