Picture a ladybug costume with polka dots and an antennae headband. For a six-year-old, a ladybug costume is absolutely cute, but for a twenty-six-year old? It’s either plain or uncreative.
I’m sure there are other purposes than simply being creative. Some people would wear ridiculously mini skirts or shockingly inappropriate gear just for a laugh or to get attention in the easiest possible way. But for someone (and I hope it’s you) who wants to be creative, a costume straight from Party City or eBay just won’t cut it. The same ideas can be applied to branding. In order to stand out, companies and brands should be just as picky as creative folks choosing their Halloween costumes.
Beyond what is trending: (hard trend vs. soft trend)
Just like you can easily find trendy Halloween costume ideas just about anywhere, companies nowadays can easily find any one of the latest-and-greatest technologies, ideas, and business models. With the increased use of social media, does every company or brand need a Facebook fan page? I would say no. Because the adoption of Facebook is simply a “soft trend.”
The concept of “soft trend” versus “hard trends” came from Daniel Burrus. Think of hard trends as facts, or permanent changes, such as “consumers are becoming more sophisticated because of their ability to find information on the web.” While soft trends, more like cyclical changes, or things that are popular right now, are more likely to fade away or return back to their original state. According to Burrus, “People have all made similar incorrect predictions because they didn’t know how to distinguish hard from soft.”
The success of branding lies in innovation, differentiation, and the ability to plan beyond what is trending.
It might be funny to dress up like someone else in a Halloween party, but when it comes to branding, companies and brands have to figure out an original way to stand apart. Duplicating others’ success stories no longer works for the market because almost every product (and business model) can be easily copied by your competitors. If companies fail to invest originality and personal appeal in their branding message, consumers will most likely treat their products or services like commodities. Beyond capturing touch-points in branding campaigns, companies need to create a welcoming environment for customers to openly share their preferences, habits, and personal experiences that can be of tremendous assets to the brands themselves.
Be relevant & have some fun
Would you pick out a chicken suit if your friends invited you to a party with a zombie theme? Probably not. (Although a zombie chicken is a great costume idea – you’re welcome.) And rather than ignoring the hard trends, brands should understand their messaging is not just about themselves. They must be able to make their brands relevant to the customers’ experiences, welcoming inputs and ideas from their brand evangelists to facilitate the communication and to grow the community. In a nutshell, relevance is the heartbeat of brand vitality.
That being said, how about throwing a Halloween costume party, inviting your loyal customers, and asking them whether they feel you’re designing an authentic branding strategy?
What is your unique branding strategy? And what are you going to be this Halloween?