I knew a guy in high school, Bobby, who wore bright green high-top sneakers every day. He always sat in the same seat on the bus and at lunch. In class, Bobby was quick to raise his hand. And if you needed help with school work, he was right there to lend a hand. He played on the basketball team and was usually good for a couple of rebounds and at least six points. He had a funny laugh too – kinda like a goose on helium. He would tell great stories about his mom and her famous rubber meatloaf. Bobby and I were only casual friends, but I knew he was a good guy. A solid guy.
There was this other guy, I can’t remember his name, but he was tall, I think. He wore the latest hair style and the trendiest clothes. He played basketball too and was pretty good, when he showed up. He wasn’t dumb, but in class he didn’t participate. He just sat there in his Bee Gees bell-bottoms and platform shoes looking cool. He was often the center of attention, but I don’t remember him having any good friends. And I can’t remember his name.
Today, I see a lot of companies that remind me of those guys. Some have solid identities. They stand out and are memorable. They’re confident and self-assured. Others meander, haphazardly looking under rocks for virtues to hang their hats on, or worse, they arbitrarily “reinvent” themselves at the onset of every trend, like an anxious teenager (boy, I wish I could remember his name) getting ready for school.
An identity is more than looks. A solid company, like a solid person, should stand for something – and stand out–in the right way. Being different for the sake of being different isn’t enough. Differentiation is important but customers like to know who they’re talking to and employees like to know who they’re working for.
Bottom line? A good identity is one that’s memorable and reflects a company’s position and values. A great identity does that and then some – with personality.
As for Bobby, I’ll never forget his laugh and I’m forever grateful for the biology tips. The other guy? I guess I don’t really care that I can’t remember his name.