Bland awareness

Jo Watson


No, that’s not a typo in the title.

There’s so much talk about branding ourselves in the world of online marketing these days, that it’s all started to get a bit lost in its own self-importance, for my liking.

It seems that in being yelled at by experts and gurus all the live-long-day about how we need to be ‘visible’, ‘showing up’, and ‘on brand’ in all we do, we’re all at risk of becoming just another generic commodity in an already saturated ‘look at me’ peopley meat market.

The problem is, that in trying to stand out by doing what all the other supposedly stand-out people are doing, in the hope to be the biggest, the boldest, the loudest and the liveliest, we’re just adding to the noise.

As a former teacher of primary school children, I speak from experience when I make the claim that it’s impossible to give any one single being your full attention, care or interest, when all the other beings around it are desperately fighting to get the same piece of you.

In the words of myself when being forced to listen to anything either music or interview-based on Radio One… it’s just noise. In the end, it’s worse than that, because it’s white noise – a sea of bland.

I’m not here to say you should ignore the latest must-do’s of marketing (something will always work for someone), or to say that you shouldn’t even bother trying to stand out. I’m simply here to give my own take on the subject of branding and to remind you of the need for bland awareness – AKA, being aware of how bland you run the risk of being in your online marketing.

If you’re not entirely sure what I mean by that hilarious play on words, read on for my top tips for making sure your business blends into the background of your online marketing in 2022.

  1. Post all the time. All of it. In fact, stop reading this post about posting and go post your own post. If you don’t post all the time, then people will have no other option but to assume you’re dead and move on to someone else. It doesn’t matter that posting on the hour every hour – about everything from vaccinations to vegetables – gives off the odour of you having no actual work to be getting on with – and way too much time on your hands – at least people know you’re “relevant”.
  2. Not got anything to say in those posts of which I profess? Worry not. A total failsafe lies in really getting down to the nitty-gritty of hard-hitting issues of the working week, such as whether people prefer tea or coffee. I know – serious stuff! Not sure how to broach such a contentious conversation? Post a poll about it. It’s literally the hot (drink) topic on everyone’s lips, and fortunately for you, absolutely nobody has thought of posting about this spicy subject yet. Feel free to sex things up by asking whether your voters are ‘tea and biscuits’ people, or ‘tea and toast’ people. Edgy! Bonus points for a lovely little graphic asking them to select the shade of the toast in question. Throw in something astute from current events that definitely hasn’t been done to death, like thoughts on working from home, just to business it up a bit. Again, nobody has scratched these kinds of surfaces before, so expect a call from Panorama within hours of sharing your unique bland of investigative journalism.
  3. Design a new logo and/or get some new professional headshots done, and then ask absolutely every stranger on the internet which option they think you should go with. Remember, getting your blanding right is all about moving away from what you feel and believe represents you and your business, and instead making sure that you cater for absolutely everybody else’s tastes – regardless of the fact that 99% of them are still never going to be a paying client whether you switch things up to their favourite font or not. Change the colour! Change the pose! Change your entire business idea!
  4. Be certain that when people look at your online activity, they can see how committed you are to your own content content content, by making sure you’ve not engaged with anyone else’s conversations or posts along the way. Laser-like focus, people.
  5. Remember that your business is absolutely everything about you, and nothing at all about your products, services or prices, so bugger the business branding and chuck all of your content arsenal at these nine guaranteed pillars of that thing we call personal branding: virtue-signalling, humble-bragging, pointless question-asking, selfie-taking, curiosity-faking, pity-partying, content-stealing, self-promoting and fun-sponging. Still not sure what personal branding actually is? It’s basically a great way of getting around the fact that you’re crap at converting and shit at sales. Who cares that absolutely none of your followers could tell you for a million quid what it is you actually do for a living. It’s not as though the success of your business requires any of them to buy from you or anything.
  6. Don’t forget to jump on a bandwagon or participate in a fad. After all, nothing says “I stand out from the crowd” quite like an action that places you smack bang in the middle of that self same crowd of people standing out… together…
  7. Spend hundreds of quid on marketing materials, and thousands more on a new website or platform. Then, save a boat-load of money by writing all the copy and content yourself. That’s just good economics as well as total business sense. Plus, it’s not as though professional copywriters are particularly good at stand-out branding, and that’s why you haven’t laughed, nodded your head, or even kept reading any of this blog what I wrote.

Much as I’m never going to buy into the philosophy that all publicity is good publicity (Fred and Rose West weren’t exactly best known for their home improvements), I do believe that if branding is what you crave, then you’re going to get nowhere by blanding or blending in.

I’m not talking about the people who don’t or perhaps can’t (for whatever reason) go all-in on branding themselves or their businesses… these things take a lot of time, a fair bit of skill/luck/judgement, and a whole heap of confidence that just doesn’t merely bless you overnight.

Tentatively finding your feet and trying things out isn’t being bland. Being bland is, for me, throwing yourself head-first into doing exactly the same as what everyone else is doing, because you’re driven by fads, obsessed by engagement, and drawn by the need to follow in influencer footsteps.

When you keep churning this stuff out in following a path trodden for you by others, it just becomes so vanilla. Nobody at the top of their game (or wanting to head there) should be aiming for that.

In essence (if you genuinely want, need or care about my real musings on this), never prioritise quantity above quality, and don’t confuse making a noise with making an impact.

Ugh, branding. I actually hate that phrase. You’re not cattle, are you?

Well, unless you’re following the herd, obviously…

What do you think?

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