I’ve been bald a lot longer than most people my age. Since I was born I’ve had a condition called alopecia areata totalis – which basically means I have no hair on my head. It did grow back a couple of times when I was a young primary schooler, but then it decided to go again. That sucked and I felt like I was 8 going on 50.
Now you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that all this was a bit testing as a young lad growing up through primary and high school. For various reasons I decided that wearing a hat all the time was easier – much less stares or awkward questions.
Luckily I have always been social and enjoyed a great childhood with many great friends that I am still close with today. I rarely got teased or treated any differently which I am grateful for.
My last hurdle with being bald was the decision to not wear a hat anymore around the age of 18-19. I had often thought about this day growing up, “you can’t wear a hat on your wedding day”, “when will I be brave enough to ditch it?”
When the day came, I never looked back. I felt light and free, like I had lifted a load off my back that I had been carrying. The main thing was that I finally felt authentic. Since then it has become such an advantage being bald that I can’t believe what I missed out on all those years growing up.
Since that day when I ditched the hat – I learnt a lot about myself and about branding. Here are 3 branding lessons for small business’ that being bald has taught me.
1. You’ve got to be different to be memorable
I read a great quote from James Victore the other day “The things that made you weird as a kid make you great today”.
I spent most of my life growing up focussing on the benefits of trying to hide the fact I was bald, instead of focussing on what the benefits of being different could be. I realised when I was 19-20 that there are heaps of benefits of being bald and the main one was I was recognisable, I had brand visibility because I had a point of difference – a beautifully bald and shiny dome.
Bouncers at clubs recognised me and thought I was a member if I had only been there twice. I am tall, so my mates would use my bald head as a beacon if we lost each other at a concert or crowded club so I was always around my mates. People always remembered my name. I realised that being bald was my identity because it was what set me apart from the herd, it made me memorable.
Unique Selling Proposition, point of difference, brand positioning etc. Whatever you want to call it they basically mean the same thing. To be a successful brand you have to differentiate yourself and figure out what you own that makes you unique in the market. You must zig when others zag.
2. Be authentic and honest to gain credibility
When I was wearing a hat I was pretending to be something I was not. I was hiding something and I felt totally inauthentic.
How could someone see me as a credible person if I couldn’t even fess up to being a baldy. What I learnt quickly once I embraced being bald is that people respected me a lot more, my confidence when through the roof. I knew that if someone respected me or was being a good bloke that they based that on knowing all the facts, not because I pulled the wool over their eyes. As a really honest person, this was so important for me, I just didn’t realise it.
The same goes for a business’ brand. Don’t try to be something you are not. Own your story and celebrate your process – take your audience behind the scenes warts and all. Turn down a lucrative offer if you know you aren’t the best people for the job, be brutally honest when required. All this authentic and honest behaviour will lead your audience to view you as a credible and worthy partner.
With the power that social media gives your audience today, you can’t afford to have any secrets or to lie to them – you will be found out and it will spread.
3. Focus on the future, don’t be restricted by your past
Before I embraced my baldness I was clinging to a safety blanket – my hat. I thought, yesterday was fine and I was wearing my hat so if I wear it again tomorrow it will be the same. I had put blinkers on myself, I wasn’t looking to the future and the opportunities that I could be missing. My past of wearing a hat to cover my bald head was restricting me.
Lot’s of brands lose relevance for this exact reason. The saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” just doesn’t apply any more. Successful brands look to the future and are visionary. They constantly assess where they are heading and whether that is on brand, or if their brand vision needs to be shifted.
There are opportunities knocking everywhere and a brand might just need one health check and a tiny tweak in it’s positioning to go from doing OK to reaching new heights and flying.
– Luke Schoknecht