Most marketing novices think selling is simply a matter of telling your prospective customers all about what you do or can do—a cataloguing of features the prospect is likely to be interested in. I call this the “laundry list” approach to marketing.
But in a world where all “features” are equal, what makes one product or service—one brand—stand out?
Anyone buying your product or service is looking for you to solve a problem for them, to address their pain points. It doesn’t have to be a huge problem that if solved becomes life changing. It might be as simple as your product or service making a daily chore or task simpler or more convenient.
Whatever it is, the key is to connect emotionally with your target audience. That’s where the branding magic begins. Connect emotionally, and your prospective customers will listen more intently to what you have to say . . . and that’s where your brand story comes in, the “thing” about your brand that makes you truly unique.
Think lifestyle brands. Think Apple. Think Starbucks. Think Nike. Even think La’Croix, which has transformed itself into a highly desirable soda substitute. These brands are masters of brand storytelling, particularly how they make their target audiences feel.
A few years ago, I wrote the blog “What Makes Your Brand Unique?” which explored how brands must be more than a logo, a tag line, and a business card; and how brands must be able to communicate their story in a way that makes audiences connect emotionally to them and not another brand.
Here’s that blog again in its entirety. Enjoy!
What Makes Your Brand Unique?
(Originally posted by Paul June, July 8, 2014)
What does the story of your brand tell your audience about your products or services . . . about your company?
Is your brand nothing more than a logo, a tag line, and a business card, or does your brand connect emotionally with those you serve? (Hint: If it doesn’t, it should.)
Your brand represents everything you and your company are about, not just the “thing” you sell. It is the promise you make to your customers—it’s what you stand for, the need you fulfill in the lives of your customers, the value you bring to them.
For example, mega-lender Fannie Mae is not just in the business of mortgage lending; rather Fannie Mae is in the business of making dreams come true. Their brand is not the particular thing they offer—in their case, mortgages—but rather the benefit they provide to customers: dream realization.
Similarly, Apple does not just sell computers or smartphones or tablets (arguably, from a technology standpoint, their products are not marketplace best); rather, they sell a technological mindset or lifestyle. Plain and simple, it’s “cool” to own an Apple product, to be part of the club. Flashing your Samsung just ain’t that sexy!
Let’s consider a professional service provider—business consulting, for example. How can you possibly hope to stand out from the thousands of other business consultants out there offering similar services to the same target audience? What makes you different? What about your brand would make anyone take notice of what you have to offer versus someone else?
Your brand story is what makes you unique, and it’s your ability to communicate that story—the unique qualities of your brand that bring value to your customers—that makes audiences connect emotionally to you (and not somebody else), that makes them say, this is the person I want to work with. It’s not where you went to school or what books you wrote or what awards you’ve won. Sure, those are nice credibility boosters, they are nice footnotes to your brand story, but If you don’t first connect emotionally and attract the attention and the emotions of your target customers, all the accolades in the world don’t matter. Like it or not, expertise, know-how, and customer service are typically “givens” these days. Where you can stand out is in areas such as reliability, responsiveness, availability, and the ability to deliver results.
Will the Real Brand Stand Up?
Here are some tried-and-true maxims about brands, courtesy of branding guru David Gumner, President, ActiveBrands (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-gumner/0/96a/5b6):
- Great brands are personal.They become an integral part of people’s lives by forging emotional connections.
- Your brand tells the story of what business you are in.It connects to the need your brand fulfills in the lives of your clients.
- Successful brand-building and consistency go hand-in-hand.If the brand message is always changing, consumers begin to question whether they can trust the brand.
- What a company stands for is more important than what it sells.Value-based branding goes beyond the facts to the heart. Consumers must believe in your value proposition, which doesn’t ever change.
Have you ever tried to articulate the story of your brand? How would you describe the role you play in the lives of your customers? Who is the hero of the story? Who are the antagonist (your rivals, competitors)? What potential plot twists (challenges) might you encounter along the way to success? What does your happy ending look like? What will make the story of your brand resonate most with your audience?
Share your brand experiences here. Interested monkeyz want to know.