Have you heard of the show The Voice? Contestants participate in blind auditions to win the vote of the professional coaches with their voices alone. Unlike American Idol, those who are selected to move on from the first round are picked sight unseen.
I have yet to see the show, but the concept has me thinking about the importance of personas both in the art world and other areas of life. We love the idea of competitions like this because they are based on merit versus on superficial details. (Remember this lady from another singing competition?)
At the same time, we have definite (albeit often subconscious) ideas about how certain people should look and act, and these ideas affect our choices. When our doctor shows up looking like this...
...we don't feel particularly comfortable despite his amazing credentials.
Defining your "brand" is a top advise point offered to all types of businesses today. Even visual artists from Whistler to Warhol have famously employed personalities to suit and sell their work. Lady Gaga defines "looking the part."
As consumers we don't want to work too hard to mentally align a product with its source. And yet, when a child prodigy or a Susan Boyle comes along, I suspect that what we are really blown away by goes beyond the talent evidenced to the thrilling shock of our definitions being widened.