Being on brand vs being a crowd pleaser

Let’s be honest, we all have some memory of trying to fit in with the popular crowd.

Despite the self-empowering mantras like ‘just be yourself’ and ‘be true to you’, popularity typically means fitting in with your peers by way of liking what they like, speaking ‘cool’ and keeping your image on par with current trends. And this isn’t just a ethos that’s confined to the halls of high schools everywhere – it’s a real point of anxiety for brands as well. So does being slick work? Or should you trust what your mum said and be true to yourself? Luckily, thanks to recent research, we can get a pretty clear picture.

According to a study conducted by US social media software firm, Social Sprout that scoured the opinions of 1000 consumers online, it turns out mum was right – going against the tide and being yourself will help you stand out for the right reasons, especially on social media.

Turns out the majority of consumers can see straight through the ‘cool’ front, and instead honesty is the quality that is most sought after from brands with 86% of responders putting this just above other qualities like friendliness (83%), helpfulness (78%) and a good sense of humour (72%). On the other end of the spectrum, being ‘trendy’ only scored a positive response from 43% of responders, and snarkiness being favoured by only 33%.

While trending political issues can be a newsworthy topic that can act as a launchpad for branded content, it should be used sparingly. Most of us are familiar with the advice to not speak about politics or religion if you are looking to win friends, and the same goes for brands, with the majority of responders (72%) saying that they didn’t enjoy it when brands were overly ‘political’. Additionally, although a good sense of humour is important, the majority mentioned that it didn’t necessarily prompt them to take a desired action.

With these stats in mind we can say two things for certain – being authentic is key, and relying on trendiness can be risky. So should brands just play it safe and stick to the same lines in every form of outward communication? The answer is a resounding no.

One thing that great brands have in common is an ingrained identity that remains consistent regardless of the varying actions they make and the words that they say. It’s always important to keep an audience on side, but they should never dictate the way a brand acts. A brand’s ability to hold fast to their genuine identity shows power, bending to trends that fall outside of that character is weakness. It’s nothing more than a hollow grab for attention.

Brands typically fall victim to betraying their identity in an effort to win a larger audience, with the result often being jarring messages that undercut their longstanding character in favour for a short lived taste of increased popularity.

Typically this sees brands using ‘trendy’ language and cultural references; for example, American Juice Company ‘Welch’s’ using the line “pour ‘em a glass of LOL’s” and Norton security playing off a trending meme tweeting ‘Yo Dawg we heard you like security, so we secured your security with Norton Security’.

Ultimately, brands that stand out from the pack are the ones that stick to their guns and respect their audience enough to know what they like and how to communicate with them appropriately and honestly.

Struggling to retain a consistent brand identity or looking to build one from the ground up? We can help – get in touch with us today.