Want your brand to stand out without sticking your neck out?
What’s the definition of playing it safe? A big corporation with blue and white branding on a bland, generic website. Google some big names, and you’ll see what we mean.
Why do they do it? These brands have a long history of success in sticking to a visual identity that mass audiences don’t hate. So, other brands jump on the bandwagon because they don’t want to risk deviating from someone else’s proven formula. But how can you then expect your brand to get noticed in a cluttered market? It’s hard to take risks as a business, especially when it comes to something as important as how you’re seen by your audience.
However, not taking risks is often the biggest risk of all.
Successfully pushing the boundaries comes down to striking a balance between your messaging, strategy and the creative concepts that bring them to life.
Every business has a personality, a mission and a viewpoint that sets it apart from competitors and tells an audience how it will help them – or at least, it should do. Good branding will communicate that point of view really well and project those values and intentions to the outside world.
Create for your audience, not yourself.
Sure, it might feel like branding 101, but many businesses don’t have their customers in mind when creating their visual identity and communications. They get caught up in their own heads (and boardrooms) and forget the golden rule: The only people who truly understand and appreciate a business are those who use the service – not those who deliver it.
Daycare centres are a classic example. The ultimate customers in well-heeled suburbs are corporate parents who want to know that the $30k they’re dropping every year will help set their toddler up for academic success.
Yet how many do you see with large rainbow signs, cutesy animals and hand prints for their branding? The flowers with faces and teddy bears are designed with the kids in mind because that’s been the formula for daycare branding for decades. But they’re ignoring the decision-maker, who most definitely isn’t four-year-old Timmy.
These centres are going along with the masses because they don’t want to take a risk and be different. Even if it means they aren’t actually talking to the people who really matter. In reality, you need to make every decision with your exact audience in mind and differentiate your business from the pack by being creatively laser-like in your messaging.
Use analytics to nail down your demographic.
Gone are the days where you create your demographic from the basics of age, location and occupation. Analytical tools from Google and Facebook allow us to define markets based on more detailed customer personas and attitudes.
We can address actual beliefs and how people respond to ideas when creating branding, which helps us speak to a unique audience in a highly specific way.
Sure, in getting so targeted, you are theoretically shrinking your target market, but you’ll also open your business up to a world of very specific opportunity you would’ve missed if you’d played it safe.
Get strategic, stay strategic.
Solely playing with the look and feel of a brand for the sake of it effectively puts the organisation’s future in the hands of a graphic designer – not a brand strategist. At Sherry, when we’re weighing up risk vs reward, if it can’t be backed up by statistics, insights and documented evidence to justify our recommendations, then we’ll generally give it a wide berth.
We may push our ideas to the boundaries of those insights, but if you have a clearly defined message and do your homework, what looks like a massive gamble is often not as big a leap as you might have thought.
Engage the right people to implement your brand strategy.
While anyone can tap into analytical tools and use statistics to develop a great plan on paper, you still need bright ideas, imagination and invention to bring those numbers to life creatively and memorably.
If you settle for bland creative, overused templates and tired mission statements that aren’t specifically relevant to your business you will simply be invisible to most audiences. They’ve seen it all before.
Too many brands are afraid to share their point of view because they don’t want to get anything wrong. They’re so fearful of being misunderstood that they end up not saying anything at all, which is worse than being wrong!
You’re better off not getting it 100% right all the time and staying true to your brand’s personality and viewpoint than keeping schtum, playing safe and being dull. That level of authenticity is attractive. And that’s the whole point of standing out in the first place.