News and Insights

The Lasting Perceptions of First Impressions

Thalia Kalodimos, Sr. Writer

You just interviewed someone (and you can’t help but notice) they have a pierced tongue. Maybe you think that: “They are so fearless, adventurous, creative”; “The experience must have been incredibly painful, and tooth brushing might be just as bad”; or, “This person is a few sandwiches short of a picnic”. Whatever you thought, it probably came to you the second they opened their mouth. Maybe sooner than that.

Truth is, all of us, can form opinions of people in the “blink” of an eye, as best-selling author, Malcolm Gladwell famously exposed in 2005. Studies show we decide whether someone is trustworthy in less than one tenth of a second. We can also quickly determine a stranger’s intelligence and sexual orientation with surprising accuracy (yes, “gay-dar” exists.) The British Psychological Society observes, “people who avoid eye contact are judged as insincere.” But don’t go too far with the eye contact: ”if you lock on and don’t let go, people will likely assume you’re psychopathic. “ Other research shows “people who “um” and “ah” a lot are assumed to not know what they’re talking about”…uh…no surprise.

Psychologists call that “thin-slicing”–our tendency to make snap judgments, reliable or projected, whether we’re interviewing, speed dating, or responding to brand messaging. First impressions—and wrong impressions—are crucial to consider.

Selling your brand is a lot like you’re interviewing for a job. You’re the one asking for work, and it’s your company under the microscope.

Your visual identity is your first impression. Are you “dressing for success?” Is your logo contemporary—a look and style appropriate for the industry you’re trying to reach?

Your social media profile is your “elevator speech”—can you quickly communicate what you have to offer, and how you stand up to the competition?

Your company website is your “big interview.” Does your brand voice and messaging grab readers? Or does the messenger lose the message, under loads of graphics, effects and unnecessary content? (Grady Campbell can help you with all of these brand evaluations.)

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Deodorants and shampoos have told us those commercial words of wisdom for years. But today their point of impact is head and shoulders above that. The first impression stakes in life and business are higher than ever before, says BrandEd. “Due to the popularity of the web and social media, coupled with people sharing more liberally their opinions, a first impression of a brand can quickly become the only impression of a brand. And, the difference today is that a shared impression can potentially stick with a brand forever.”

So “what is your greatest weakness?” (Maybe you’ve considered how you might answer that dreaded interview question today—to fully exhaust the metaphor.) If you’ve done your research, you’ve carefully designed your standout identity, you’ve found your passion, built on your strengths and you know your customers as well as your intention–the strong response of your brand will be right there, on the tip of your tongue: “what weakness?”

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