Bold doesn’t mean brash: how to start a new conversation when your message hasn’t changed.

There are your functional work shirts, the ones that remain in the washing/ironing cycle on rotation and never make it back into your wardrobe owing to their constant use; they are innocuous and unremarkable enough not to stand out – the staples, the functional garb. But, once in a while, you recall the fun you had when you wore that awesome shirt, how confident it made you feel and how everyone complimented you on it. That was a good look, you sigh. You recall the admiring glances you got when you were younger and brave enough to wear it, when you were less concerned with what people thought. Somehow you’ve slipped into wearing the same old outfit, day in, day out. But you’ve been doing your job a long time, you know what’s a comfortable fit, you know what your clients like too. Surely a funky shirt – your Hawaiian shirt, let’s say, or the bright pink shirt – aren’t what your clients want to see anymore… Those were what you wore in your start up years. Now you are ‘established’.
How you treat and pick your agencies is very similar to how you treat and pick your work attire. It’s tempting to stick with what you know – the comfortable fit, or using the agency that knows what you want before you ask for it, the agency that supports your message perfectly serviceably and predictably. But sometimes that kind of service can become a little too comfortable, the fit shaped a little too snuggly to your thickening waistline, the elbows thinned and the pinstripes faded.
Good agencies are desirable because they supply a brand with energy, creativity and dynamism, and yet clients invariably seek out the same safe day-to-day wear from their talent. Seldom does a brand decide to try on something that might stand out from the familiar insipid corporate colours. After all, they’ve invested a lot in a bulk wardrobe of whites and tonal greys and blues, why don something surprising – even if their most exciting start-up days, when they were at their most energetic and dynamic, were spent wearing a vivid experimental apparel?
The reality is no one talks about something that is indistinguishable from the everyday. When was the last time you heard someone discussing how much they engaged with your wardrobe of safe, corresponding attire- except perhaps to remark upon how unremarkable you are? But, when you throw in a shirt of an intriguing pattern or hue you have conversation going.
The same is true when you shift your digital marketing strategy and approach to social media. An injection of energy and interest immediately helps you begin a conversation with your customers and reminds them of why they like you, or invites new customers to notice you. By moving away from your comfort zone on the colour spectrum you have made a bold and brave move forward and this is never a bad thing. You may have heard the phrase ‘all publicity is good publicity’? Well, I believe the same is true of marketing. In today’s digital landscape, no social media strategy is no strategy at all, and you ought to be prepared to blend in to the non-descript tones of the has-beens. Instead, elect to begin a conversation with those walking along the street, allow your brand to stand out and be engaged with or talked about. Whether your customers or prospects love the colour of your shirt or the boldness of its pattern or hate it, at least they can see you now – and if it is the latter, perhaps they just need a little time for their eyesight to adjust to the vision you are offering up. But as with any item of clothing it’s how you wear it that matters. No one wants to be the uncomfortable anachronistic dad (or long-established brand) who shows up at his teen’s birthday party wearing the threads from his youth and speaking the parlance of yesteryear. No. Your brand needs to stand out, but in the way that will have the teen’s friends high-fiving you – non-ironically – rather than awkwardly avoiding your gaze.
The best way to achieve the right marketing look for your brand is to have faith in those in-house. They know your customers best and what excites them. Trust in your people, the talent of your marketing agency and their considerable creative resources, and allow them to style you in a way suitable for the fast-moving digital communications world, then there is no need to set out feeling like you’re sporting a shirt that is uncomfortable, unsightly, or not quite ‘you’. If an idea is big or bold, focus less on what the occasional naysayer might think, and instead on eliciting the admiring glances and conversation you will strike up with the kind of customers you know you want to keep and attract.
A good sense of style across your marketing platforms is never an end goal: don’t let your brightly coloured shirts become the new workaday staple. Rather, allow your good digital marketing strategy to be an on-going conversation – an evolution in style. And have faith in your people. They know how to rock your look in a way that gets the best possible attention.