On a scale of one to ten, where do you think your boring rating lies? It’s a fact of life that boring people don’t have a lot of friends. If you think that’s a sad reflection on humanity, check your diary. If it’s a bit light on social engagements you might be in the “beige club”, but you are excused for not noticing. Apparently, so psychologists tell us, boring people don’t always recognise that they are being side-lined.
So, beige is not the new black, that’s just a rumour put about by boring people. If you want friends and the fun and influence that goes with them you have to be different. Think about it. Lady Gaga has 39.2million followers on Twitter. Even if you are not a “little monster” you have to be impressed by the influence that gives her and the reason “personalities” are personalities is that they have personality!
Yes, if you want to have an entourage ditch the camouflage – be bright, stand out, be interesting, have a point of view and let the world know it. This isn’t just some vague concept, its science. Well, social anthropology anyway. People who are different, trendsetters, are leaders and as a species we assemble in groups around strong leaders. The stronger (read most distinctive) the better.
So what’s this got to do with branding? Well, brands are groups of people with shared values and interests – communities. Boring brands aren’t leaders. They don’t get a lot of followers. To build a community of friends or customers, you have to have style, opinions, stand for something. Run it up the flagpole and watch them salute.
Apple, Harley Davidson, Ferrari, they have all shown us the way and we’ve followed. Well, some of us have. Others have taken the view that telling people they are different is all it takes. Now they are discovering that they have to “walk the talk” and it’s largely because of the rise of digital.
Digital has transformed the business world in many ways and business models that have been in place for decades and worked as recently as five years ago, just don’t cut it any more. One of the transformations it has brought about is the access we all have to information on just about anything. This means your business is transparent, whether you like it or not. Your customers are watching everything you do.
Relationships such as we have with each other and those we have with brands are founded on trust. To achieve that trust, above all else, we have to be consistent. That means consistency between all your actions and the promise that is inherent in your brand.
Maybe, way back when, it was enough to design a funky logo and say a few words over it to earn you a place in people’s hearts. No longer. First you have to stand out from the crowd. That’s the differentiation bit. Then you have to live your brand, deliver that promise consistently across all touch points. NEVER be caught out doing or saying something that doesn’t support your brand promise.
That’s why today brand development is about business transformation. Organising your resources, processes and people behind the promise you make to your audience to ensure that a) their expectations are ALWAYS met and b) you can deliver it seamlessly and cost-efficiently. It involves internal marketing, process engineering and a whole lot more. If you don’t cover all of this you’ll not realise your potential and in today’s competitive marketplace that’s something no business can afford. Yes, it pays to be different.
Phil Darby – head of strategy