THE TRIPOD BLOG
Why are some brands perpetually sold-out? (And not the tactic-ky sold-out-but-not-really kind––the truly “sold-out” sold out kind.)
Simple. When there’s demand for your brand, competitors become background noise. That demand comes from strategic branding; from your values and value props to how you advertise and convey your brand personality. It’s what makes Converse more than a pair of shoes or iPhone more than a smartphone.
Many brands inadvertently undermine their brand authority and make it harder for people to connect with their brand. Here are the top 2 common mistakes and what to do instead.
As a solution provider, you have created systems and features to solve a problem. But if you prioritize those proprietary systems and features over the benefits someone will experience, it’s a hard sell on your product or service and your brand becomes unmemorable.
The marketing definition for “unmemorable” is brand invisibility. Not. Good.
Our brains constantly (and subconsciously) scan our environment for information to meet our basic needs and make our lives easier. That environment includes advertising, either direct paid ads or indirect messaging, like free content and social media content.
Your customers come pre-wired with burning questions and if you can’t answer those questions clearly and quickly, they’ll just move onto another brand. If your customer has to think too hard for too long––if there’s too much noise––their brain shuts off and you’ve just lost a customer.
Let’s roll with this noise idea. The Internet is often accused of being noisy, but most actual noise comes from a brand itself. This is where business owners tend to get in their own way; too much information burns too many brain calories for customers to bother with.
Here’s what it looks like when a brand shoves too much information onto its audience (and does double harm to its brand by failing to support what should be a prominent message: Ethical or sustainable values).
Instantly, we’re flooded with a mixed laundry list of both types of floors and brands they carry. So, do these guys install? Do they sell residential? Commercial? Do they specialize in any one flooring, can they give specific recommendations, will they sell me something based on the kickback they get from the wholesaler? I came with my own questions and I’m tapping out with so, so many more.
But let’s look at this one:
First: the background is wood flooring. Reassuring.
Second: I instantly know they are wood floor specialists. So if I’m looking for carpets, I’m out but that’s fine––I’m not their target audience. If I’m looking for wood floors, I already know they only do wood, and I know they do their own millwork and finishing, including probably the two most important parts of a beautiful wood floor: Stair nosing and transitions.
And they did all this in a fraction of the space and way fewer words. Because, #brandingstrategy. I’m definitely surfing this site more.
So how do you less of Example 1 and more of Example 2? Here we go!
A BRAND is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. It’s not what YOU say it is; it’s what THEY say it is.
BRANDING is the process of connecting good strategy with good creativity.
That gem right there came from StoryBrand CEO Donald Miller. It’s not just a catchy-but-true observation––it’s rooted in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
In a nutshell, our brains are biologically wired to take care of our needs in a certain order of priorities. Here’s a quick review right outta Psych 101:
First, our brains have to create systems that care for our physiological needs so we can physically survive. In cave-person days, that was eating and drinking but today, it looks more like having a dependable income.
Then, we’re concerned with safety, which looks like making sure there’s a roof over our head and a general sense of well-being. This is about removing vulnerabilities so we can feel safe.
Now that we’re fed and we have a roof over our heads, our brains can focus on relationships that can help protect us against social threats. This is why many brands use verbiage that includes “tribe”––it’s this need they are targeting.
When all that is taken care of, our brains turn to achieving greater psychological, physiological and spiritual needs that give a greater sense of meaning to our lives.
I don’t have to tell you that brains are busy command-centres that don’t have time to sort through a bunch of fluff to get to the stuff it’s after. Customers don’t have the bandwidth to do that work. They just want to get to the facts and work with a company that makes life just a little bit easier.
Don’t trick yourself into thinking your customers are interested in ALL the information you can give them right away. The “essence of effective branding is to create simple, relevant messages you can repeat over and over to brand yourself into public consciousness” (that’s Donald Miller again).
One of the biggest branding success stories is, of course, Starbucks. The company grew into the largest coffeehouse chain in the world based on their commitment to providing the best coffee experience and balancing profitability and social conscience.
Here’s a recap, real quick:
When the brand visionary, Howard Schultz, stepped down as CEO in 2000, the coffee chain drifted away from its roots (remember those breakfast sandwiches paired with DVDs and CDs?) and floundered. When Schultz returned to the helm to rescue his brand in 2008, he made some hard decisions. He shuttered hundreds of stores but kept Starbucks employee health care, free college tuition, paid parental and sick leave. He raised prices to bring in ethically sourced coffee. And he brought the aroma of fresh coffee back into stores (because, of course, this whole endeavour started out with a vision of serving the perfect espresso, Milan-style).
If you want to know more about the Starbucks brand evolution, I highly recommend the Howard Schultz: Saving Starbucks on the Business Movers Podcast.
The point is, your brand values aren’t just line items in a brand document. Your values should be baked into the language, culture and processes of your business and should in no way, shape or form sound anything like marketing jargon. The consistency and authenticity of your brand values help your customers recognize and become loyal to your brand.
Just to drive home this statement: A recent HubSpot survey found 86 per cent of consumers prefer an authentic and honest brand personality on social networks. Nobody’s showing up for “Respect” or “Excellence” these days–– just ask Enron.
Successful brands are highly self-aware of their values and culture. When they drift from those values, customers notice. Trust erodes. Sales fall. And not all brands can survive the damage as well as Starbucks did.
People are judge-y and that’s a cold, hard fact. They will judge everything about your brand by its attractiveness, which includes your logo, website, marketing material and imagery. It includes your physical space, like a storefront or office if you have either, how you package your product, and the way your people look and behave.
It takes 10 seconds for people to form an opinion about a logo. You have about six seconds to grab and hold someone’s attention on your website. At every single touchpoint, your customer’s eyes will decide if your company is a fit for them. And they’ll do it quickly.
This is where the image choices you make as a brand can really help you stand out, or push you into the Internet wallpaper. Is your site full of stock photos? Or exciting custom illustrations no one else has? And is that style replicated across all of your marketing touch points?
Because according to a recent study by LucidPress, consistent presentation of a brand can increase revenue growth by up to 23 per cent. That’s nearly a full quarter just by making sure your messaging (visual and non-visual) is consistent across all your marketing touch points like your website, social media and promotional material.