Is That Template Hurting Your Brand? 3 Practices To Protect You From The ‘Sea of Sameness’
Templates, formulas, systems, and frameworks are great starting points. They're used because they're effective. As the saying goes, why reinvent the wheel, right?
But are they hurting your brand?
With so many people on the Internet it gets harder and harder to stand out from the crowd.
Think about this for a moment…
- How many emails from different senders look alike?
- How many ads are carbon copies of other ads with just a few words or a picture changed?
- How many web sites have the same layout, especially within the same industry?
- What about sales pages that have become ‘plug and play’ so anyone can write them, supposedly?
- How many elevator pitches start out with “I help [so-and-so] do [such-and-such]…?”
Are we in a template epidemic?
The templates themselves aren’t the problem.
People are looking for a shortcut, the quick way, or the so called ‘easy button?’ I can’t blame them, I’ve been there myself.
There are more and more people following the pack without thinking for themselves in marketing, branding, and copywriting. No judgement here, I'll be the first to admit it's easy to do.
Even Highly Reputable Brands Make Mistakes
Recently I got an email from a brand I highly respect. This email tested that respect...
I’m not going to name the company, that’s not the point and it’s not my style.
The email looked very familiar. Too familiar. I went back through the ‘All Email’ section of my Gmail account and searched for some key words.
Sure enough, a couple emails popped up from the search. And they were from different senders.
The subject lines, headings, and sub-headings were suspiciously similar.
It felt dirty.
Like stepping in dog doo-doo and now those shoes are forever tainted.
That was the knee-jerk reaction. It didn’t take long to realize they were simply taking advice from someone with more experience.
It doesn’t make it right, but it’s easier to understand.
They were following along and using a template. It’s a template taught to everyone else who takes a course by a respected marketer
But they didn’t consider how this would look to others who knew it was a scripted email from someone from a course.
When it comes down to it, this brand probably doesn’t give two tinkles about what I think anyway. And who am I to judge?
So why bring it up…?
Do You Want Your Brand To Be Tainted?
I sure don’t.
And there’s a simple way to avoid it.
It starts with the difference between following and modeling.
Following sounds like this - “I can just do what someone else did and I’ll get the exact same results.”
Modeling sounds like this - “I can use this as a starting point, then creatively adapt it to my unique needs.”
This trend of following without thinking isn’t unique to marketing, branding, business, or copywriting either. You can find it in religion, philosophy, education, parenting, etc.
Some people will follow without thinking for themselves or questioning advice.
It’s rarely ill-intended. At least when I’ve found myself doing it, it was unintentional.
None are immune to it. But all will benefit from avoiding it.
3 Practices To Model Templates So Your Branding And Marketing Get The Right Kind Of Attention
There’s no shortage of templates in branding, marketing, copywriting, and business. They show you how to do social media posts, video scripts, copywriting formulas, branding strategies, and much more.
What I’m about to tell you applies to them all.
It’s not about dismissing the use of templates all together, obviously because I offer the 5 Steps To Compelling Copy template myself.
But the goal should be to master the concept behind the template.
1 – Begin With The Start In Mind
If you’re new to a concept or you’re looking for fresh ideas, a template is a perfect way to start.
We all start somewhere whether it’s copywriting, branding strategy, or marketing. There’s no sense in denying the fact that we either aren’t experienced in a topic, or could use some new ideas.
Acknowledge you are learning something.
So, have a beginner’s mentality. Be curious. And simply follow the template.
Oh, and be curious (yes again). It’ll push you to think beyond the template. Question why it’s structured the way it is. Question the principles behind each component or section of the template.
2 – Go Against The Grain
After you’ve followed a template a couple times, you probably understand the concept enough to be dangerous.
So, be dangerous.
Start rearranging things. Add something to it. Experiment.
For example, in Mike Kim’s 7 step personal branding strategy, Partnering is at the top of the list. It’s the last component and last thing you do.
And for good reason. For someone to be interested in partnering with you, typically you should have implemented the previous 6 steps (Personal Story, Platform, Positioning, Product, Pricing, and Pitch) to show that you are worth their time.
But, that doesn’t mean you don’t focus on building relationships. Offering support to someone even if you don’t get a chance to partner and make a profit at that time.
Another example is with copywriting templates. Let’s use the PAS copywriting formula (Problem, Agitate, Solution). In this formula you mention the Problem first, then Agitate the problem, then offer a Solution.
But depending on your market and where they are in their buying journey, they may be more receptive hearing the solution first. So, test using the solution first.
It would look like Solution, Problem, Agitate, Solution (again). The 2nd solution could point out a different benefit.
Mix it up, experiment, and see how it works out.
When going against the grain you’ll likely experience things that don’t work. That’s part of experimenting and the price you pay stand out.
When you experiment like this you’re also stretching your understanding and tapping into creativity – which is needed to stand out.
And the benefit with the internet and different methods of testing is you can try something, measure it, and adjust very quickly.
3 – Thank You, May I Have Another?
In Cal Newport’s book Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You he talks a length about having breakthroughs in specific skills, understandings, or vocations. To do this, you first need to master the current knowledgebase or skillset. Only then can you tap into the creativity to come up with something new or to have a breakthrough.
The type of breakthroughs we’re talking about is going beyond a template, and having originality and differentiation.
When most people hear the term ‘mastery’ they associate it with either Malcom Gladwell or Robert Greene’s books and the 10,000 hour rule. This isn’t the place to debate to the 10,000 hour rule that they discuss at length.
But, for breakthroughs to occur you don’t always need this level of mastery.
So don’t be discouraged.
What’s just as important as the total amount of practice and experience is consistent practice and experience.
The challenge with using templates is how they create brands that look the same, feel the same, and even worse – use the exact same tactics.
To stand out and differentiate your brand you need to go beyond the template. Where creativity can flourish and breakthroughs are born.
You can still use templates as a model and stand out using these 3 practices:
1 – Start with the beginning in mind
Use templates but be curious about why they work and what’s behind the concepts within the template.
2 – Go against the grain
Experiment with modifying, adding, and subtracting things from the template. Practice coming up with your own ideas.
3 – Thank you, may I have another?
Be consistent, daily even, to unlock the most creativity and breakthroughs for your brand.
The consistency is key if you’re learning a skill that you need to master. Especially a skill that you want to get paid for.
If you’re using a template in your business and it’s not a skill you want to be very proficient with, then daily practice may not be feasible. In this case, using a mentor, coach, or consultant may be the most realistic path to stand out.
If you want a simple to follow template for copywriting that isn’t as ‘cookie-cutter’ and naturally gets you thinking beyond templates, then grab the 5 Steps To Compelling Copy template below.
(Especially if you’re stuck writing your business’s copy or want to spruce up some old copy and make it more compelling)
Where should I send the 5 Steps To Compelling Copy template?
You are also signing up for my email list. Don't worry, no SPAM. Just valuable copywriting and marketing content for your business.