Why is it that when I was at a friend’s place for some Superbowl party, I found they are making the queso in a generic slow cooker, but they asked me to turn off the “Crock-Pot”? Because Crock-Pot did a really good job at defining their brand, so good that it doesn’t matter if you have their brand name appliance or not — you still probably offer free word of mouth advertising for them because your brain associates their brand as the defining version of the product type.
Now this is an extreme example of a brand taking a strong place in the collective mind of The Consumer. However, strengthening your brand can move you in this direction. Hopefully, some day your company’s brand will be so strong that people ask for a [insert your Brand Name] when they need [insert your product or service].
So what are some ways to help establish your brand? How do you set yourself apart? How do you define yourself in the market place? Let’s talk through some of the ways. But first here is a little mini-quiz for you to think through:
What do you think potential customers think when they come across your brand? (If you’re thinking that they’re thinking, “Wow what a perfect thing that I never could have dreamed up, I must have it, AMAZING WOW YES.” Then you suck at self-analysis and need to work on awareness and honesty. Because if you were that good, you wouldn’t have made it to this post, much less through the first 250 words…) There are probably some very strong points to your product and also some big weaknesses. Think through these things.
What problem does your product or service solve?
What’s your mission statement?
Brands are about consistency — I know what a Coke tastes like. What do you want customers to consistently associate with your brand?
Now, ideally these aren’t questions that require a lot of thought for you (at least not anymore). I hope you’ve already been through these questions in depth and continue to tweak as your products and service improve but by now they should be known so well that if someone asked you could clearly articulate the benefits of your business. That’s the ideal. But that is unfortunately, not very common. So think through it.
[Side tip: Have a great logo. It’s the symbol that gives immediate recall to all the wonderful things your company does and makes people feel. So that every time they see that Logo — it immediately summons all those past experiences that you spent all that money and time creating for your customers and potential customers! If they don’t remember your name or logo, they won’t be able to associate all that stuff you did with you and some other product that is more memorable might steal those associations. I know that Pepsi is a cola but Coke has all the memories for me so I choose Coke when I drink a soda. It works for Pepsi with those who attach the memories to them. Coke is just another cola, but it is not just another cola.]
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
1) Figure out your Different Factor.
Maybe you’ve been able to save money by mass producing your product or going direct-to-consumer and can pass those savings on to your customers and you’re going for the low-cost differentiation factor. Maybe you make low-volume products by hand and are going for the unique or artisanal factor. Maybe you found a niche and make baseball cards for little leagues across America. I don’t know your thing, but you should figure it out.
2) Define the Quality.
The world is officially connected. The Collective Voice is here. If you make terrible products, people all over the world will know — because, hey, this thing, the internet. So Quality is more important than ever for your brand survival. Since it should be high quality services anyway, why not talk about it? Brands that can tout true quality and value for their customers will not only have returning customers, but will gain new customers from their new customers, from their old customers. Talk about your quality. Whether it’s a brand like Give’r gloves, who hand make their gloves for hands — and make them to last or letting people try out your product for free as a good faith offering; quality will always overcome trash in the long run.
3) Risk Being Bold.
There are plenty safe brands out there that succeed. They make a copy of other brands and expect to gain market share — and many, many do. That’s fine. But if you want to aim for the giant leagues, you have to dare to be truly unique and that means standing out. It is risky to stand out from the pack. But if you always play it safe, you will never make it big. Sensible decisions are good, don’t get me wrong. But if you are unable to take risks and show your colors — no one will remember you. Or at least, they won’t distinguish you from the hundreds of other brands doing what you do. Risk being bold. Find a statement worth getting behind and make it loud, be bold.
4) Give Consumers the Magic.
When I order something online, the experience better be simple and pleasant. When I’m shopping at a store — it better be a good experience. There is a reason why I don’t go to the grocery store on Sunday. There is a reason why I don’t order off sites that look like crap or don’t function well. We have other options, that are getting faster and easier every day. So we’ll take them. There are those that go beyond. I ordered some vinyl records from a label and they came with a handful of extra goodies. I ordered a iPhone lens that came with a little plastic dinosaur. That may not do it for you but it made me smile and created a little warm moment in my day. That warm moment is catalogued under their brand for me and I associate that memory with them. I will choose them over other brands for my lenses until something does better. So far nothing has or hasn’t had a chance too. Maybe they never will. Give customers a little extra magic. Create warm, pleasant moments for users to associate with your brand. People remember sad things vividly, but people remember good things too. Be some of the good things.
5) Participate In Random Good.
This is where you go even further. I’m not saying you have to be completely altruistic — who knows if it’s even completely possible, this isn’t an ethics class. However, think about if you considered your brand an extension of yourself. For me, some of the most powerful moments of my life have been when I did something good for someone just because or when I was having a bad moment and someone did something good for me, without having any financial incentive etc. This is one of the most beautiful parts of humanity. Why not bring that into your brand? You should spread goodness with your brand because it makes the world a better place, encourages other people to participate in humanity, and honestly makes you feel good too. This will never be wasted energy. I truly believe participating in the Random Good will always be among the greatest investments you can make. Obviously, you’ve got to get that cash money to participate in society and eat, and have access to medicine, and let’s face it have nice things that you want. But make room for the Random Good. You’ll be building a business worth building, and you can be proud of the time you spent working on such a business for the rest of your life.
As always, let me know if you have any questions and please share good stories with the rest of us!