You remember that Ted Talk with Simon Sinek that everyone was sharing a few years ago? You know the one that talks about the ‘why’? And how people buy ‘why’ you do it and not what you do? Well that video inspired a lot of companies, as it should, but not for the reasons you think.
Sinek spoke a lot in that clip about Apple, and how despite being more expensive people buy from Apple because they buy into Apple’s WHY. The problem is that rather than us all discovering our own ‘why’, we instead tried to look like Apple. It’s as though we all said “Hey, here is a company that has its shit together. Let’s do exactly what they are doing!”
Only it didn’t work.
But that didn’t stop us. Rather than realizing why we failed, we sought new inspiration. And thus we turned our attention to following a new crop of trends and clichés we thought would catapult our brand. We think we are being original, but really we are just a bunch of followers.
Don’t believe me? Just look at all the fads out there right now. How many of these look familiar?
The “ify” trend
. Seriously, pick any word right now, add “ify” to the end, then Google it. Chances are you have found a startup. I admit even I thought these names were cool in the beginning, but I imagine in ten years from—assuming these companies are still in business—we are going to know how old a company is just by its name.
The “ping-pong table” trend.
Somewhere along the way having a ping-pong table became synonymous with being a great place to work. Ping-pong tables are great, but in my experience companies do more talking about it than actually engaging in a game. If you really want to be original, offer something no one has yet—like playing Cards Against Humanity during work meetings.
The “clever job title” trend.
Unless you are starting a band, or are secretly going to assassinate someone, you are not hiring a rockstar or a ninja! Silly job titles aren’t clever; they are condescending, and in most cases are just trying to justify an entry level position, or a lower salary. Apart from the startup world, is anyone going to take you serious when your previous title sounds like a Harry Potter character?
The manifesto trend.
Mission statements are boring. I agree. But are manifestos really an improvement or just an elitist way to articulate your values? It’s a nice thought that people do business with companies because of their beliefs, but in the real world we all have needs, and those needs have price. Invest your energy instead in your “About Us” page, because if I don’t know what you do, you truly don’t stand a chance.
I am not saying you should dismiss trends altogether. After all, fads usually gain momentum for a reason. You absolutely should use other brands for inspiration, but before changing your marketing yet again think about the ‘why’. No, not the same ‘why’ that Sinek talks about, but as in ‘why’ do you want to improve? ‘Why’ are your competitors successful? And ‘why’ are you different?