Too many brands are just resigned to being “boring”, doomed to communicate in a grey and stereotypical fashion. Truth is, boredom is in the eye of the beholder, and changing the pace of your communication is always possible.
“Yeah, sure, they can do this because they are Nike”. I heard this comment hundreds of times, when I showed some communication strategy cases from brands such as Nike, or other “interesting” brands like Netflix or Burger King. This can sound cynical, but it has an element of truth: the world of communication is fascinated by the stunts of companies that are not just very big and have strong brand awareness, but who operate in apparently “easy to sell” business sectors: food, sport, entertainment.
We tell ourselves we should take cues from them for our communication strategy, but this is a bit of hypocrisy, as most real businesses are kind of smaller and deal with products that are harder to communicate.
It’s true, then: there are differences. Stopping here though, and opting for some kind of flat communication, is pure self-harm.
Even if we think that our brand can appear “boring” in the eye of our audience, there is a lot our communication strategy can do to fix that.
Are there boring brands after all?
We often have the impression that some product categories can light up our imagination while others are irredeemably boring. This is partly true: it’s easier to create strong communication for products that are tied to emotional moments like fun, hunger, and competition.
It’s also true that a brand can be perfectly boring even if it produces running shoes or sells hamburgers. On the other hand, think about Airbnb: is the short-term rental category really so interesting? Or is a good communication strategy that built the Airbnb we love instead?
Truth is, communication choices decide whether a brand will be boring or not.
Communication Strategy Tip #1: challenge category stereotypes
If a brand belongs to a category that is traditionally seen as “boring”, this is actually good news: it means it moves into virgin territory and differentiating the brand will be relatively easy. Long-term car rental could be a good example.
All you need is a bit of courage to challenge category conventions such as a certain tone of voice or some unwritten taboos that limit what a brand can do.
This kind of communication strategy – if well planned – can earn the brand a prominent role in its category and will probably draw many imitations over time.
Communication Strategy Tip #2: look at your own story with fresh eyes
You could say that nothing is truly boring if you look at it the right way. Just think about those times you visited a country you had never been to before. Remember how you stopped to look at spots that you wouldn’t have considered if they were in your own city.
The problem is that our category and business are so familiar to us that we are the first ones to find them boring. Or, at least, we struggle to understand how interesting they can be.
This is why it’s important to rely on an outsider’s point of view. Just as it happens when you take a friend to visit your own city, looking at your business through someone else’s eyes can transform it. Details you have always taken for granted or deemed insignificant become valuable ideas for your communication strategy. Stories you have heard repeated ad nauseam become new and interesting when told to someone who doesn’t know them.
Communication Strategy Tip #3: broaden your horizon
Some products and services can offer few elements for inspiration if we adopt too tight a frame. If a company produces small car components, the product in itself will obviously not be able to evoke anything. In this case, it can be useful to broaden the scope, including adjacent worlds in our narrative.
What products are made possible by our product? What activities and events only happen because our service exists? Finding our brand a place within a larger narrative can not only be the foundation for a sturdy communication strategy, but also a way to find a more gratifying mission.
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