Always consider the source

Of course we would all be lost without ‘the Net’ (as many of our mums still call it), but sadly a lot of information on there is not especially credible. When forming an opinion based on something you read online or saw in a YouTube video, our advice is to take it with the proverbial grain of salt. Especially if you’re using it to inform a business decision.

One of the most frustrating things in any profession is being told by an outsider how to do your job. Especially when they’ve engaged you for your experience and expertise.

We imagine doctors must get this all the time with the likes of Web MD diagnosing symptoms. Ditto lawyers, plumbers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.

Now if this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. When you think about it, it doesn’t make sense. Why would you pay a professional for their service only to micro-manage the process?

It happens. Frequently. People read things on the internet and believe that’s the be all and end all. Only it’s not quite that simple… Years of training, trial and error go into any career. Things that cannot be gleaned from one E-book alone. That’s why it’s critical to always consider the source.


Here’s a couple of things to check off:


  1. Publishing site.

Say for example you’ve read a very convincing article about SEO strategy. Was it published by a respected SEO company with runs on the board? Or perhaps by a leading SEO influencer? If not, you need to consider the source and if it should be taken as gospel.


  1. What’s the author’s background?

If you met a random in the street with no experience running a business who started telling you how to run yours, chances are you would back away quietly. The same is true for information on the internet. Check out your source, the author’s background – do they have (real) experience in the field?


  1. Is there a hidden agenda?

Is someone trying to sell you something by sharing the information? It’s important to consider what’s in it for them.


  1. Do they practise what they preach?

If not, question their legitimacy. For instance, if you’re reading a blog on the importance of website design and user experience via a website that’s slow to load and difficult to navigate, think twice.


  1. How simple does it sound?

Sometimes, if it sounds too easy, it definitely is. Again with reference to SEO, if you’ve read a blog that says you just stuff a few keywords into your site, and voila, numero uno ranking, we’re telling you now that’s not the case. Quick-fix options don’t work.

Sketch Corp.

Has your brand evolved?

Even if you were so in love with your new logo in 1997, times change and design trends come and go. It’s not disloyal to change things up.

You may not realise it, but your business and brand is constantly changing. If you don’t believe that, just take a look at your very first proposal or brochure from years ago. If it doesn’t make you cringe, maybe you haven’t come far enough.

When you’re using the same website, collateral and design to promote your business as you did on Day One, what do you think that says about your business?

A) That you’re stuck in a time-warp OR

B) You’re neglecting your marketing. Either way, a refresh is probably in order.

In a competitive world where impressions count and you only ever have anyone’s attention for a fraction of a second, the branded foot you put forward should be your best one. Polished to perfection. No scuff marks, no dated styles.Uber

It seems crazy that so many businesses (including some household names) still have the same old website despite it not reflecting who they are today. And that they communicate with clients via daggy templates they don’t really like and that don’t represent their current stature.

Remember: potential new clients and non-customers who come into contact with your brand for the very first time have never seen you before. What they see when they click through to your website or pick up your brochure is their first impression. What message is it sending?

It’s important to own your business brand image at every stage – what it was then and what it is now. This doesn’t mean shedding what you stand for or compromising your core values.

While your fundamental brand attributes stay the same, your brand identity should evolve with the way you do business and your customer needs. The evolution of a brand’s identity is usually the translation of baseline attributes for current conditions.

Like hairstyles and clothing, certain graphic embellishments go out of fashion as quickly as they come into favour.

Changes that take place should be embraced. After all, it’s a sign that your business is continually improving.

All the greats do it. But it’s done so skilfully (and expensively), we hardly notice:


coke a cola brand bottles

Pokemon brand

The rise of personality

One of the seriously awesome things about our line of work is that, because we work with a number of clients in similar industries, we’ve become very good at trend-spotting.

We see what everyone else is doing and we often identify patterns before our clients do. Especially brand personality patterns. Long before the industry itself has noticed and started extolling the virtues of whatever the trend may be.

And what’s even MORE awesome about this is that by having this insight early, we get to share it with you!

So here’s one for our clients, followers and the world at large: SMEs in the professional services industry, it’s time to get your personality on!


Free to be you and me

Over the past 12 months, we’ve observed something wonderful: a massively refreshing increase in SME professional service companies looking to break the mold and show their audiences that they are:

  • (in fact) run by humans
  • they’ve actually got a personality not best described as ‘dry’, ‘humdrum’ or ‘robotic’.

In other words, they care about stuff other than contracts and numbers and they’re not afraid to say it.

Many are revisiting their brand personality and marketing strategies to analyse what these dusty old documents really communicate about their firm and the professionals who work there. In a show of admirable self-awareness, they’re deciding their current collateral doesn’t express who they are or do it justice.

They’ve realised that merely being, for example, a good, sensible law firm or accounting practice is no longer ‘enough’ to cut through the clutter and connect with target audiences who are flooded with choice.

So what we’re seeing is the professional services industry (traditionally a little boring and politically correct) starting to adopt colours, confess to liking (and even sponsoring) sporting teams, sharing their corporate values in an entertaining, readable way AND even having a joke every now and then. In their branding. Amazing!

Now if you’re in the game of branding and marketing for professional services like we are, this trend is beyond fabulous. There is a little creative licence allowed at last.

brand personality free to be

Define your brand personality in haste, regret at your leisure

But let’s not go crazy now: there are many things to consider before you label yourself and it’s important to think about how this trend will date. Years from now, how will the professional services industry view the heady days of 2016, when brand personality ruled and we all threw caution to the wind?

Being aware of this trend is one thing, but simply jumping on the bandwagon and insisting that you have a personality that is fun, honest, empathetic, blah blah will soon lead us back to the same problem: everyone will sound the same. Again.

You can bet your bottom dollar that in a couple of years – just as professional services used to be uniformly on the dry side – that every man on his dog will all have the same ‘brand personality’. Again, the audience will have trouble telling everyone apart and have no idea who to go with.


So how do we avoid this?

Work with your team internally first to truly understand what your firm stands for. Take your time and really mull it over. Why are you coming to work each and every day (beyond making a buck)? The answer to this is at the core of your firm’s vision – and brand personality follows suit. And this is what should be shaping your new-look visual identity and external marketing comms. This message about your ‘why’.

(Side note: for more on discovering your company ‘why’, we highly recommend you watch Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle theory. It’s great!)

The answer to this is what will set your professional service firm apart. For example, it’s highly unlikely that Lawyer A started his firm for the same reasons as Lawyer B. And it’s also highly unlikely that they both get a kick out of the same thing each and every day. Hence, they have a different brand personality.

Today’s audiences want to connect. They want to hear your story and believe in you – their trusted advisor. The more authentic your story and the better its expression, the more you stand out from the competition. Don’t attempt to sanitise it or copy someone else’s you admire. They want you, warts and all.

When you’re authentically ‘you’, you’re never going to appeal to everyone. Only the people who get you. As in life, you’re never going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay. Because when you try to appeal to everyone, you connect with no one. When you make peace with that, you’re laughing.

brand personality not everyone's cup of tea