You Gotta Get a Gimmick

My brief theatrical career included playing a “Toreadorable” in a summer stock production of “Gypsy” when I was about 13. My sister had dragged me to the auditions because of her own thespian ambitions, and I think she just liked having some company and a ready-made fan in me, so I suddenly found myself in the chorus. Now, forty-plus years later, I can still sing every word of every song in that libretto. My favorite song is “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” the refrain of a song sung by three strippers who are instructing young Louise before she turns into the unforgettable Gypsy Rose Lee. Their sage advice is to get a gimmick that makes you stand out from everyone else.

The same holds true in the world of business. What makes people remember you? Maybe you aren’t wearing phony Roman soldier regalia and carrying a horn like one of the strippers in “Gypsy”–at least, I hope not. But each of us has our own unique style and sensibility. “Gimmick” implies that it’s false but I prefer to think that the essence of this theme is to find something special about yourself and then use it, leverage it, let yourself be known for it. For Jeffrey Gitomer, he’s known not only for his brash and in-your-face sales advice but he’s recognizable in his red shirt with his name patch sewn onto the chest, looking like an upscale mechanic. Another world-class speaker, Patricia Fripp, wears stylish hats that set her apart in a crowd. And her British accent, along with her nuggets of wisdom which she calls “Frippisms,” make her undeniably unique. Think George Will and his bowtie, Louise Nevelson and her turban, George Burns and his cigar.

Last year I was interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter, Elizabeth Bernstein, for a column she writes called “Bonds” (it’s about relationships, not financial instruments). Her article was about being a diva, and I was delighted to respond as a source. I’d been encouraging business women for years to redefine the word “Diva” to mean a woman who knows what she wants, knows how to get what she wants and honors the people who support her. When Elizabeth asked me what was diva-like about me, though, I was stumped. Somehow, I ended up describing my love of vintage jewelry, born during a time when that was all I could afford, my signature pearls and red lipstick. I defaulted to describing my style. Like Jeffrey Gitomer’s red shirt, it’s a uniform I put on every day because it feels like an expression of the authentic “me.”

So what’s your “gimmick?” What do you do or say or wear that most expresses your brand and your style? What makes you unique and unforgettable? Please share about your own way of expressing yourself that sets you apart from everyone else. We’d love to know.

[Photo: The Village Voice]