“Branding”. The big word everyone is using nowadays. Everybody seems to be an expert: the Instagram girl, the Youtuber, the flower shop owner down the road.
What has happened to branding? And how can you use it for your business?
Interesting facts about branding
Long gone are those days where companies sold a physical product and its actual benefits. Back in the early 20th century, marketing was seen simply as a means of communicating the tangible, real benefits of a product in the simplest and most concise form possible.
But in advertising, “reason informs, but emotion persuades”. By now you would have seen that it is all about selling experiences and feelings. Why do you get your coffee at Starbucks? Why do you own an iPhone? Why a pair of Nikes? What’s the story behind each one of these products? Do they make you feel good, cool, special, like you’re in good hands, like they have experience, and they sure know what they talking about? They might look good so you want to be associated with them. You want to wear them and carry them around.
Mind you, branding has always been there. In fact, it is in the early 1920s that insecurities started to be bought and sold (yes, insecurities – cosmetic companies’ favorite way to advertise their products). Edward Bernays pioneered wild ideas and even wilder marketing campaigns. His marketing tactics at the time were unlike anybody else’s in the industry. Bernays didn’t believe that people made rational decisions most of the time. They make emotional ones. Read how he got women to start smoking (back then, a cultural and social issue for women).
Now, we are not bashing branding. It is and should be an important part of your business. But it should be done the right way.
1. Build a strong product
Answer two major questions: Who are you? What are you?
Start with the basics. Assess brand awareness: How do you want your customers to perceive you versus how they actually perceive you. You should also be clear as to who you are serving. Know your audience.
What are you? That is: what product do you offer? What do you do? Today, we all focus on how we meet the needs of our audience on a psychological and emotional level. In my opinion, while it is important to provide a memorable experience, you also need a good product. Apple is loved because its products look good and make people feel good. But the foundation is: they work, the design is good, the features are appealing and they are reliable.
Think about your product (it could be yourself, skills, service, tangible good, website/app):
- What is unique about your product?
- How is it different from others?
- Think about the design, style, features, durability, reliability
Identify your unique value proposition and stick to it. This is the essence of your brand, and the beginning of your story.
2. Tell your story
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, it’s about the story you tell” – Seth Godin.
By now, you should know your value in the eyes of your customers (who you are) and your strengths (what you do). Time to talk about how you talk to your audience: brand storytelling.
Brand storytelling is my favorite part when working with a business. It has to do with how you communicate with your audience. It is about connecting and making your audience come back for more.
Writing for the ear (your elevator pitch, videos) is different from writing for the eye (blog post, social media, ebook). Either way your story, action, character, emotion, and imagery should be consistent, online and offline, and across all platforms.
Here are some of the things to think about:
- What do people already talk about on social media related to my industry and product?
- Do people already use a competitor’s product instead of mine? Why?
- What posts do they engage with the most?
- What hashtags should I use to reach the right audience?
- What tone, voice, style should I use based on my findings?
- Should I include emoticons? Exclamation marks?
3. Be a human not brand
There’s a funny thing happening at the moment: brands are trying to be more human, and some people are trying to become brands. Hmm… The truth of the matter is: people want to connect and want to relate… with people. There is no marketing trick here.
My number one advice is: stay authentic to “who you are” and “what you do“. That is what people are interested in. That is what they want to see and read. That is how you keep your audience engaged. In fact, you should not have a “me” and “them” mentality. Your audience are as much part of your brand as you are. We are all human.
Look at MyNewCaledonia. We have created a platform for locals and travellers to share their story and love for the island. By no means do we put a barrier between our “followers” and ourselves. We are all in this together. And that is why in just 6 months over 4,000 photos have been shared using #MyNewCaledonia and over 480 contributors from all over the world.
4. Take the time to talk
It is important to stay engaged with your audience. Reply to comments and messages – even if it is just a “thank you” or smiley face.
Some might not be immediate customers, but it doesn’t mean they are less important. In fact, they are important because you have already won the first step in the relationship: they know “who you are” and “what you do“. They are aware of your brand, and they can recommend you to others.
5. Do not copy
“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Do not copy someone else’s story. They have been successful writing their own, and that’s how they stood out from the crowd. So think creatively:
- Who will your audience talk to: your “main character”
- Colour palette
- Images and editing style
- Homepage and menu items of your website (think outside the box, don’t call a “blog” a “blog” if your website is related to travel, call it “travel tips”, “stories”)
Tell your own brand story. We live in an amplified subculture world thanks to social media. That’s how your voice can resonate. Don’t be another brand spam (like Coca Cola with its Journey magazine barely attracting 600 visitors on its website and 20K followers on Instagram).
There is always someone who wants to listen if you stay true to “who you are” and “what you do”.
How do you tell your story?