This morning I went to my local Peet's Coffee and ordered the same drink I order every morning: a medium almond milk latte with cinnamon steamed into the milk.
Except I really didn't have to.
You see, I order it with such frequency that the crew already knows my drink before I say a word. They even have their own shorthand for my drink: it's "the Amy."
I'm what some might call predictable in that regard. And I'm okay with that, despite public opinion.
Because lately, being predictable has gotten a bad rap.
Everyone is clamoring to be disruptive and innovative. Next gen. Change agents. Architects of chaos.
And that's great.
But in order to thrive and grow, even the most disruptive people, brands, and companies must continue to be...disruptive.
Said another way, they need to be predictable.
What I mean is that actively stirring the pot one day, and then being risk-averse the next leads to confusion...
...about your values.
...about your distinct offering.
...about who you really are.
Do you really want your consumers, customers, and clients to guess?
Rather than take your chances, you can stick to two fundamental branding principles: consistency and discipline.
The strongest brands understand that consistency — in tone, look and feel, and messaging— is key.
As a classic corporate example, consider Apple. What comes to mind? Is there any chance that you would ever mistake one of Apple's ads with one of Microsoft's? Not likely.
Apple's distinctive "Think Different" campaign brought its company's credo into the open, and in doing so, created a brand platform that its stakeholders could rally behind. They demonstrated how important and powerful it could be to align your internal works with your external messaging, having cohesion and consistency across your brand.
For a moment, think about your company’s core values and competencies versus its marketing and messaging — are they in sync? Would your stakeholders and customers agree?
Whether you realize it or not, you send a message to the world about who you are and what you're about. Make sure to send your intended message regularly.
Equally as important as consistency is discipline. Having strong discipline prevents you from veering off course. It means saying no to things that don't support your brand, your company's offering, and your personal values.
Perhaps after many years in the corporate world, you've decided you'd like to go out on your own. You have an impressive skill set across multiple industries. You're a sales/marketing/operations/administrative leader who can do it all, right?
Maybe, but likely not very well.
Without discipline, you run the risk of trying to be all things to all people. And doing so lowers your competitive advantage, and waters down your offering. Worse, people won't know what to think of you (if they think of you at all).
Instead, focus on what you do best, and let the other things fade into the background. Promote those one or two skills, and your expertise helping others so that your name becomes synonymous with those skills. In this way, restraint can be your biggest ally.
With people, brands, and companies, what you see is what you get, or at least it should be.
Own who you are (and stear clear of who you aren't). Demonstrate every day why that matters. Be crystal clear on your point of view, your voice, your values.
Be so true to who you are that people instinctively know it's you before you say a word.
In other words, be predictable.
(In all the best ways.)