As I've written before, your personal brand can be as important as your company one. The image you present to your team, potential clients as well as the public is one of the biggest, most important ingredients in your business success. It's the reason PR agencies, brand managers and style consultants stay in business.
As entrepreneurs, we get a certain amount of personal branding fashion slack. Maybe even a great deal of it. After all, one of the best known entrepreneurs on the planet gets away with wearing grey t-shirts and hoodies nearly every day.
So, what is the entrepreneur brand when it comes to fashion? What do entrepreneurs wear? We know Mark Zuckerberg has a thing for grey shirts and hoodies. Steve Jobs liked his black v-necks. What is the entrepreneur wardrobe?
For many, it's the ubiquitous hoodie. And while the hoodie look may outwardly say they don't care about their statement, a good number of entrepreneurs who go the hoodie route are also cashing in on the cache of entrepreneurship. In many circles, being a dot com, high tech entrepreneur is sexy. Which makes the entrepreneurship uniform (the aforementioned hoodie) sexy. It says, "I don't care" and "I really care" at the same time.
Now, though, there's a way for startup guys and girls to be way more about their personal brand--even by wearing a hoodie. That's because there's now an Entrepreneur Hoodie--the official uniform of entrepreneurship. Instead of just implying it, the Entrepreneur Hoodie literally says you're an entrepreneur. Even better, the new company is set up to give a portion of their sales to programs that teach entrepreneurship to disadvantaged kids.
And as far as marketing goes, that's super-smart.
First, entrepreneurs aren't usually the shy, shrinking types. So there shouldn't be any issue whatsoever in being forthright about being an entrepreneur. We're making the future, right? Let's tell people who we are what we do.
And what's wrong with doing some social good? Speaking strictly from a marketing point of view, being socially pro-active is a strong way to build brand. If you're going to wear a hoodie anyway, what's the argument against wearing the one that supports teaching entrepreneurship?
Zuckerberg aside (he just put billions of dollars behind doing social good) entrepreneurs can use some good-cause branding. Frankly, everybody can. And few issues appeal to entrepreneurs more directly than acquiring knowledge and leveling a playing field for talent and innovation. While there are an ocean of great causes that merit support--including the ocean itself--I can see teaching entrepreneurship striking a chord with this hoodie crowd.
It would also be a great thing if companies like the Entrepreneur Hoodie sparked an arms race of entrepreneurs doing good. Since the Entrepreneur Hoodie's commitment to teaching underserved kids about entrepreneurship is literally stitched onto the left arm--they may be hoping to start a literal arms race. And that's kind of their mission.
"We are making the hoodie more than the lazy default of slacker style," said Entrepreneur Hoodie founder Elena Titova. "Entrepreneurs are way, way more than that. We are the leaders of self-reliance and innovation and making this better. It's time we had a signature item that said those things."
Saying something--in a crystal clear way, literally wrapping yourself in it--is a great metaphor for branding and a great exercise. If you're company wore a hoodie, what would it say? And if you wear one, what will it say about you, about what you do and what you care about?
Whatever that is, that's your personal image. That's your brand. While you can change it, don't hide it. Whether your style is hoodie or business suit, own it. It's you. But do be aware that your brand is saying a ton about you--even when you're trying to say nothing at all.