Brand Blindness and the Horrible Headshot

[Cache #237]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

Your brand is not your logo.  Instead, it is what people think of your logo – and of every other piece of information about you they have ever processed.  In other words, you might think your logo looks, just for example, high-end.  That it’s attractive to the well-heeled clients you seek.

But here’s the thing:  your opinion doesn’t matter.

All that matters are the viewpoints of those well-heeled clients.  And if they think your logo does not in fact look sufficiently high-end – if they look at your marketing presence and do not see themselves in it – then you’ve created dissonance in their minds from the get-go.

Simply put, looks matter when it comes to your brand and its materials.  But all too many of us, to continue the metaphor, look in the mirror all too rarely.

Let’s be clear:  not all brands have to look high-end.  Mine isn’t meant to.  I would like to think it looks polished, clean and professional, and I think that all brands – no matter what they are trying to convey – should at least meet the standard of looking professional.  Many do not.

That’s why I made the change to the graphically-designed email many of you received today.  I listened to some constructive criticism (thank you Faith Seekings of Rapport), that the email version of my blog did not reflect appropriately on the Coin brand.  Specifically, that it didn’t look very good, and that it could be difficult to read.

I will engage in a bit of humblebrag to say this:  I wish more brand owners were open to this kind of feedback, annoying as it initially may be.  Problem is, a sizeable section of the population is what I call brand blind.  Even if they do look in the proverbial mirror, they do not see their brand’s flaws.

That’s why it’s so important to solicit and then listen to the opinions of others – after getting down on your knees and begging them to be honest with you.  It is highly, repeat, highly unlikely they will be honest if you don’t beg them to be.  They will, of course, insist they are being honest.  But in truth they will likely be lying, because they’re afraid of having to deal with disappointing you.

And so you are reduced to begging, or better yet, retaining a third party to ask for you (we call it a ThinkAudit™).  Respondents will be much more honest with anyone other than you.

Brand Blindness and The Horrible Headshot

How can you tell if you’re brand blind?  Self-diagnosis of blindness is, of course, inherently problematic.  To help us along, there exists a single, powerful predictor of brand blindness:  the Horrible Headshot.

horrible headshot 2

horrible headshot

If you have a Horrible Headshot, chances are you’re brand blind.  Let’s face it:  we’re talking about your face here.  And if you can’t look at your own face and tell it doesn’t look good, you’re as brand blind as a bat.

So watch for these primary variants of the Horrible Headshot:

1. The War Criminal.  Are there shadows on your face?  Are you backed up against the wall or into a corner, most likely by your receptionist or a well-meaning friend?  Then you look like you should be on trial in The Hague, not like someone anyone should entrust their business to.

2. The Party Animal.  Are you wearing a tux or evening gown?  Can we see a slice of someone else’s head, shoulder or arm?  Can we easily imagine there’s a wine glass just off camera?  Then your headshot is not a headshot at all, but a party pic, and we’re wondering just how serious you can possibly be.

3. The Friendless.  A selfie, in other words.  And in the headshot context, selfies make you look like you have no friends.  And no colleagues.  And most likely, no customers.

4. The Glamour Shot.  Often a variation of The Friendless.  Are you doing duck face?  Is your face tilted more than a few degrees?  Is it possible for us to infer that you’re lying down on a leopard-print sofa?  Do you expect to be taken seriously?

I happen to have a new headshot.  I am very grateful to our photography partner, Donna Santos, because I am a very difficult client, because I find it difficult to smile on cue.  But:  then I saw the stunning headshots on Donna’s website and was sold.  She has since photographed many Coin clients.  You can see below for examples.

I know that the elite quality of Donna’s photos helps differentiate our clients.  Plain and simple, her headshots are a powerful reason to believe that a brand is every bit as impressive as it looks.

All photos Donna Santos Studio

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