It is very difficult to balance blending in the right way and standing out the right way. Things that are cool tend to diverge from the norm enough to distinguish themselves. However, if they diverge too far from the norm, they run the risk of being not only not cool, but also strongly disliked.
Brands that blend in may seem safe, but what they really are is replaceable. Conversely, brands that stand out in a way that does not make sense strike out entirely.
How do you find out if your brand is coming across the right way? Tip: Don’t ask your friends. Your friends are invested in preserving a relationship with you. What you want is honest feedback from people who can give you an outside perspective and walk away more or less scot-free after telling you the truth.
Self-knowledge is critical to brand management, but it might be even more important to have outsider knowledge. People really underestimate how hard it can be to gain an outside perspective.
I see myself as an intimidating person because I know how intense I can be. I’ll sometimes walk down the street by myself late at night and think that I’ve got nothing to fear because everyone is probably intimidated by me. The truth is that they probably look at me and think, 5’4” woman, walking alone, looks like an easy target.
It’s good to know how I really appear to others during late night walks, so that I know that there are times and places where I probably shouldn’t be walking alone. It’s also good to know for my personal brand. I may be thinking, I better tone it down so that I don’t intimidate the people in the room, but others may be thinking, I didn’t even notice that she was here.
“What would people say about you if you left the room?” is a classic definition of the word, "brand". On a scale of one to ten, one representing the level at which absolutely nothing distinguishes your brand, and ten the level at which your brand is distinguished to the point of irrelevance, we probably want to aim for about a seven. Seven is two levels above the median level of divergence, so the brand is markedly distinguished, but still close enough to the median to reduce the risk of being not cool or irrelevant.
Marketing your brand to appeal to everyone is the same thing as marketing your brand to appeal to no one in particular. No brand can satisfy everyone, and if satisfying everyone is your goal, expect also to be replaceable.