My friend Terri Thornsvard has an enviable job as a docent at the Madison, Wisconsin Museum of Contemporary Art. She recently wrote a blog that I thought could be applied to branding.
"I joke a lot about shoes —especially my Louboutins (which incidentally I do not have). I have 3 daughters and I have told them that when I am old, senile, and in a wheel chair in a nursing home they are to put high heels on me, paint the soles red and tell me they are Louboutins. My point is, that over the years I have been trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Like many of us I have had many roles to play but could never comfortably settle into a label or shoe that fits. Every few years I change my occupation on my tax return—student, secretary, housewife and the more politically correct homemaker, artist, art historian, fitness instructor, and now retired. But retired from what?
During my recent docent training, I shadowed a docent whose personal style somewhat reflects how I like to dress. She was wearing a casual jacket with jeans AND a pair of black suede sport shoes with what I like to call "hardware," metal shoelace loops. They seemed to fit her well and looked very comfortable, so I searched until I found a pair and bought them. And they, indeed, are comfortable—a good fit.
So to all of my new docent friends—you have chosen to be part of this museum family. Find your comfort level, relax, adopt and adapt the style of others. But above all, find the shoe that fits and wear it proudly."
Consider Terri's advice with your personal or product brand. You don't have to keep changing it for the sake of changing. (See my recent blog, With Branding, Less May Not Always Be More.) Find the brand image that is comfortable for you, and that your clients or customers respond to. When Tropicana and the Gap changed their logo and packaging, the backlash from the customers cost them not only money but brand integrity. Customers were uncomfortable with it.
Another great lesson from Terri's blog is that you don't want to copy others. Be your own brand. I disagree with T-Mobile's current television ad campaign. It's direct, but way less cool, copy of the brilliant and innovative Mac/PC ads. It doesn't work for T-Mobile. They're trying to hard to be clever. It's not comfortable for me to watch it. I like the Mac and PC guys!
I'm certainly not suggesting that individuals, companies, or products never change. It's important to evolve with the times. But when you do, think about what's comfortable—or at least as fabulous as a pair of Louboutins!