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Logo of Campbell's Soup Company

Be as synonymous with "lady" as Campbell's is with soup... Image via Wikipedia

As I said in the introduction to branding, branding is important because it creates expectations. The self-image that you project teaches people how to treat you. Our brand or projected self-image is something we have control over, but few people know how to use it to their advantage.

I have a friend (a friend I hope won’t kill me for sharing this story) who was interested in a guy. She told me that this guy was a friend of hers and asked if he could hang out with us. After meeting him initially, we hung out nearly the whole weekend. On Sunday, we decided to cook a meal. However, it ended up being me cooking a meal. After that weekend, I didn’t see much of him and she didn’t really mention him. When I did see them, they were always fighting. It turns out he was interested in me. Why? I hadn’t done anything to express any interest in him. I didn’t see him as a romantic interest at all. It was because he saw qualities in me he wanted in a girlfriend.

Looking back, I can pinpoint specific things that showed he had picked up on the type of woman I was. He restricted his use of profanity and his drinking. He spoke politely to me. He opened my door. He treated me like a lady. He didn’t treat everyone this way. I saw him curse a woman out and get mad enough to be close to hitting her. I heard about him getting so drunk he vomitted all over my friend’s apartment. Since I hadn’t asked him not to drink heavily or use profanity around me, and all women weren’t afforded the same respect, I can only conclude it was because he picked up on my brand non-verbally.

So, how do you teach people through your self branding how to treat you in relationships?

  • Know what you want to project. You need to know what you want people to see in you in order to make sure they see it. Do you want to be see as ladylike? A Southern belle? A career woman? A nurturer? A helpmate? A happy black woman? A man crushing, domineering, goldigging hussy (hey, if that’s your thing, you need to know that to).
  • Know what you want to attract. You need to evaluate if the image you are (or plan to be) projecting is congruent with the person you want to attract (It’s important to remember that congruent is not necessarily the same as equal. My math people know this already ;-)). Remember my example of the corporate male? Men have expectations just as you do. If you want to attract a certain type of man, then it helps to be aware of what they are looking for, n’est-ce pas?
  • You mirror the behavior you expect. I didn’t use profanity or curse at him. I treated him with respect. I was courteous to him. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It  may take a while for some people to reciprocate, but most do; the rest you disassociate from.
  • You exhibit behavior deserving of the treatment you want. If I want to be treated like a lady, I should act like I am a lady. When you try this technique on yourself, it’s called self-actualization. What are the characteristics of a lady? Study etiquette and manners books. Learn your craft and apply the knowledge you’ve gained.
  • Do NOT exhibit behaviors contrary to what you proport to be. A woman doesn’t demand respect; she commands it. Using masculine tactics to try and make a man treat you a certain way only leaves you even more frustrated. You don’t put out a fire with gasoline. You attract more flies with honey.
  • Try new things and learn to be uncomfortable. Think about branding as exercise. Exercise can be uncomfortable for a while, but the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. If you want a different result, you try a different exercise. You can try exercises that target a specific problem area or one that works to improve the body overall. If a specific workout routine isn’t working for you or you plateau, change it up. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. When you make an honest attempt, you’ll be surprised how much farther you can go than you imagined.
  • Brand an authentic image. There’s nothing wrong with working towards characteristics you want to have and branding yourself as such. However, it’s never a good idea to brand yourself as something you are not and have no intention of ever being. If I poured a red sauce from a Heinz 57 steak sauce bottle onto my steak, only to find it was cocoktail sauce, I would be justifiably angry. I did not want cocktail sauce. I did not purchase a bottle of cocktail sauce knowingly. This is misrepresentation. It’s the same if you present yourself as a supportive, loving woman but then when that loving support needs to be applied (like when you’re husband loses his very lucrative job in this recession and needs your support), what actually comes out is bitter, judgmental, selfish, golddigger-esque sentiments. At least be progressing towards achieving what you are projecting.

Relationships are a business, whether we like to admit it or not. We are all looking for a product or service which meets our needs and suites our preferences at the least cost, a sound investment for the future. We are all services or products as well as consumers. As my uncle says, “everyone wants a piece of your [emotional] paycheck.” Whether you are looking for a bargain or willing to pay more for quality, you get what you pay for.

Branding helps you stand out. Most people know Campbell’s soup, and expect a certain quality. Even if a generic is just as good, many people are willing to go with the product they recognize and already know they like. If they know they don’t like it, they’ll likely stay away from it. Branding creates expectations, but those expectations are based upon whether or not the branded item is as good as it claims to be. My exhortation to you is to strive to be Kleenex–so synonymous with the type of person you want to be, your brand becomes the default name of the product that’s branded (Kleenex is a brand of tissue, but people now call most tissues Kleenex).

That’s my two cents; leave yours.