My husband and I are parents to 6-year-old identical twin boys. Sometimes, I find myself loving them in a way that makes me want to put them under the covers and read books to them for the rest of their life just so I don’t lose sight of them. At other times, I find myself hating that no matter where we need to be, someone always has to go to the bathroom, or someone is always thirsty, or someone is always, always, saying, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom!”
Ironically, though, that love or hate — that’s what all the best brands are built on. Great brands make us feel so strongly one way or the other, they inherently create conversation — and advocates.
Here are two lessons 6-year-olds can teach us about branding.
1) Hate something. Love something. Kids are not ambivalent creatures. In a nutshell, my son Will loves “Star Wars,” hates jeans, loves hockey, hates math. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. He will love and hate those things regardless. He believes so passionately in these things he’ll talk to a non-hockey lover about T.J. Oshie and the St. Louis Blues for 10 minutes — listening optional.
Branding takeaway: Stand for something. The only safety in the middle ground is ensuring you build zero passionate advocates of your brand. Your brand was built on something. For something. If you show that — prove that those beliefs continue to guide your company decisions — the people who share that founding belief will connect with you. And that connection will be a lasting one, because it wasn’t built on the results of a focus group, or a coupon, or a one-time event. It was built because you stood up for what you believed, and they saw in your brand something they see in themselves — that’s something they’ll tell others about.
2) Wear the yellow pajamas. My children had a pajama day at school a few months ago. We went shopping for new pjs, and Sully immediately veered toward the most obnoxious pair of bright yellow footie pajamas I had ever seen. It was a terrible parenting moment. If I let him choose those pajamas, I was certain he would be teased. If I didn’t, I would be molding him to consider other people’s viewpoints above his own — to worry about what was “cool.” We bought the yellow pajamas, and he lived in them for a week.
Branding takeaway. Be courageous enough to be yourself — unapologetically. I know, this is scary. Culture teaches us from a very young age to “fit in,” say the right thing, wear the right thing. But here’s the sad result: We create a reality of “Where’s Waldo?” where everyone looks the same, everyone sounds the same, and instead of helping people find the brand they’re looking for — we make it a challenge.
Help them find you — by being you.
Start everything you do by clearing your mind of the noise. “What will they think? How will they act? What are they looking for? What will my competition do?”
Stop. And ask yourself, “What would I [my brand] do?”
If you have the courage to stand up for your brand’s beliefs, to be yourself and stand out from the crowd, people will notice.
They won’t all love you. And that’s OK. Because the ones that do — will love you loudly.