Visual Branding Lessons from American Idol

Erika Van Pelt Makeover from American Idol Most of you know that I am a singing and dancing competition addict – I just can’t keep away from these shows including the 11th season of American Idol. So, when Tommy Hilfiger recently joined the show to help the contestants with their wardrobe, I only said one word: Hallelujah!

Most of these singers need to get their image in tune. Yet, when the most jaw-dropping makeover of the season occurred, chopping off Erika Van Pelt’s hair and dying it dark brown, she got booted off of the show. What happened?

3 Secrets to a Successful Image

  1. Consistency – We expect to see Erika with blonde, shoulder length hair – just like in her media photos. So, when J. Lo doesn’t even recognize the contestant, you realize you have a problem! How can viewers vote for someone when they don’t even know who it is? Bottom line: You can improve in an evolutionary way, but a revolutionary change of image might backfire.
  2. Trademark Style – Designer Tommy recommended Phillip Phillips (no, this is NOT a typo!), get out of drab grey, spice up his image, and even wear shoes. Did he listen? Nope! Do you remember him? You betcha! A distinctive image is critical.
  3. Authenticity – Hollie Cavanagh is 18 years old and perhaps all of 98 lbs. Yet, she’s tried to dress old and bold which is the antithesis of who she is! When Steve Tyler told her to “let her hair down,” he wasn’t kidding. Literally, she needed to get her hair out a bun and embrace the reality that she is young and needs to be true to her own image.

In the spirit of fair play, here’s my latest photo taken before a fun-filled webinar with marketing innovator (and irreverent and funny!), Mike Koenigs.

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