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.
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.
IMPORTANT CAVEAT TO AVOID HURT FEELINGS:
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.