It’s a well-known fact in psychology that humans create meaning, reason, and patterns through associations that are both conscious and subconscious. Whether or not they are right, this is a fundamental brain function in order to make sense of the world around us.
This method of association has wide implications—and it plays a large role in the corporate setting. “Mr. Wonderful” is a perfect example of why association is important and must be considered in how you portray yourself. A Canadian entrepreneur and investor, Kevin O’Leary is best known as a co-host of ABC’s television show Shark Tank. Despite being known for his brash style, quick wit and outspoken opinions, there is one consistent theme that he carries which defines what he is associated with - his image epitomized by his dress sense and of course, nickname.
In nearly every interview, every Shark Tank episode, and every photo-op, he wears the same look. A black blazer, black tie, white shirt, and a red pocket square. What do people associate with such dresswear? A businessman who is professional, experienced, knowledgeable and trustworthy. The list goes on. O’Leary takes this to the next level by wearing the same attire in order to strengthen viewers' association with his image specifically, which he has leveraged to his advantage, enhancing his own celebrity status.
In his own words “you don’t have to wear a suit and tie anymore, but you want to look good.” This is ultimately because the associations that people form when they come across you are mostly defined by your appearance. You don’t have to wear a black suit and tie, but you may wish to define your own identity in a similar vein.
Love or hate Trump, his personal branding has always been on point. He has used the power of association to great effect. You have the motto “Making America Great Again” and its abbreviated format “MAGA” representing the values, vision and purpose of the Trump brand. See a red MAGA cap and you will instantly form some sort of judgement on the wearer, for better or worse.
If someone met you or discovered your business for the first time, would they be able to easily discern what values you stand for, your purpose and vision for the future? Think of any successful politician or celebrity and how they groomed their personal image to win over their audience. You could emulate some of their branding methodology in your own professional life to cater for your target audience and elevate your personal and professional authority to new heights.
Thankfully, you don’t have to love or believe in Trump for success in personal branding, but you could be inspired to cultivate your personal and professional brand to develop your own future success. The power of association, be it a red hat or a red pocket square, can be used as a powerful tool to define your identity to your target audience and ultimately win them over.