Hey, you. Ever wondered where the phrase “beat around the bush” actually came from?
Ok, perhaps you haven’t, but we have. And it turns out there’s an entirely logical reason behind it. Originally a hunting term, it was used to describe the act of hitting the undergrowth to flush out birds. However, beating a bush directly could prove risky because of the unknown dangerous hidden within (a nasty bees nest for example), so people did their best to avoid it.
So, a pretty straight forward, slightly interesting fact. But the reason it’s more interesting for us is how it has changed over time to mean something entirely different. Nowadays we use the phrase to describe avoiding a question, or stalling. Not getting to the point. And when we consider the application this phrase has in branding, things get more interesting.
The truth is, we only have a matter of seconds to get a message across. And it’s only when the message is articulated effectively that it inspires action – whether that’s buying a product or signing up to a service. Communicating complex information to potential customers is difficult enough, but try doing it when you only have a matter of seconds to grab their attention? Even harder. So, if you focus on messaging that doesn’t get to the heart of what you’re about, or you create a visual identity that is lacklustre in grabbing people’s attention, chances are you’ll be wasting precious time.
How do you avoid beating around the bush with your brand?
In the simplest terms, the way to focus on what will grab the attention of your audiences has to come from the brand itself – this is the mouthpiece of the business. What you’re selling, why you’re better, how you’re different, what makes you special… all need to be communicated within the brand framework. Not only does this dictate how you speak to your audiences, but it also clearly lays out who your audiences are in the first place.
Working out the core idea
When it comes to the work we do, half the battle is figuring out what the core idea of a brand could (or should) be. Once we have this, we then use our creativity to bring it to life. Sounds simple, right? But just as it was more appealing for the hunters to avoid hitting the bush directly, so too is it for businesses avoid tackling the big questions head on – what is it that needs to be the focus? What should stay? And the hardest…what needs to go?
All of these questions are important (and we do enjoy a few well-thought-out questions), but if you were to choose one question for your brand to answer, one that captures it all is summed up here: Why is it that you exist?
Working this out isn’t as straight forward as you might immediately think. Sure, you can say what you do and how you do it, but explaining why you do it is fairly challenging – thank you Simon Sinek. This is where the hard work comes in. Looking deeply at the competition, brands you like, brands you hate, brands you don’t think much about, understanding your audience, understanding your people… It’s all about identifying the gaps and then creating space between you and them. Having a purpose that sets you apart from the rest is ultimately what a brand needs in order to be successful. After all, great design only gets you so far without a compelling reason to be.
If you can get the answer to this question correct, you’ll very quickly unlock what the brand needs to become, because it forms your brand purpose. And remember, not everyone needs to buy into your purpose. It just needs to attract those who have a real connection with what your brand stands for. These are the people who will come back time and again to get the experience they’re looking for. And that’s called brand loyalty.
“The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe”
– Simon Sinek
What happens next?
With your purpose as the starting point, defining how the brand needs to work becomes a lot easier (and enjoyable) to figure out. Things like brand values and tone of voice all stem from this central core idea, communicating everything that you need to say. The visual identity then brings everything to life.
So, when it comes to your brand, remember that beating around the bush is never a good idea. Get to the point, get to the heart of it all, and watch it grow.