So ya wanna build a brand, huh? Maybe you want to reach YouTube stardom like Gary Vaynerchuk, you’re in awe of Beyoncé’s 11.1m likes on a single Instagram post last year, or you’re rolling your eyes at Coca-Cola’s new “beyond soda” branding and seek advice on branding that actually makes your audience want to buy something.
Or, maybe you simply just love what you’re doing and want to share your message with more people.
Whatever the reason you seek advice about branding – on a personal or business level – this post will arm you 4 key pieces of advice you need to start building an online fortress.
1. Know your worth (and OWN it)
One thing the world’s 10 most powerful brands have in common is that they know the value they provide their audience – and they own it.
Remember when Nike came out with that line of cat clothes? You know, the little jerseys with paw holes? Of course you don’t, because Nike never sold cat clothes; the Nike brand has stayed true to providing their (human) customers with fashionable athletic footwear for over 40 years. Nike has proven that the best advice about branding is knowing what you’re good at and running with it (pun totally intended).
In order to start branding yourself or your business, first, know your value. What is the one thing your brand is great at? Nike is great at manufacturing athletic footwear; Gary Vee is great at social media marketing; Beyonce is great at
everything performing music; Coca-Cola is great at manufacturing soda (or “pop” for those midwesterners).
Entrepreneur and founder of the #1 flat-rate graphic design company in the world, Russ Perry, sums up his advice about branding by saying, “be confident in a niche. Niche down.” Decide where you can provide the most value and focus your efforts on becoming great at providing that value.
“Even in a world where you don’t have a huge audience, you have a way to bring value to somebody. If you can figure out how to do that, and then leverage that value for them to give you what you want, you will win… When you don’t care more about your audience than what you have to say, you will win.” –Gary Vaynerchuk
2. Define, then build your audience
To leverage your value, you need to be confident that your audience recognizes and appreciates your value.
Confidence comes from knowing your ideal customer profile. Knowing the characteristics of your ideal customer can help you find and market towards people who share those characteristics (and will most likely become a customer).
If you were selling modern designer furniture, would you be more confident in an audience of upstate New Yorkers in their 40s making over $250,000 per year, or an audience of college kids living in the dorm rooms of North Dakota State?
The absolute best advice about branding is this: define your ideal audience, then market your content using language and imagery relevant to that audience.
Define your ideal target audience using characteristics like:
- Marital Status
- Political Values
- Physical Location
- Hobbies / Interests
Once you’ve built your ideal customer avatar, refer to those characteristics when creating content for your brand.
If you are marketing towards upstate New Yorkers in their 40s making over $250,000 per year, you’re not going to use verbiage like “functional and economic” in your advertising, and you certainly aren’t going to run Google AdWords campaigns on search terms like “dorm room furniture” or “Ikea furniture alternatives”. Instead, you might advertise with an elegant photo in Luxe magazine, using ad copy about your furniture taking a unique spin to the latest interior design trends, or with a simple, elegant phrase.
If you already have a customer base established, take time to research the top 20% of your customers, because the top 20% of your customers typically account for 80% of your revenue (according to the Pareto 80/20 Rule). Distinguishing shared characteristics of the top 20% of your customers will help you to find the actual characteristics of the people you should be marketing to.
Two free tools to help you define and understand your audience are Google Analytics and Facebook Audience Insights. Both tools can help you create reports about engagement, experience, and behavior trends amongst your audience.
Once you’ve got your audience defined, it’s time to knock their socks off with relevant and creative content.
3. Create conversation, not ‘content’
All content is not created equal.
The purpose of putting out “content” – i.e. YouTube videos, images on social media, or blog posts – is to convince your audience that you possess the knowledge or offer the resources necessary to create a positive change in their lives.
“Our job is not to create content. Our job is to change the world of the people who consume it.” – quote about marketing by Andrea Fryrear
Create content that sparks meaningful conversation with your audience about topics that matter to you, your company, and your brand.
The feminine hygiene product brand Always sparked a meaningful conversation around an important topic for their audience – confidence after puberty – with their #LikeAGirl campaign in 2013.
The campaign started with a 3-minute video asking adults and young boys what it means to run, throw, and fight “like a girl”. They acted out girls flailing their arms, complaining about hair getting in their face, and not being very strong or capable. The video takes a twist when the film director ask young girls what it means to do something “like a girl” and they portray fast, strong, capable actions. The drastically different reaction of these young women sparked a 5-year conversation on confidence after puberty and the social injustices women face daily on and off the field.
If Always had followed in the footsteps of historical tampon advertising, they would’ve put out another video showcasing how their product is most discreet for the “less dainty” time of the month; instead, Always sparked a conversation by telling a story of how perception changes with age and societal expectations.
Not only did this campaign cause people to buy more tampons, but they started talking to their friends and coworkers about the Always commercial that had them tearing up – which led into more serious conversations about the post-puberty societal pressures that are causing our female youth to be ashamed of their bodies. Five years later, this powerful advertisement has caused over 970,000 people to join the conversation on Instagram using the hashtag #likeagirl.
The best advice about branding to take away from the Always #likeagirl campaign is that the best content changes the way a person thinks about themselves and the way they fit into the world.
Create content that will change the reality of your audience. In return, your audience will look to you the next time they’re feeling down about puberty troubles or need one of your sport-proof products.
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
4. Consistently deliver your brand promise
Create content that consistently delivers your brand promise – the underlying “why” driving the course of your business.
Keep the look and feel of your content consistent so your audience will recognize your content and start to associate your branding with your brand promise; the more consistently you deliver on your brand promise, the more your audience will trust you to deliver an exceptional experience every time. Use the same colors, verbiage, and design elements to keep the user experience consistent.
Creating content that provokes emotion and conversation with consistent branding takes practice and patience.
Remember: Beyoncé wasn’t built in a day.
Have a branding guide in place – even if you are the only person on your marketing team – so you can refer back to it when creating content and designing ads for your business.
A branding guide includes design style standards for creating content, such as:
- Logos and logo variations
- Color scheme
- Font and typography
- Design Elements
- Value Proposition
Creating a complete branding guide is the first step in creating content that sparks conversation and delivers on your brand promise.
Take your branding to the next level by downloading your copy of the Design Pickle guide to creating a complete branding guide.
Knowing your worth, defining your audience, creating conversation and consistently delivering your brand promise are the 4 key tips you need to start building a brand like Nike, Always and Beyoncé today. #slay