If I didn’t know who Tim Ferris was and I went to his website, I’d be wondering about the creds of a guy who uses yellow to orange fades on a generic typeface. It gives you a certain type of feeling, sort of like a cheap takeaway joint. But he’s Tim Ferris, so shut the front door. He’s plenty successful already and this design-less approach has worked out pretty rad for him. But it’s the fine print you need to pay attention to here. Brand isn’t just identity (although they often get confused or melded together). Ferris has got other elements that he leans on for success(it’s in the headline; 6000+ 5 star reviews should do it 😏) and he’s focussed on making the best content he can.
That leads me to the headline. Is identity a money fritter? Tim Ferris doesn’t do it. Plenty of other businesses pay little attention to it. A waste of resource and time? Unnecessary fluff? Me think not. So let’s look at some reasons why this still happens;
I’ve witnessed this phenomenon loop across lots of different businesses. When a founder or team has a relative degree of success doing things a certain way, there’s little incentive to shift the thinking. It’s safer to use the methods that got them to this point, into the future. How that might translate into a practical example: You bootstrapped your way into an online training business. Everything was done on the cheap. Your course content was solid. Early movers adopted. It got traction. The business grew. You made money. But you left lots of customers on the table along the way. Some thought you looked cheap. It reminded them of that other course they bought, that didn’t work out. They passed, over and over again. You didn’t change your tactics as the money flowed in becuase you had a blind spot. The success confirmed your bias. You didn’t need identity to get here, so why do you need it now?
This rule of anti -identity is probably true for many other design-less companies:
When a level of business success is achieved without identity, the desire to invest into identity is equally decreased.
Eventually a problem arises with this approach;
Lost customers, lost time
If you’ve run roughshod over identity, I’m pretty confident you are turning customers away unconsciously but there’s another problem here. For every customer you didn’t win, you extend the time it takes to arrive at mission completed. This is true for early stage companies or those trying to execute a turn around. Every customer you win allows you to do more. More for existing customers, more for new ones.
Repealed by your identity (or lack of it)
Brand identity works this way: shallow as it is, we make rapid fire decisions everyday based on sheer optics. Think about how you select a place to eat in unfamiliar territory. With no other guidance (ratings apps excluded) how will you make a decision on where to eat? It’s most likely going to be a few factors, like lighting, the furniture, signage, the menu typeface and the way the staff are dressed. Identity helps the customer discern. Is this for them? Or somebody else? Your 💩 identity might be costing you way more than investing in a decent one.
Relevance is decreased over time
Every brand has some time in the sun, a moment of relevance. How you capitalise on that and stay relevant is about business decisions. Companies that stick with an identity-less approach, risk relevance. The longer a brand stays true to underwhelming identity, the less relevant it becomes to the audience.
5 ways identity accelerates
Ever taken some petrol and thrown it on a fire? It mushrooms up, the heat intensifies and a cool whooosh bristles past your ears. In the same way, that’s what brand identity does for a company. Accelerates it. Amplifies it. Brings heat. Brings attention.