3 Lessons in Branding from ‘Harajuku Girls’

Career DevelopmentPersonal Branding

Gwen Stefani’s song ‘Harajuku Girls’ reminds me of a place in Japan where standing out is the norm, at least every Sunday!

“Harajuku girls. I’m looking at you girls. You’re so original girls. You got the look that makes you stand out”

Located in Tokyo, Harajuku is a place where every Sunday teens dress up in various unique and extreme styles of clothing and roam the streets. Mixing different styles and mismatching colors and patterns is encouraged. Basically, the only ‘criteria’ is that your outfit must be a thoughtful expression of your individuality. 

Here are 3 Harajuku guidelines and lessons we can apply to personal branding.


Layering clothes (or giving the appearance of layering) allows Harajuku Girls to mix and match a wider variety of different styles and add more dimension to their outfits.

When branding yourself think of the different layers that define and add dimension to who you are. The layers of your brand are your “VPs” – vision, purpose, values, and passions.

  • Vision: Your image of what you see possible for the world – your desired future.
  • Purpose: Your role in turning your vision into reality.
  • Values: The ideals or operating principles that determine how you conduct your day-to-day activities. Your values are true to you and you do not compromise them.
  • Passions: This is what motivates and energizes you. Your passions get you out of bed in the morning, but have ‘pure unadulterated tenacity’ to drive your passions forward.


Harajuku Girls are not afraid to get out the scissors, glue, needle and thread to transform ordinary store-bought clothes into something extraordinary and uniquely theirs.

Branding yourself is all about customizing. You need to stand out among all the others who offer the same or similar service, skills, experience, and background as you. If you don’t customize you remain ordinary, a commodity, and people simply do not get excited about commodities!  When customizing your brand always make sure to follow the three C’s of branding – clarity, consistency, and constancy.

  • Clarity: Be very clear about who you are and who you are not. By knowing your unique promise of value you are identifying the ‘customization’ that sets you apart from others. This is what differentiates you and allows you to attract brand loyalty among the people who are compelled to do business with you.
  • Consistency: Once you are clear about your promise of value, consistently demonstrate your customized brand promise everywhere. This includes your social media profiles, your website, your business cards, your communications. Everything.
  • Constancy: It is not enough to be clear and consistent if you are not always visible to your target audience. Strong brands are constant. They are always there for their customers, prospects, and those who can help them achieve their  goals. For example, social media accounts are pointless if you are not constantly visible in some way or form.  Of course you need to find the right balance but don’t run the risk of being forgotten.


A key part of a Harajuku brand are the wild accessories – belts, earrings, hair clips, handbags, jewelry. Again, matching is not a concern and the louder and more colorful the better!

Think of the accessories of your personal brand as the visual vocabulary of your brand environment. This includes your appearance, how you decorate your office, the colors, logo, or tagline you use, and even the network of people you choose to surround yourself with. All of these accessories support how you brand yourself.

  • Color: What color represents your brand?  For example, if your brand attributes are ‘passionate’ and ‘energetic’, are you accessorizing your brand with RED? If you are seen as ‘mysterious’ and ‘spiritual’ are you using PURPLE. And always make sure your colors are culturally appropriate for your target audience.
  • Logo / Slogan: Once you accessorize your brand with a logo and slogan they immediately become your brand identity. Make sure to invest the time in selecting the best logo, image/icon, and slogan to represent you. The images you select need to tie directly to your brand attributes. For example, if you value physical fitness, you should use active, healthy, and athletic images.

Take a lesson from Japan’s Harajuku Girls to build your brand: layer, customize and accessorize!

Peter Sterlacci is known as “Japan’s personal branding pioneer” and is one of only 15 Master level Certified Personal Branding Strategists in the world. He is introducing a leading global personal branding methodology to companies and careerists in Japan and adapting it for the Japanese culture. In a culture where fitting-in is the norm, his mission is to pioneer a ‘cultural shift’ by helping Japanese to stand out in a global environment. His background spans over 21 years in intercultural consulting, international outreach, and global communication coaching.

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