Starring: Claudia Barberis
Photos by SIMON
Hair & Make Up: Lorena Smaniotto
Executive editor: Tommaso Lavizzari
Creative Director: Stefano Nappa
Concept & Style: Marco Cresci e Giuseppe Di Rosalia
Location: Magna Pars Hotel à Parfum
Maieutics with Claudia Barberis runs on social media. Do you know yourself? When we talk about personal branding, the art of communicating oneself as a product, we get a little Socratic. How do I communicate who I am, resulting in a new color on a palette overloaded with tones such as social media? How do you pierce a screen crowded with voices?
It’s simple. First, we need to look inside ourselves to synthesize what we would like to bring out. Above all, we need to figure out what to show and how to show it. Without truth and consistency, Personal Branding cannot exist.
Personal branding has to do with Socrates.
A trivial topic, have you ever tried it? We asked one of the most accredited Italian consultants in personal branding. A young woman who has managed to combine grit and poetry, neuromarketing and intuition, shopping, and introspection. Claudia Barberis, who graduated from Bocconi University, is a healthy carrier of style and personality. Like the touch of blue in Marta Penter’s hyper-realistic photos, Claudia represents the flicker of the unusual on a classical base. Preparation, study, charisma, and a bit of imponderability that comes with temperament. Like the contrast between the loafers thickened with sequins, under the gold pants and the chestnut-colored sweater, with which she appeared at the appointment for the interview. Is maieutics present on social media? Well, yes, bringing out the truth of one’s being means showing it better to others.
Aesthetics is the ultimate synthesis. The aesthetic side materializes and reaches you when you tell the truth about yourself.
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Do you know yourself? Good question. How can we translate a person in terms of a brand according to Claudia Barberis?
Claudia Barberis: «I could say that you need to remove what is in excess, attract what is there for you and reject the rest. This work draws on many different disciplines: neuromarketing, behavioral psychology, group theory. You have to dig in! (like maieutics, in fact). When I ask my interlocutors to describe themselves in three words, I put them in difficulty. Often the image we have of ourselves has been given by others… and undermining this induced perception is not easy. One thing that has always struck me is that during the strategy presentation that follows weeks of work, almost all of my clients cry. Because they get to really know themselves.»
What is the best strategy for personal branding? Many people think being spontaneous is enough….
Claudia Barberis: «Personal branding is part of business marketing. However, you’re dealing with people, not collective dynamics, so the individual element comes into play. Do you think that the way entrepreneurs, like Nerio Alessandri of Technogym, show themselves to the public is casual? Absolutely not! You get exactly what he wants to reveal; nothing is improvised. You can be spontaneous when you know a method perfectly, a bit like driving a car. When you master the mechanism, then you can be spontaneous. Otherwise, you have accidents….
The point is: how do human relationships work? Social networks exactly mirror human dynamics, but with an added boost. Tools and languages change, but everything is always linked to the functioning of the brain and emotions.»
Is Claudia Barberis sensible or sentimental?
Claudia Barberis: «Both! Think about great entrepreneurs; the reason why they are followed is not so much what they did, but how they tell the story, often keeping the human side. There might be some wrong detail, but that’s very humanizing. Take Chiara Ferragni as an example: she’s beautiful but… a simple multimillionaire. She communicates what she can. Sure, some ways of expressing herself are more appropriate than others, which are penalizing. Consistency is a key element, and to be consistent, you must first… be yourself. Personal branding cannot be separated from analyzing who you really are. ‘Why should they listen to me?’ That’s one of the first things to ask yourself.»
How do you bring out the soul? How does the personal branding process start?
Claudia Barberis: «The analysis part takes about six weeks. In the beginning, we meet for two hours once a week, starting with a skills analysis. During this first period, I induce clients to reflect using questionnaires drawn up with the help of a psychologist. Then we move on to the social context: ‘Who is around you? Who are you addressing? This involves not only potential clients but all the people who could benefit you—your social network. If you start the journey with the wrong client, it’s going to be hell… Finally, you move on to the introspective part. Who are you? I often catch clients’ amazement when they say things they didn’t think about themselves.»
What are the differences between men and women?
Claudia Barberis: «Induced, cultural differences, not soul differences. Men typically overflow with self-esteem, while the women have to build it. But in the end, when you break down the walls of defense, everyone is looking for the same thing. The differences between the sexes are insubstantial; the same heart beats beneath the armor. There is the same desire to be understood, to find something that makes sense.
When asked ‘What are the things you like about yourself,’ on average, men list at least twenty things, while women mention two aspects.
Aesthetics is a consequence. It only takes a few details to change the big picture. It only happened to me once that the person I was mentoring completely changed the way she dressed. She had changed her size and had remained ideally fixed on her old self-perception. On the other hand, in Brazil, where I discovered my aptitude for personal branding, the focus was more on the body than on the dress, especially for men.
Anyone who came across a picture of you or a message from you, formed an opinion about you.»
Was it really Brazil that made you realize your aptitude for personal branding?
Claudia Barberis: «Yes! Once I graduated, I struggled to find a job that suited me. I have always been multi-potential: one part of me is more scientific, the other is creative. On the one hand, psychology and literature have always been my workhorses. On the other, the love for travel and the intolerance for orders given by others are fundamental component of my being.
One of my key characteristics is to connect with people – I feel them immediately. The intuitive process is easy for me. I was looking for a job where I wouldn’t get stuck. That would evolve with me. I had my first experience in the fashion world, merchandising for Valentino and Loro Piana. Then I worked as a buyer for small e-commerce; it was a lot of fun, always looking for new things. Fashion left me with strong aesthetic cues and a sense of work ethic. But it wasn’t enough. Eventually, with the opening of the Bric countries, I flew to Brazil.»
And what did Claudia Barberis find in Brazil?
Claudia Barberis: «What did Brazil find in me! I met so many people. In that historical moment, the country was an explosion of sociality, relationships, events. People were almost always asking me things like, ‘How can I dress like you?’ Even when I was wearing a mix of Brazilian brands, the usual comment was: ‘These Italian clothes are beautiful!’ I understood that this Italian-ness, made of gestures, ways of posing, natural attitude to composing the beautiful, struck spontaneously. They were only simple suggestions; I never thought they would turn into a real consultancy. Then I started following real clients.
In Brazil, I realized that aesthetics is the final synthesis of a much more complex process, which has to do with the psyche, with the way we see ourselves, with the communication we make of our person as a brand. These things seem trivial, ephemeral, but they are not, especially in the age of social media. To tell me who you are, you have to… know it.»
Why didn’t you stay in Brazil? What differences did you find here?
Claudia Barberis: «I had to come back! I looked for an aligned job once I was in Italy, and I even found it, but… I was having sleepless nights, until a dear friend told me: ‘You’re not meant for this, you should fulfill your dreams.’ So, during the last sleepless night, I formulated my presentation to a potential audience. The main question was, ‘How can you be credible by pitching yourself to people who are 15 years older than you?’ I used the tool of provocation. A strong statement that shook the foundations of a cliché, the barrier between being and appearing. I intentionally preferred the opposite concept to the dominant one. Obviously, on social media, it worked great, attracting entrepreneurs and prominent people as well.
The web is a powerful tool for self-determination that didn’t exist before. Everyone who has something to say, says it. But they must say it properly and consistently. Social media are strong in dismantling the armor.»
Your first clients?
Claudia Barberis: «I met my first client thanks to a photo on social media of me kitesurfing. Apart from him being a fan of this sport, he was evidently surprised because he was struck by a different profile than usual. The second one, an important man, accustomed to compliant comments, wanted to start working with me following a gaffe: I said the wrong thing while talking to him. Since no one ever dared tell him the truth, he appreciated the sincerity of my comment. The female audience came later: the need for personal branding grew in parallel with their professional relevance.
Those who claim that substance is more important than form are talking nonsense. That was my provocation. But in the end, any dichotomy is wrong. Everything is osmosis. Why should we choose between substance and form? Between humor and intelligence? Who said we have to choose? Everyone finds their own way. And they present it in such a way that it reaches their human and professional target.
The tone of voice, posture, way of presenting oneself on video, aesthetics, topics to be covered, and how to deal with them. Everything contributes to creating perception. Laying yourself bare is difficult; you fear being judged. As with everything, you need preparation. Serious, competent. You have to be authentic, methodically, without slipping. When you are authentic, you do it so well that you… you look authentic!
I don’t believe in dogmatism; I explain how to reach others, what to convey. Then, however, you highlight what really represents that individuality.
I work because I am consistent. I do what I say! If they don’t see consistency, people will never choose you.»