Just Because It's Popular
I attended a branding seminar many years ago. And while I can’t for the life of me, remember the finer details of the seminar (or even the speaker for that matter), there was one thing that stood out to me; that branding happens, “At Every Point Of Contact”, or, as the speaker abbreviated, Branding @EPOC. It's something that stuck with me is the foundation of my beliefs when it comes to business.
If you’re stepping into an expensive Japanese restaurant, how would you feel if the décor was covered with Greek Frescas? Or if you step into The Ritz Carlton, and salutation presented to you at the front desk was, “’sup”. A lot of people think of a brand as the logo. But a complete brand strategy should be pervasive. From obviously its logo, to things you wouldn’t normally associate with branding, like Human Resources.
Unfortunately, when a lot of people start thinking about other aspects of their business, they forget this. Not only the solopreneur and the small operator, but even those who consider marketing their bread and butter. People get caught up with tactics and trends because it is fashionable. But let’s not forget what Oscar Wilde says about fashion. “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months”.
A few things to think about instead, when you’re thinking about your marketing strategy.
1. Who are you speaking to?
The language, imagery, and channels that you’re using to market yourself and your services. If you’re marketing health and wellness and you’re using words like ‘longevity’, or ‘age-defying’, while these words might be fantastic for Baby Boomers, they’re not likely going to resonate millennials or Gen-Z
2. Where does your audience hang out?
If you’re selling a children’s breakfast cereal, talk radio probably isn’t what children are tuning in to. It’s not that radio ads don’t work, but if your audience don’t hang out there, they’re not likely to consume this ad. Similarly on social media. Where is your audience going to be seeing your marketing materials? And why are they there? What is the content of what you’re posting? Yes. Facebook and Instagram are connected, but should you be conveying the same message in both? Whereas you might want to post something about the benefits of Vitamin C on both platforms, on Instagram, you want to be able to show your content in the visual rather than in the description of the post. With Facebook on the other hand, it might be prudent to provide a short paragraph to say a little more, because of how people consume information on the two different platforms.
3. What are you trying to accomplish?
Something that is supposed to be trendy this year, is marketing using text messaging. On paper, it’s a great vehicle. People are more likely to pick up their phone and check the text message over receiving a notification that shows up on social media. That being said, the reason that people are more likely to check their text messages on their phone is because they expect that the message is coming from friends and family. If you’re a food delivery service suggesting to people via text message that people should order their lunch via your app every day, you’re very likely going to find yourself with some upset customers.
4. What is the perception it makes about your brand?
It doesn’t matter if you are a solopreneur or if you’re a large corporation, think about what you’re trying to say and how it will be perceived when other people hear it. In 2006, the then CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch - Mike Jefferies, famously came under fire for the following comment. “We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive, all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
The fact that Abercrombie has a target audience, that’s great. A&F was great at inbound filtering. Price points, size limitations. Outbound messaging needs a different kind of filter. You can say that you do this for giving people something to aspire to. Gatorade for example, used Michael Jordan as their spokesperson with the tagline, “Be Like Mike”. It gives people something to aspire to without shaming people. What Mr. Jefferies said would almost be like. “Don’t buy our drinks if you’re not a star athlete”.
5. Why should your audience care?
In movies, we often hear as criticism that the film has ‘too much exposition’. Quite simply, they talked too much, relentlessly explaining a situation or story as opposed to showing it to the audience. We live now at a time where attention spans are shorter than they have ever been before. If the message you’re trying to convey doesn’t resonate with your audience immediately, they will tune it out. The average length of a pop song used to be roughly about 4 minutes. We are finding more and more songs now that don’t even hit 3 minutes.
So. What are you trying to say in your marketing directly or indirectly? Why should people care? Tom’s Shoes quickly gathered steam when it said that it would give away one pair of shoes to charity for every pair it sold. Great. But even a social mission message like that will eventually get stale over time, especially when other people start exploiting the concept.
These are just a couple of examples of how you should think about your marketing and your brand. Instead of only trying to find that next hook, think about a more holistic approach to developing your marketing strategy, always thinking about what it means to your brand.