The world is more complex than ever. It’s also flatter than ever. There are few barriers to injecting ideas into the marketplace, which has led to information overload. People are tuning out.
That poses both a challenge, and an opportunity. It may be tougher to stand out in a big crowd, but the payoff for those who can is much bigger.
The world of professional services is no different. It’s teeming with law, accounting and consulting firms that are great at making what they do seem complex. But few speak and work in a way that clients understand. The same is true of many firms’ brand messages, which are either too complex to be understood, or too generic to be meaningful.
Great brands are courageous — they stand for something. Too often, professional services firms try to stand for everything, resulting in a muddled message that is easy to ignore. Standing for something is not easy, however. It requires a firm to make difficult decisions, and decide not just what it does, but what it does not do. In other words, “full service” is not a point of differentiation.
It’s said that fortune favors the bold, and in our experience that’s true. By courageously staking a claim, by boldly carving out territory, by unabashedly embracing something different, a firm can transform from one of many, to one of a kind.
Many great ideas never make an impact because they are not presented in a compelling way. Similarly, many great firms never become great brands because their public personas fall flat.
Creativity is an essential building block of a brand. But creativity doesn’t mean cute, or flashy, or gaudy. Creativity is elegant and sophisticated. It’s a problem solving tool, and should be used to clarify messages, not obscure them. The true power of creativity is to take something complex and make it simple.
According to Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Sophisticated simplicity results from a process of brand refinement that is so thorough that there is nothing more to add, and nothing else to take away.
Simplicity is about clarity — knowing who you are and what you stand for. Great brands, therefore, are simple brands. They are clear about their purpose, refined in their message, and elegant in their execution. In a complex world, a simple brand is a powerful brand.
Standing still is not an option. Great brands move relentlessly forward. Brand leaders innovate, clients take notice, then the masses of other firms who “play it safe” follow.
Brand leaders move forward, undeterred by knowing that their ideas may fail. That’s because to the leaders, to the innovators, “failure” is not something to be ashamed of, it’s something to be proud of and to learn from. Growth comes from pushing past boundaries, not from confining oneself to them. It may not be comfortable to lead, but it’s far preferable than gazing at the backs of those in front of you.