April 10, 2019
Street-Smart Branding: 3 Secrets You Need to Know
Share This Post
It's a great irony that companies invest untold amounts of money to build up their brand equity, but they rarely do anything to stop its dilution. Quite the opposite: they accelerate it. There’s plenty of theory but often not a lot of practicality or follow-through. Even if the theory’s right, nothing happens without sharp, street-smart execution. Here’s how to make that happen.
McDonald's infamous tweet aimed at children: "Say hello to our newest friend, Happy!" Most children screamed. Maybe because they hadn't watched Scarface.
All communications: newsletters, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, sales decks, sales pitches, interviews, white papers, etc. When you read, hear or review anything, ask yourself what the key impressions and takeaways are. If those takeaways don't precisely align with your brand messaging, then at best, you're not helping your brand and at worst, you're seriously harming it.
Remember that salespeople are trying to sell, not worry about messaging consistency. Writers are trying to meet a deadline and reach an audience, not asking themselves if the incisive points they're making align with your brand. Social media agencies and internal posters are often inexperienced people who don't even understand branding. As for agencies, well, they're not all created equal.
But even if you get these stakeholders into a perfect syzygy, that’s strategy, not execution. Which leads us to the next branding execution point.
Clinica Dental's logo. Apparently, cleaning your teeth is just the beginning of your experience.
You're about to buy your next Lamborghini, but you want to think over those tough philosophical questions: Fully automatic gull-wings or semi-automatic? So the sales manager gives you her business card. It's taupe, thin, in a state of perpetual crinkle and her name is printed in 14 pt. Courier. This is about as persuasive as Pee-Wee Herman's headlining an MMA event.
So the sale's lost and you might just be heading over to Ferrari. Of course, this would never happen in real life and, when it comes to Italian racing and sports cars, that's certainly true. But when it comes to start-ups and sometimes even larger companies on a CFO-imposed diet, it happens more often than you'd think.
The Compassion Foundation "helps those in need." Unfortunately for them, this is not a need that has widespread appeal.
What do you think the odds are that Fiverr hired someone for $5 to design its own logo -- or to write its own copy?
Now, suppose I told you there was no #3, that I lied, that I made up the title because "3" sounds much better than "2." You'd understand my reasoning but you still wouldn't trust me.
We’ve seen that you must consider every way your brand evokes a response among your multiple target audiences -- not just words, but sounds, designs, the tactile appearance of promotional materials and the like. On the last leg of our brand dilution triumvirate stands lack of brand truth.
Imagine being born a dwarf, never growing to even 3 feet tall, being abandoned at birth and then raised by foster parents, who respectively died when you were in the 8th and 10th grade. Perhaps you'd be too embarrassed to speak to others, let alone to try anything other than a menial job. John and Greg Rice, identical twins, didn't think that way.
They went on to become door-to-door salesmen, real estate moguls, pest-control-service advertising personalities, motivational speakers, and multi-millionaires. How? By embracing who they were, never hiding their diminutiveness but never using it as an excuse, either. They were authentic.
Yet so many people try to be what they are not and never could be, rather than being proud of who they are. Brands are the same way. Consider:
A patriotic event with Rosanne Barr singing The Star-Spangled Banner while sounding more like a banshee in heat. A counterculture event headlined by Donnie Osmond.A "We put America to work" company that outsources 90% of its products to China.
In corporate America, this happens because there's too much of a desire to keep up with the competition. Your competitor does "X," so have to do "X+." And in doing so, you lose your soul.
Entrepreneurs fall prey to this form of dilution because they wish their product did what they're claiming, even though it doesn't. So instead of focusing on meaningful differentiation, they lose their authenticity -- and when the customers and analysts find out, it backfires, because their product/service can never be what it isn't.
Individuals looking for jobs have this problem too. Do you claim you're first and foremost a "people person" when you hate speaking, hate meetings and hate sales? Do you claim that you "love detailed analyses" when you failed 1st-grade math? Do you trumpet that you're the perfect "team player" when you have the personality of Steve Jobs?
Hypocrite or not?
Some say authenticity is irrelevant, especially to Millennials. Douglas Brundage, writing in Advertising Age, cited Vice and Kanye West to support this case:
"Vice has built a powerful brand rooted in counter-culture and anti-establishment mentalities despite quite literally "selling out" to conservative entities -- first in 2013 when it sold a stake to Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, then again in 2014 when it sold a stake to Disney and Hearst's A&E Networks. It even shut down an iconic Brooklyn music venue in order to gulp up more real estate.
"Kanye West is not authentic, yet he's the most influential celebrity alive. He preaches accessibility in fashion, then turns around to create hyper-limited, $200 to $525 runs of sneakers, or charges $55 for $4 Gildan tees in his promotional pop-ups.
"Vice and Kanye are hypocrites. But aren't we all? It's what makes us human. They may not be authentic, but the way they talk to people is."
But are they really hypocrites? Not to my mind, because I would say they are selling vicarious experiences. And they are authentically vicarious.
Kanye is saying "You can get a taste of my incredible lifestyle in an accessible way. Wear what I recommend and you will be a part of the Kanye experience."
Deliver a shock to the system by finding your real strengths. Also, make sure they're not platitudes or banalities. The Rice twins were short. Shorter than almost anyone else on the planet. They didn't buy stilts and neither should you.
If you want to be a construction mogul, do you think that looking like Brad Pitt is going to help you?
When you give customers reasons not to believe in your brand, you also give them reasons to believe in someone else's.
Share This Post