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Is Your Brand Agile? How to Create Consistency and When to Disrupt It

Grace Johnson

Before we talk about branding, let’s talk about music:

Do you remember when Beyonce released her groundbreaking 2016 album Lemonade? In your mind, can you hear the pulsing siren call of the empowering anthem “Formation” during Beyonce’s high-octane 2016 Superbowl performance? Can you recall the cultural outcry in response to the album’s release? After over a decade of wildly successful pop ballads and bubblegum dance tracks, Beyonce created an autobiographical visual concept album addressing black womanhood, infidelity, anger, and redemption. And the crowds went wild: some fans adored Beyonce’s new direction; other critics decried the artist for ‘going political’; but everyone was talking about Beyonce.

You may, however, have more trouble recalling Lady Gaga’s album Joanne, which was also released in 2016. Like Lemonade, Joanne was also a thematic and musical departure from the artist’s usual fare. Lady Gaga, known for monster pop anthems with driving synths and irresistible beats, left pop behind to create a more docile, Americana-based album which, unlike Lemonade, made little to no waves in the culture at large. In fact, when Gaga performed at the Superbowl in 2017, she performed her older, more popular hits—and not songs from the newly released Joanne—perhaps in an attempt to return to the hits that made her successful.

What do Beyonce and Lady Gaga’s album releases have to do with branding? Both artists disrupted their patterns of consistency; one succeeded, and one didn’t. Beyonce exhibited brand agility, while Lady Gaga fumbled her messaging and execution. Like these artists Brand strength and agility have everything to do with how you create, maintain, and surprise your following. As brand leaders, we are called to be disruptive, to be at the forefront of industry trends. In order to successfully disrupt the status quo, however, a brand must have a strong, consistent, values-informed base. As we’ve discussed in earlier blogs, values must drive every decision you make about your brand, including the decisions you make that disrupt, surprise, and ultimately cause you to grow.

Long-lasting brands know how to walk the elusive line between reliability and intrigue.

When a brand lives by its values, it knows how to talk to its following. Is your brand trustworthy and definitive, an expert in the field? Then you might speak in bold, declarative statements. Is your brand curious and creative, a force for innovation? Then you might ask questions and create more of a dialogue with your following. Our founder, Grace Kent Johnson, says that your brand’s voice should flow from your brand’s values. “I might sound like a broken record here, but values are everything,” Grace said, “They drive the stories your brand tells and the messages it sends. What some brands don’t yet realize, however, is that values also determine how you disrupt the rhythm of your everyday brand messages.”

For Grace, disruption is a tool for brand growth. “When you take risks and make bold moves the right way, you can use disruption to make your brand grow,” Grace said, “But you have to be rooted in consistency in order to exercise that brand agility. You have to decide what topics are worth being disruptive for. You don’t want to be disruptive just for the sake of making noise. You want to be disruptive to establish your place as an industry or thought leader. But disruption has to flow from a base of consistency.”

What’s your Lemonade? When will your disruptive breakout moment take the world by storm?