Wearing a face mask can deliver proven health benefits. In a Centers for Disease Control press release, CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said, “We are not defenseless against Covid-19. Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus—particularly when used universally within a community setting.” And Bryan Robinson points to three studies that suggest the reasons behind this, further demonstrating why a high-quality face covering can slow the spread.
And if that weren’t enough, there’s an economic benefit too. Research from Goldman Sachs suggests a national mask mandate would slow the growth rate of new coronavirus infections, preventing a 5% GDP loss by averting additional lockdown measures.
Those are compelling findings, but my interest in face mask wearing goes beyond the vast health and economic benefits. There are personal branding benefits too.
First and foremost, wearing a mask shows you care, and effective personal branding emphasizes the value you provide to other people, not what they can do for you. We now know that the effectiveness of face masks has less to do with preventing you from getting the virus and is more closely tied to preventing you from infecting others if you are asymptomatic but Covid-19 positive. Demonstrating empathy—that you understand how others are feeling—sends a clear message about you, and it shows that you’re a helpful member of a community.
It’s just like the other things we do naturally to acknowledge that we’re a team player, like sneezing into our elbow to avoid spreading germs or holding the door for the person behind us. People in Asia have been wearing masks to reduce the spread of disease for decades. In a piece in the Atlantic, medical anthropologist Judy Yuen-man Siu said, “Today in Hong Kong, if you do not use a face mask in public areas, you will be stigmatized and discriminated against, not just because people would [be] afraid of you as a potential virus-spreader, but [also because] it can mean you have low civic responsibility.”
When we do start going back to the office, companies or municipalities will likely mandate face coverings—but there will be those who choose not to comply, and that might say something about their brand, too. In an article in Medium.com, Davia Sobelman reminds us, “What you wear reveals a lot about you. That’s why you’ll catch people repeating the phrase, you are what you wear.” She adds, “What’s even more fascinating is that a majority of the way we communicate is nonverbally. Meaning that our body language, proximity, touch and (you guessed it) appearance, make up a huge part in the way we connect with others and also plays a large role in first impressions.”
There are those who wear masks to show their loyalty to a brand or organization (expect company logos to show up on masks in big numbers—and company swag and welcome gifts to new hires to include branded face coverings). Other masks demonstrate the brand trait of creativity. This article from Insider.com highlights 28 of the most creative face coverings. Some zesty souls have even broken out their Bedazzlers, which haven’t seen the light of day since the ‘70s. Retail brands big and small are creating masks as fashion statements.
Etsy, the global online marketplace for handmade items, has a whole new category to feature their members’ face covering creations. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Etsy sales of fabric face masks skyrocketed on its platform after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidelines in early April to recommend Americans wear them. The company sold 12 million face masks that month alone worth $133 million—equivalent to around 10% of total gross merchandise sales in the previous quarter.”
Some are emblazoned with messages of hope and inspiration—something we can all use more of right now. Your mask can share your values, show your connection to a cause, highlight the things you’re passionate about or just convey your personality without your having to open your mouth—and even when you do open your mouth, no one will see it. Unless you have a mask like this. Of course, if you’re going for a more realistic view of your actual smile, face masks with a clear panel will let people see your pearly whites.
When it comes to choosing a face mask, pick one (or several) that’s on-brand for you. And remember to wear it, because none of these benefits can be achieved if your mask sits on a table somewhere. There’s never been a better way to put your best face forward.
William Arruda is a founder of CareerBlast and co-creator of BrandBoost – a video-based personal branding talent development experience.