On Insiders, Outsiders, Branding & Boredom

Mar 28

Earlier this week I wrote this on Twitter:

Random late night thought: a huge part of stewarding a brand well is defending consistency against the boredom of insiders.

It hit enough of a nerve to warrant a few favorites/retweets, so I thought I’d expound a bit. It wasn’t brought about by any one interaction or client or even brand, really, but having done this design thing for a few years now, you begin to see trends.

The nature of working closely with a brand logically means your interaction with that brand increases exponentially, typically far past the threshold of even the most ardent fans/users. I like and use Twitter on a near-daily basis, but if I worked at Twitter I’d constantly be interacting with it—like a foreign language student studying abroad, learning through immersion. The closer to the source, the more I know, see and experience.

But that presents a few problems, the most perceptible of which is that you’ve ceased to be your audience. If you’re not careful, you cease to build things for your audience and start to build things for yourself. You stop serving them and you start serving self. There’s a tricky line there—some of the best products, services and experiences are born from people building things for themselves—but rarely does anything large exist long term solely to scratch the proverbial itch of its creator(s).

Practical example: I work at a church with multiple campuses, each with multiple services (experiences, gatherings, what have you). On any given Sunday I interact with our brand, our services and our content for hours. I helped create our brand and have worked within those constraints for close to four years. So that video that runs mid-service? I’ve seen it 10 times before that Sunday. I maybe helped plan it, or write it, or set type for it, or review it. I see it run multiple times, on multiple days, maybe spanning multiple weeks. Dozens and dozens of interactions and touch points with the same content. Immersion.

So when I’m tempted to think “I don’t like it, we should try something else” or “this feels stale, let’s change up this sign or that template or that ritual” I have to remember that the average attender—the person we do all this stuff to communicate to and serve—might come to church once every four weeks. Or a handful of times a year. For the dozens of interactions I have with a solution or aspect of our brand, our primary audience probably has one or two, at best.

“I’m bored” is a horrible design strategy for implementing change. It proves you’ve lost focus on who you’re building a brand for in the first place. When you start catering to the bored whims of insiders you start confusing outsiders who are less familiar with your brand.

And when you start confusing outsiders, you stop reaching them.

8 Comments

  1. Glad you expounded on this. It resonates.

  2. Agreed. Whole-heartedly. If we are designing for us, creating for us, doing for us, we’ve missed our mark. Our focus is lost. Thanks for the always needed reminder. Now convince everyone else we work with/for ;-)

  3. Nice post. Building a brand is all about consistency even if it gets stale to us as designers haha. It’s nice to hear that you are being consistent with your church’s brand too. That is one field that seems to get lost in branding.

  4. Blaine

    Really good stuff! not to get too “meta” but many of these same insights might be said to apply to the central message of Christ…

  5. Very true, and I’ll be keeping your comments at the ready as third-party-validation. When I encounter a client who may not want to hear it from me, they’ll be hearing it from you!

  6. Agree wholeheartedly. Building a brand is so important but at times we tend to forget the audience. It is the end user for whom we should build it. They should connect with the brand. Its not important about what I like its more important about what my target audience likes.

  7. Agree with your viewpoint. Promoting, building brand for self without keeping the target audience in mind makes us lose our aim. Great insight Sir.

  8. This is the same reason that some people fail at social media marketing. If you aren’t sincere, it won’t work

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