April 1 fell on a Wednesday this year. What does a guy who has built his brand on wearing a bow tie 6 days a week, especially on “Bow Tie Wednesday”, do when April Fool’s day falls on Wednesday?
He wears a regular necktie of course.
I woke up that morning and realized that it had been well over two years since the last time I wore a regular tie for an entire day.
I dug deep in the back of my closet, found a tie, pulled up a YouTube video to relearn how to tie it (yes, I had completely forgotten how to tie a necktie), and after some fumbling, got the thing around my neck with a decent looking knot. In my mind it was just another fun and silly April Fool’s joke.
I quickly realized how much I was underestimating the impact my decision would make.
My oldest daughter came out of her room, a sleepy haze still in her eyes, and gave me her usual morning smile. Then her expression changed. She rubbed her eyes and blinked a couple times.
Tears started to well up as she choked out the words, “Daddy, what’s wrong? Where’s your bow tie?” And the water works took over. I had to take off the tie just to get out of the house that morning. I brushed it off as an over the top reaction from a sensitive four-year-old who has no recollection of her dad in anything but a bow tie. Then I walked into Panera for a cup of coffee.
Barb Breeser, a good friend and mentor, was sitting in a side booth waiting for her first meeting of the day. I rounded the corner and greeted her. Her usual smile quickly disappeared as she noticed the tie.
“What are you doing?” she asked, the tone indicating the shock that had overcome her. I explained my April Fool’s day ruse.
She grabbed her phone and asked if she could take a picture for Facebook. I can still hear her words, “This is genius Danny. It’s going to blow up, just wait and see.” She posted the picture and my feed immediately began to react.
Reactions varied from anger, to surprise, to shock, to everything in between. A couple people asked if this was a sign of the approaching Armageddon. Others, who realized what day it was, congratulated me on a job well done. But it didn’t stop with social media.
People reacted everywhere I went that day, during meetings, on the street, and in my office. The necktie was so far from what people usually expected to see that they had to call me on it.
This is the power of your personal brand and the expectations you set. We all have a personal brand thanks to the power of technology and communication. Once that brand has been established, through consistent behavior and creating perceptions, it’s very hard to go against it.
People get upset when they see a change or something that counters the established brand. They question it and try to justify the change. They are not afraid to voice their concerns and demand action be taken to rectify the conflict the change creates.
This is why it is so essential to really think about the message you are conveying, and how it relates to your brand, whenever you’re engaging with people.
The other insight I took from wearing a regular tie for a day is that changing a brand is hard.
Really hard. It’s uncomfortable and, at times, annoying. The tie kept getting in my way.
It fell in my lunch plate, sat awkwardly on my desk while I was working, and got caught in my coat zipper. By the end of the day I just wanted to take the thing off because I was tired of dealing with the hassle. I walked in my house that night, tie undone, and vowed that it would be a long time before I ever wore a neck tie again.
The next morning I put on my normal bow tie. My daughter smiled and hugged me. “Welcome back daddy, I like your bow tie.” Next time, I’ll give her reaction a little more consideration.
- Danny Beyer is the Director of Salss and Marketing for Kabel Business Services and author of The Ties that Bind: Networking with Style. He is also a professional speaker on networking.