I work with dozens of brands annually. They vary between small startups, medium sized companies and non-profit organisations to large enterprises. Generally we get to work with amazing clients who are really passionate about their businesses and are truly striving to create something exceptional – ideal then as clients, truly. Naturally, we strive to take those goals to heart, challenge the ideas and preconceptions of our clients on a regular basis and aim to provide some additional value in doing so. When it comes to branding, though, there seems to be this odd subconscious need to resort to something familiar. To play it safe. To follow others.
In order to stand out from the crowd, you need to be different. We all know this, but why is it so hard to implement?
I understand the reasoning behind going for something familiar. We’re looking for that feeling we’ve had before. That wow-effect or a captivating story we read somewhere. It’s just so much easier to reference something we’ve already experienced, and that’s natural – that’s fine. Tangible things are easier for us to fathom and describe than intangibles.
Where true creativity takes place, though, is in the intangible. That’s where ideas flourish and true innovation happens. In order to create something truly unique and different, you need to venture into the unknown and let creativity take place over rational thinking for a while. Easier said than done, you might think. But merely saying it out loud and understanding the fact that it is a requirement to let go of your rational thinking for creating something new might be all you need.
The natural inclination to swerve into mediocrity
“I don’t like it” in reality, generally means one or several of the following:
“I’m not comfortable making this decision alone, I need to run it by other people.”
“What if my boss won’t like it?”
“We can’t just change the way this looks like, it’ll upset the customers!”
“We’ve always done it like that, why fix something that’s not broken?”
“We know our customers, this is not what they want.”
“I don’t like a particular aspect of it (for example a colour).”
And so we end up making it softer, easier, calmer, more familiar, safer, and finally: mediocre.
“If the idea doesn’t scare you at least a bit, it’s not worth going after” has been muttered in different formats and by different people in several occasions, mostly because it rings true. I’m not saying that everything has to be challenged by crazy ideas, but if your goal is to lead, to be the best, it’s not likely going to happen by settling for mediocrity.
This problem is highlighted by the fact that our rational thinking often tries to tie us to something safe, something familiar. Probably due to evolution? That’s a comforting thought. To think there’s some primal instinct that is in the back of my head telling me not to venture too far out of the cave since it might be dangerous out there.
So how can we learn to recognise these thoughts, to put them aside and to trust that venturing out into the woods might lead us to places that have not been discovered before? Not an easy task, that’s for sure. And frankly, I can’t give you a straight answer, either. What I can tell you, is that being mindful of your own feelings, your reactions and your thoughts will already help a lot. When presented a solution or an idea, take some time to really understand it from different perspectives, and put aside the first simple reactions of “I like it” or “I don’t like it”. Perhaps begin by looking at it from a viewpoint of “Is this different enough from everything that is currently out there?” “Does this ring true to our brand identity, its values and vision?”
Being number one is incredibly difficult in any field. Trying to copy what others are doing, following the examples of others and simply using the same tactics others are already using will not work, especially not in the long run. The only thing you should do, is to find your own path and discover way to differentiate your brand identity from everyone in a way that’s authentic and unique to you. Because there will be others trying to copy you as well. And let them. That won’t slow you down.