Stop Right Now, it’s time to Spice Up Your Life: the Spice Girls are getting back together for a throwback TV special and album. (Which, by the way, officially makes the 90s vintage territory. Feeling old yet?).
A lot of people are going nuts about this. Obviously. If you were a pre-teen girl in 1996, when the only music aimed at you involved spray-tanned 20-something-year-old men with gelled fringes balancing on bar stools in white shirts, this quintet of lip-synching cartoon characters preaching noisy, mini-skirted girl power represented the voice of your generation.
And yeah, belting out a few cheesy hits from your childhood in a packed stadium sounds like a laugh. But just because we all love a bit of nostalgia, does that mean millions of (now fully grown) women will be in a hurry to actually buy a new Spice Girls album?
My guess is: no. The novelty will wear off faster than the glitter transfer tattoos at your 13th birthday disco.
Meanwhile, as 2 Become 1 makes its return to radio, the film industry is all about making one become three. Or four. Or in the case of The Fast and the Furious: 10.
But let’s be honest, once you’re over the age of 12, movie franchises are almost always a big, fat disappointment.
After all, trying to live up to a famous, much-loved original is really, really hard work. Even harder, in fact, than coming up with a novel idea.
So why is everyone obsessed with rebooting and rehashing the old stuff instead of creating something new?
Better The Devil You Know
On one level (if I’m feeling generous), I get it.
Why not give the people what they want, for as long as they’re willing to keep paying for it? With budgets shrinking, aren’t we all becoming more data-driven, more focussed? Isn’t this just a side effect of moving from intuition to algorithms? You’re just responding to what works, aren’t you?
Oh, and it’s not just pop culture that loves a reboot. Businesses are just as bad.
How often do you see a new brand pitch themselves as “The Uber of cake baking” or “Spotify for dog walkers”, or “The Instagram of paperclip production services”… or some such nonsense?
Again, to give these brands the benefit of the doubt: maybe they’re trying to put what they do in a context those people will get. Perhaps their product is genuinely groundbreaking and they need to make the complex comprehensible. Perhaps they’re trying to speak to potential customers in a language they understand.
On the other hand: perhaps they’re just lazy.
… Or too nervous to stick their necks out and be the first to do something different.
Either way, they’re ultimately hurting themselves.
I’m Sorry, But You’re Not Uber
While “same” feels safe, constantly relating or comparing yourself to something else means you shut off your potential to be great on your own terms, before you’ve even had a chance to shine.
As Jordan Freda, CEO of the digital agency Giant Propeller, puts it:
If a benchmark goal of your company becomes emulating another, you may find that your business goals aren’t as organic and original as what your innate intellect and heart truly desires. I’m pretty certain the founders of Airbnb didn’t set out and say, “We’re going to be the Kayak.com of private home rentals.” They more likely said something like, “We’re going to fuck up Kayak and the hotel industry so bad, that by the time they figure out what happened, it will be too late. #DISRUPTIVE.” and then they proceeded to following their own goals, writing their own rules, and changing the industry forever.
You shouldn’t need to refer to someone else’s more successful idea to make people remember what you do. Focus on making what you do exciting in its own right.
Heard it All Before?
This isn’t just about how companies position their brand, either. I see this kind of stick-to-the-script thinking ALL THE TIME in the way brands talk to their audience.
For example, In today’s highly competitive marketplace, does your best-in-class, game-changing solution offer seamless integration, while boosting your value proposition, allowing you to maximise leverage while other competitors are still drinking the Kool-Aid?
Yeah, well, so does everyone else’s, apparently. As you skimmed that stream-of-corniness, I’ll bet not one of those phrases permeated your cliche-weary mind.
Why should it? You’ve heard it all before, a bazillion times, and there’s nothing fresh there to make it intriguing.
You probably sense that, even as you type the words. But you carry on because you’ve seen it before, from others in your field, so you think it’s what’s expected of you.
You think it’s how you fit in.
But instead, you’re blending in. You’re becoming bland and repetitive.
At best, you become forgettable. At worst, you become a poor imitation of brands that did this better, earlier, and have already moved on.
In other words, you’re trying to work out how to sound like Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides, when everyone on the planet was over that idea by the time it hit Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest.
Evolution, not Revolution
I’m not saying you should throw out the stuff that’s working great and launch a new identity, purely for the sake of being different.
Rather, it’s all about balancing consistency with innovation.
It’s about evolving your brand – not reinventing it or overhauling it.
Let me explain.
Evolution is when a species gets stronger over time by gradually dropping the traits that hold it back, holding onto the traits that make it a success, and picking up new ones that help it adapt and survive.
As a business, you don’t “evolve” by commissioning a new logo any more than you do by copying someone else’s idea. The way you develop is specific to your strengths, approach, experience, environment, target market, and so on.
The key is to look at your brand and your marketing strategy through the eyes of a customer:
“You have to take a hard look at your current process, and allow your company to try a new way of looking at things. What is the competition doing better? How can you improve on what they’re doing?
… Picture a customer experiencing the brand for the first time—will they find it useful, seamless, and attractive? If not, what are the key issues to solve? Picturing this interaction from the perspective of your customer requires a lot of empathy, which is essential in order to get a firm grasp on what needs to be done.”
Janet Ogdis, Founder & Creative Director of Ogdis + Co.
Put another way, if you were coming to your brand for the first time as an ideal client, which elements would really speak to you? Which bits would you cut loose? Which bits should you really try to improve? Is your niche still your niche?
Take Victoria Beckham. Back when she was Posh Spice, she had a pretty defined personality within the group: she was the stylish one.
Okay, being the “grown up, well dressed one” isn’t that hard when your bandmates are sporting platform boots and skintight Union Jack mini-dresses that flash their knickers. But when Posh and her fellow Spice Girls parted ways, she seized on that identity and took it up a notch. Several notches.
Instead of ignoring her pretty average singing voice and pushing a solo music career hard, Posh became Victoria Beckham: fashionista. She refined her haughty giant-sunglasses-and-model-pout look, launched her own label and transformed herself and her footballer husband into a glamorous power couple.
Put another way, she focused on improving the traits that worked for her, dropped the bits that didn’t, and evolved into something enormously successful.
So I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want: something that’s new, but real. Don’t jump on some fad just for the sake of reinvention, but don’t just wheel out the same dusty old tropes either.
Make 2018 the year where you question everything about the way you communicate and operate, decide what you really believe and value, and use this to refine your brand voice.
That’s how to give yourself a truthful, authentic makeover that sticks.
Ready to make 2018 your best yet? Give us a call on +44 (0) 203 070 3775 to discuss how to evolve your brand strategy and refine your voice.