Seems like I’ve had a few conversations in the last week that are actually the same conversation. It revolves around small business owners and their brands. See, brand is a slippery thing… it strengthens or weakens, grows or shrinks, and evolves with every little thing your business does. For example, when Apple does something dumb (like calling their tablet “iPad”) everyone’s up in arms for a little while. Bloggers make fun of them, their stock drops a bit. They lose brand brownie points with their market. Apple happens to have enough brand brownie points in the bank that it doesn’t hurt them too badly. And then they tend to do something delightful again and all is forgiven. They’ve made the iPad so great that we’ve gotten over the dumb name and there you go.
That’s brand… just like your friend who you love. You love her tons, but then she pisses you off and is awesome and then you love her again. In a small business, you, the owner are the driver of the brand. Which is kinda scary… When I meet some one new I have a moment of “who should I be so this person likes me?” Hopefully, I remember to be nothing other than me and let the person decide based on authenticity rather than some false pretense that I don’t know will work any better. So in business we try even more to be who we think our customers want. We write text for our website that follow MLA’s rules of grammar, we create graphics that don’t offend. We try to be like our competitors and then ask ourselves how we can stand out. It’s all so silly.
Don’t sanitize your brand. Don’t go vanilla because you’re scared people won’t like mocha-fudge-cherry chip. You’re right, there are some people who won’t love mocha-fudge-cherry chip… but you don’t need, or want, everyone in the world to buy from you… unless you’re Wal-Mart. Your balls-out, full-force personality will be polarizing. You’ll have people who don’t like it and people who LOVE it. You won’t have on-the-fencers. You won’t have price-shoppers. You won’t have clients who buy from the next guy they find who is cheaper. That’s the effect of polarizing. You’ll have people who don’t like you and people who love you no matter what you do.
You may be shocked, but I know people who don’t like Apple. And Steve Jobs didn’t care about them… He took care of the small percentage of the world who LOVE Apple. Because those people will buy again and again and again.
So, how are you sanitizing your brand? What would it take for you to fearlessly let your personality come through?