Take a few seconds to minimise this window (careful now, don’t close it!) and find an electronic version of your brand guidelines.
If you don’t have any or they’re buried deep in the darkest reaches of your company filing system, you should be able to find one from your favourite company with a quick Google, or here’s a few to pick from.
Open it, hit ctrl-f and type the word ‘fun’. How many instances did it uncover?
Brands should indeed strive to be entertaining, and any subject, and I really do mean any subject, can be presented in an entertaining way if you put a little thought into it.
My idea of fun is sticking on my headphones and heading out for a long run along the seafront, yours might be getting stuck into a good crime novel, watching soap operas, or painting miniature fantasy models.
A set of brand guidelines that uses ‘fun’ as one of its core stanchions is inherently open to interpretation, going against one of the fundamental functions of the document.
As the person responsible for your company’s digital reputation, you’ve got a one-off opportunity to make a statement with brand guidelines whether they’re for editorial purposes, designers, or anyone else who happens to flick through them.
If you can encourage someone to open them and give them a read, don’t waste their attention by offering up inconclusiveness. Do you want to be ‘fun’ or ‘funny’?
I’ve read through quite a few CVs in my time and often skip straight to the “Hobbies and Interests” section before checking the rest of the document.
If I’m going to be spending many of my working hours with a person, I like to know that they’ve got more about them than the basic skills and experience required to do the job. You’d be amazed at how many begin with something along the lines of “In my spare time I like to have fun.” They might as well have told me they’re a massive fan of breathing.
To set out your stall as being ‘fun’ could mark you out as the kooky, zany chap in the office who wears the wacky ties; an attempt to inject some mirth into the world that’s often only fully appreciated by the perpetrator. When a brand tries to be ‘fun’, be wary of ‘Dad at a disco’ syndrome.
Before publishing your next set of guidelines, paste the copy into a word cloud generator. While these often don’t get across the whole picture, they do give a rough flavour of what’s been input and you should see a few key themes emerging.
If they’re not the ones you were trying to portray, keep tweaking until it does. You might also want to take some inspiration from voiceandtone.com, created by the editorial team behind MailChimp which is a sublime example of how to adapt content based on the emotions of users within different areas of your site.
Content producers suffer from an acute blindness when faced with one-word descriptors that have been used to sum up a brand ethos. I could have easily picked on the ‘c’ word (caring) as the focus of this piece, or one of the other popular adjectives employed.
How about trying something different to sum up your approach with an image, or a song, or a movie? Rather than making your editorial team read through a 74 page PDF, send them some iTunes vouchers to download a film.
Do you want to be Airplane! fun, Wayne’s World fun or Napoleon Dynamite fun?
I guarantee that you’ll get a more attentive recipient, and every time they create content for you, they’ll have Jon Heder dancing to Jamiroquai etched firmly in their brain.