independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Aisling O'Connor: If your image is your brand then you've got to get real, Gwyneth

A NEW generation of entrepreneurs are set to launch themselves on the business world.

Conditions haven't been this advantageous for enterprise since before the downturn. With incentives up the wazoo, hope of long-term success is there for the taking for those with the gumption -- and an interest in the comings and goings of the rich and famous.

Armed with skills, education, and a short-term tax haven, there is one resource fledgling magnates must channel to set themselves apart from the rest. In this day and age, just like the glitterati, every business person has to think of themselves as a brand -- and image is the key.

From a business perspective, focusing on the physical aspect of image management creates a shell that is tiresome to maintain and too thin to weather time.

Over-exposure to un-reality TV and following of high-profile celebrities on social media has brainwashed us into thinking we are celebrities to our own publics. But if good looks, sports cars and a glamour girl on the arm were the keys to success, Calum Best probably wouldn't be filing for bankruptcy.

It is important to think of image as 'presence' rather than 'presentation'. Over-glossing one's personal appearance, and indeed one's online profile, creates the air of an unreal person. A fake, if you will. One could easily find oneself in Gwyneth Paltrow's current situation.

The Academy Award winner is one of the hardest-working women in Hollywood, but not necessarily in movies. Having turned herself in to this generation's Martha Stewart , with fashion, fitness, home and culinary products galore under her GOOP mantra, the pressure to maintain a lithe physique, seemingly effortless style, and picture-perfect family life is about to take its toll.

'Vanity Fair' is set to expose the inner workings of the 41-year-old mogul's world -- and it is not expected to be pretty. Yet one of Paltrow's problems, even before the 'VF' debacle, is how un-relatable she is to the general public. This reflects the importance of using your true self to project an authentic, rather than contrived, persona. Granted it is wise to tap into the aspirations of the consumer, but it is vital to be in some way "real".

Victoria Beckham's luxury fashion brand this week reported a healthy profit in 2012 after a loss in the previous year. The former Spice Girl has transformed herself from the band leader of the WAGs to a stylish minimalist with family-next-door appeal.

Gone are the showy excesses associated with the pre-recession wealth. In communicating a solid family life, and hands-on work ethic, with a far less gaudy aesthetic, she has won the loyalty of the hard-to-please fashion industry, and public alike. Victoria has slowly but surely developed her brand, ensuring that she is a face in synergy with her product lines of staple investment pieces.

Communicating reliability and trustworthiness shouldn't be discounted in this headline-grabbing culture. Look at Rory McIlroy, currently in the press for all the wrong reasons. The former world number one golfer still ranks at a healthy sixth, but there is trouble ahead as the dark clouds of legal and personal woes darken his path.

A change in management, a lawsuit, and a messy Twitter debacle with tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki have all tarnished his reputation, potentially interfering with his game and with it perhaps, his bankability. In order to stay in the game, Rory has to prove to sponsors that he's a good bet personally and professionally.

Brian O'Driscoll is proof that looking at the endgame is crucial to career longevity. The rugby icon had every right to throw a hissy fit at this summer's Lions Tour, but instead played an understated blinder in the press.

Though disappointed and admittedly resentful about Warren Gatland omitting him from the match squad for the tour clincher, the Ireland centre held his head high, not allowing the public uproar to tempt him to go for the jugular. This strength of character on the back of a stellar career makes him a trustworthy endorser for many years to come.

So emulating the trappings of wealth and looking "perfect" will not alone pave the road to success. Ultimately, surviving and thriving long-term in business is less about flashing the cash, and more about projecting genuine balance, professionalism and charisma -- an image of someone people want to be.

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