Keep the Tricks Guessing: A Mediation on Branding
(this is a really obscure collusion of references its ok if you don't get it)
Do you feel that? It’s a content shift!
This post ushers in a new era of missives From the Desk of A. Allen. My hiatus from the blogopshere was stirred by a growing sense of boredom with my style. The somewhat aimless direction of my blog wore my creative mind thin. I took a break and I enjoyed it. I toyed with the idea of ending this whole negro spiritual. But my dear friend, Madeline Jump (née Mattox), encouraged me to continue my bi-weekly installations and to really explore topics in my field and display the output of such exploration here. She also has a great blog of her own so go check that out!
That's what I did. I flipped the apathy with #FTDAA into a topic of this week and without further ado, let’s dive into this new wave of A. Allen content! (ya'll know I had to keep it fishy!)
As you all should know by now, Hustle & Flow means a great deal to me as a 24.75 year old African American woman living and loving in the year 2017 CE. In my post about procrastination, I mentioned that the little moments really take the movie from good to iconic. One such moment is the central meditation for this week’s post.
Picture it. DJay has reconnected with a middle school friend Clyde (aka Key — in the streets). Clyde is an audio producer and is looking for something more exciting than court hearings and choir rehearsals to record
(I always cry during this scene)
Helping DJay release his first tape helps him break out of the norm. One evening DJay, Nola, Lex, and Shug, pop over to Clyde’s home where he and his wife, Yvette, are settling in for dinner. While the men are bouncing beats off one another, Yvette entertains DJay’s harem. She compliments Nola’s micro-braids to which Nola responds “Thanks, I try and do my hair every couple of months because it keeps the tricks guessing.”
There is not a day that goes by in this life that I do not use the phrase “keep the tricks guessing.” I think it, I speak it, I ruminate on the words’ individual and collective meanings. While Nola had a different clientele to maintain, the concept is highly applicable.
Branding is one such instance in which “keep the tricks guessing” has caused me some concern.
What is the distinction between someone with a clear creative voice and a has-been? What are the defining characteristics that delineate the differences between branding and boredom? How do you keep it fresh and new while maintaining a recognizable public image? How do you keep yourself from growing tired with your professional point of view? You have to keep the tricks guessing.
"Ok Avery. We get it. Hustle & Flow means a lot to you and you think it should to us. What does it have to do with branding?"
I'm glad you asked. Before I answer, I have a brief digression that transitions beautifully into my point.
Something interesting about me, dear readers, is that I am a Capricorn. Not just a Capricorn, oh no. As a very novice internet-taught astrologer, I have determined I am a Capricorn with a Cancer ascendant and Sagittarius moon. While I am the sturdy, earthy, accomplishment-driven fishy goat (or goaty fish) of the zodiac, I have a flighty side. A side that grows restless and is eager for some new task or challenge.
I want to try all of the things. It annoys me that I cannot achieve all the looks at one time. It bothers me that my work looks the same. I am the person who used to try a myriad of flavors, and vibes, and aesthetics, and looks all the time. Back in middle and high school, I used to look like some sort of festival amusement in my fashions. I just liked to experiment and play around with what does and doesn't work. Its essentially the same with branding.
As a brand strategist/marketer/business owner/content creator, you must be willing to experiment. One has to adopt the mindset of a middle schooler in fishnets, olive cargo skort, batman Converse All-stars, studded belt, t-shirt with "Oh Bee-Have" and blonde clip ins. Curious and unafraid. You have to be aware of the latest trends and developments in not only your field, but in areas related to your product and your audience's interests.
The most glaringly obvious difference between a middle schooler with questionable fashion sense and a professional building a brand is maturity. Specifically, the maturity that allows one to recognize not every wave must be ridden. Editing is key.
Say it with me "Editing is key." Not everything makes sense for every brand all of the time.
One must have a level of discernment. Sticking with the fashion bend this post has taken, we all know clothes are made to be altered (if you don't know this, please get to know and love a seamstress or tailor they will change your life!). You don't have to accept what's out there as is. Mold it to fit your brand's needs and to tickle your own fancy.
GEICO, for example, has 8000 different styles (hello, hyperbole). Sometimes its hard to figure out who is selling what when experiencing their content. While that can be confusing for consumers, it's kind of working. We have come to expect a wide variety of GEICO ads with the same message of saving 15% or more on car insurance. The haphazardness has become a branding tool. Theses a perfect example of how keeping the tricks guessing in a purposeful way keeps branding boredom at bay.
Fad chase but be smart about it. Try it but in a small, safe space first before putting it out there (think of it like a dressing room for your brand!). Crafting effective and meaningful branding doesn't have to be a bore. You must be wise in your trend tracking, dedicated to your brand's vision, and use those principles as a guide to tailor the most logical latest craze for your favor.