Can your brand be too consistent? Shake it up!
Lately I’m seeing an interesting trend in branding - creating content that could be called too consistent. We're breaking rules with this post, so grab your popcorn and get your favorite hate mail-writing pen ready!
Yes, consistency is a key element of a great brand. But if it always looks and feels exactly the same, carries the same tone, uses the same format, is painstakingly curated - you may be missing the opportunity to reflect the human experience.
be consistent, not static
Hyper-consistency can feel safe and even “correct” from a branding perspective – but after a while of too-perfect consistency, it can begin to feel stale, inauthentic, and like your heart isn’t in it.
Like you’re not deeply invested in your work and living it every day.
Your audience, fans, and followers love what you’re doing, and they want to encourage and cheer you on; but to do that, they need to know that you’re human, just like them.
So as a small business owner (or even as a large business owner), you want your brand to look and feel human and relatable.
Not “airing out all my grievances on social media” human, but more like “I’m imperfect and this is life and that’s okay” human.
To carry the human analogy a little further...
Think about someone you know well, and imagine that they feel sad one day. The next day, they sound happy and optimistic about the future.
What happened? Did your friend become a different person?
No! Their emotions changed, but their worldview, motivations, and core values are all the same.
The same is true for brands – even if circumstances change from day to day, their values, vision, and purpose should be consistent and recognizable.
some tactics to implement today
So, how do you maintain consistency without sounding like a robot? Here are some guidelines to help you cultivate a consistent but relatable brand as you write blog posts, social media content, and emails!
Tactic 1. be a human.
Okay, your brand is not actually a human. So where can you find some human emotion, insight, and experience?
Hmm… if only there were a human involved in running your business….
Oh! Well, here you are! Step right up and tell us how your day is going. Maybe you:
Had a particularly hectic but fulfilling day
Stumbled upon an exciting new tool to use in your business
Set your goals for the new year
Have a new team member who is doing an awesome job
Share those things! They make your brand human and relatable.
They show courage and willingness to invite your fans and followers into your world, and meet them on their own journey, to provide encouragement from a place of genuine shared human experience.
Tactic 2: AutomatE LIKE Scarlett, not Siri.
Automation is all the rage in small businesses right now, and for good reason. The more you can automate administrative tasks, the more time you can spend on your actual craft and building your business.
(I’m a big fan of Dubsado, but there’s also Honeybook, 17Hats, and many other options for streamlining and automating your business.)
But proceed with caution, and make sure that even your automation feels authentic and human.
Have you seen the movie, Her? Scarlett Johansson plays an artificially intelligent operating system that is so funny, honest, and personable that she’s basically indistinguishable from a real girl.
Contrast that with Siri, Apple’s iPhone assistant, who can’t carry a conversation for more than 10 awkward seconds (as of late 2017 anyway!).
When you’re automating systems, make them like Scarlett, not Siri.
Make little tweaks, like delaying your auto-responses for specific periods of time, like an hour or two, to avoid making customers feel like they’re dealing with a robot.
And customize all your copy, and write all your emails with your ideal customer in mind – and inject your own personality, silly puns and all – so that they feel friendly and personal.
Consider auto-sending check-ins and reminders that are short, sweet, and full of your own personality.
But also take care that your auto-emails aren't in conflict with what's actually happening – like if a client says that they'll be on vacation for a week, and you agree to pick things back up when they return, don't auto schedule emails that clog up their inbox while they're gone!
Tactic 3. Vary your tone and strategy – just enough.
Any marketing and social media strategy should define the tone you want to strike in your communications – your brand’s “voice” that will make it distinct from the crowd – your schedule for posting, a basic outline of the type of content you want to post, and so on.
But if your plan is too restrictive, it can box you in.
This can take time to master, but experiment a little with varying your content just enough. You want to avoid both ends of this spectrum:
On one end: Too predictable. The small business owner whose Instagram posts are meticulously curated and follow the same formula every day, and her captions never share anything but an idealized version of her business. She never varies her tone or does anything unexpected. Ultimately, she comes across like a robot.
On the other: Too unpredictable. I used to follow a business owner who suddenly one day started posting totally random crazy things just to grab attention – like a picture of his face superimposed on a hotdog. I get the sense this person was frustrated with his results and trying to shake things up by being less predictable, which is fine, but he changed his tone too much all at once, and left his followers confused and disoriented.
The happy medium? Create an “overall” tone in your social media. Don’t try to be the same every day, because you aren’t, and your followers know that.
Maybe your tone is “friendly and fun-loving,” and overall that should come through in your content. But you don’t have to make every word, every sentence, or every post “friendly and fun-loving.” Maybe one day you’re feeling that vibe, but the next it’s time to be real with people and talk about a struggle you’re overcoming in your business.
People will still describe your brand as “friendly and fun-loving” if that comes through overall, even if you’re not feeling 100% that way every day (and if you are, I want what you're having).
Tactic 4. Vary your content.
Structurally, you should follow a fairly consistent look and feel, maintain a consistent color palette, etc.
But don’t post the same type of content every day, or people will stop listening.
If your best friend alternated between telling you one inspirational quote, and then linking you to a blog post, alternating every other day for a year, you’d probably lose interest in the friendship.
Vary your formats and content. Show your process, share your thoughts and experiences, explain your philosophy on your work, highlight client successes, and share snapshots from your daily life that relate to your business goals.
In short, treat your social media like a highlight reel from your actual experiences of growing a business, and give people a richer and more varied story to enjoy.
If you find it helpful to have a formula, just don't make it obviously formulaic.
Maybe you have six types of posts - quotes, blog posts, photos of your workspace, works in progress, free resources, and client shout-outs. That's enough structure that you can batch your content creation, but not such a tight structure that it becomes predictable or boring.
Now that we’ve seen the types of small daily variations that will make your brand feel human and relatable – but still consistent in terms of values, personality, and worldview – let’s look at some even deeper changes and how they might affect your business.
evolution of a brand
YES, PEOPLE (AND BRANDS) CHANGE IN DEEP WAYS…
What if you do choose to make some shifts in your vision, mission, or core values? Can you still project a consistent brand? Yes – and people change in deep ways, too.
If over the course of a year, you had a friend who slowly became more confident and centered, and more focused on inner peace, you'd conclude that they experienced a deep shift.
And because it’s a change for the better, it would seem like a deliberate shift.
You’d probably remain good friends, because deep down they are still the same person – and maybe you’d even learn something from him or her that could improve your own life.
If you’re in business for more than a couple years, your brand is going to evolve. Your vision and mission and values may shift – in deliberate and strategic ways, and probably for the better.
And depending on the degree and direction of the shift, your audience may choose to come along for the ride if they want to change in similar ways.
Your brand is the same brand – but just like a person, it will probably evolve over time.
…OR REINVENT THEMSELVES ENTIRELY
Lastly, some people (and brands) choose to reinvent themselves entirely, and move into a new phase of life with new friends and surroundings.
Similarly, there may come a time in your business journey where you do a complete 180° and create a different type of brand entirely.
Maybe you decide to shift from a gender-neutral audience to focusing exclusively on a female audience.
Such a complete shift means you will likely lose some followers or members of your tribe, and gain new ones. Your brand’s “circle of friends” will change.
And if that’s the direction you want to take for strategic reasons – like attracting more of your ideal customer, or positioning your business to grow in the direction you want – then you’re making the right choice.
So that’s how human-ness and variation can fit into and complement brand consistency!
I hope this was helpful – I can’t wait to see the rich and varied life story of your brands!