media

Branding: The Key to a Knockout Campaign

American Flag

It might be difficult for some people to see the overlap between political consulting and branding, but as we experienced in the last election cycle, branding is playing a larger role in campaigning than ever before. These emerging market trends line up perfectly with our brand philosophies at Sol Marketing. Here are some lessons we learned this past January: 1. Before anything else, make sure your political party is in alignment. This will allow you to communicate with your target audience in a deliberate and effective way.

2. It's not what you do, it's how you do it!

3. Don't try to be something you're not - authenticity is key.

4. With all types of distractions floating around these days, it can be hard to keep anyone's attention. Candidates have to be creative in how they stand out; the more eyeballs that are on you, the better.

Read on for a better understanding of political consulting trends and how they relate to branding: https://www.campaignsandelections.com/campaign-insider/10-trends-in-political-consulting-the-trendsetters-that-made-them-cool

 

Guest Post: The biggest brand that broke its promise this election cycle

AmericanFlag

By Geoff Nelson Last week Deb wrote about how both political brands broke their promise to their respective audiences and it struck a chord with me. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump in with my two cents.

An even larger and more important brand broke its promise to its customers over the last 18 months; the media. Think about it. An entire industry broke its brand promise. Not since yellow journalism of the 1880s where exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering and sensationalism was used to sell more papers has the media gone to such lows. When Kyle Smith over at the New York Post (tabloid journalism at its finest) must call out the rest of the media for their shameful behavior, you know things have gotten bad. He wrote, “I didn’t vote for him either, but Trump won. Pull yourselves together and deal with it, if you ever want to be taken seriously again…. The media are supposed to tell us what happened, not speculate on the future. But its incessant scaremongering, the utter lack of proportionality and the shameless use of double standards are an embarrassment, one that is demeaning the value of the institution.”

The brand promise of the media is trust. The job is to find and report the facts. Let’s walk through the three most important questions a media brand must answer for its customers:

  1. What does it say about a person that they use/wear/drive/eat/drink/support this brand?

Whatever news outlet you follow says a lot about you. Conservatives follow Fox, liberals CNN and the rest of us try to read a little bit from everywhere to try and get a balance. The 2008 elections set off a brand war over media with the public. They defend their outlet and bash the other side. Now an entire industry is tarnished. Per Gallup, “Americans' trust and confidence in the mass media "to report the news fully, accurately and fairly" has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year.”

  1. What is the singular thing a person gets from this brand they can’t get anywhere else?

This is where it gets interesting dear readers. I can get my news from so many other places besides major media outlets. The mainstream media had a monopoly for almost three hundred years. The Boston News-Letter was the first continuously published newspaper in the United States in 1704. Super fast-forward and we come to the first blog news sites in 2002 and then twitter and facebook. What was a monopoly became citizen journalism. The mainstream media looked down their collective noses and scoffed. Then comes twitter and facebook. The outlets for finding and digesting news intensified. The media lost its hold on exclusiveness. You can get news now from hundreds of places. Not only can I get it anywhere else on demand, I can get if from more trusted sources.

  1. How does this brand make a person the hero in his/her own story?

Knowledge is power. Having the indisputable facts to base your argument and frame of reference upon enable you to persuade and educate others. That was the customer felt the hero in the past. I trusted the source and felt empowered to state my opinion based on facts. This is the biggest and most interesting point. The majority of the American public decided they could be the hero in their own story quite fine without the medias help. A Media Research Center/YouGov poll found that, “7 in 10 (69%) voters do not believe the news media are honest and truthful.” And, “97% of voters said they did not let the media’s bias influence their vote.” That is an incredibly high number of people who said they just tuned them out. And the election results prove the survey correct.

Brands exist to elevate their customers’ self-concepts. This wasn’t a misalignment as with the political parties. It was a total abandonment. These customers felt like the could accomplish anything, and reach self-actualization and achieve their full potential as humans quite fine without what has been one of the most trusted and powerful institutions on the planet.  I truly hope they can dust themselves off and get back to being the trusted brands they once were.

When Political Parties Fail at Brand Basics

Business Suit

The brands of both major US political parties are broken. Both parties crafted brands that have revealed that they're out of alignment with their constituents.  The fact that so many pollsters and pundits were wrong reveals that voters hid their true intentions. Democrats made too many assumptions and suffered. Many Republicans disavowed a candidate whose brand eventually won anyhow. My personal observations while on my morning commute this election season reinforced significant branding problems for both parties. Gone were the bumper stickers and magnetic car signs common on my route back in 2008 and 2012. And where were all the yard signs advertising my neighbors’ support for their preferred candidates? I observed a totally different kind of water cooler conversation this time around too, in which my colleagues talked in generalities about campaign shenanigans and the media, but rarely stated strong opinions about any party’s candidate for fear others would judge them harshly. Myself, I was downright embarrassed to admit my political leanings to anyone. I still am.

Let’s dissect some specifics a bit further through the lens of branding. If you’ve been following along at home, you now know that a brand’s role is to answer these three important questions for its customers:

  1. What does it say about a person that they use/wear/drive/eat/drink/support this brand?

The number of Republicans who went on record saying they wouldn't support Trump was well over 100. It shook many Republican voters' confidence in their party's candidate. After all, the ultimate in brand embarrassment is when the "company" doesn't eat its own dog food.

  1. What is the singular thing a person gets from this brand they can’t get anywhere else?

Jayson Demers, CEO of AudienceBloom, wrote an article on the Entrepreneur website on this very topic.  Trump gave his audience a niche-focused message to white working class males. He was extreme and polarizing, which his audience valued. He was anti-establishment, which played into the general dissatisfaction Americans felt. Trump was also nostalgic. He consistently reminded his audience of a time when they believed America was better. Trump’s Facebook and Twitter numbers certainly proved that he had struck a nerve, doubling Hillary Clinton's followers in both channels.

  1. How does this brand make a person the hero in his/her own story?

Hillary made her brand about her. This hurt her with minorities. Many couldn’t see the Clinton brand making them the hero. The facts show that her campaign failed to activate the minority coalition that supported Obama in previous elections. According to Pew Research, “Hillary Clinton did not run as strongly among these core Democratic groups as Obama did in 2012. Clinton held an 80-point advantage among blacks (88% to 8%,) compared with Obama’s 87-point edge four years ago (93% to 6%). In 2008, Obama had a 91-point advantage among blacks.” Back in 2012, voters clearly saw how they could be a hero in the Obama narrative.

Bottom line: brands exist to elevate their customers’ self-concepts. Customers align themselves with brands because they like what those brands say about them. The brands they love make them feel proud, give them that feeling they have the world on a string, like they can accomplish anything, like they’ll reach self-actualization and achieve their full potential as humans.

Erase Your Bad Social Media History

Social Media

Ever wish you could go back in time and tell yourself NOT to post that embarrassing or inappropriate photo? Today, employers are adding social media pages to the screening criteria for jobs. Does Get Suitable have the “secret sauce” to erase negative or inappropriate posts from your past and prevent those type of posts in the future?

Listen to "Erase Your Bad Social Media History" on Surviving the Startup podcast with host Marc Amazon and special guest Sol founder and CEO, Deb Gabor to find out if this startup is merely "selling a better mousetrap to people who don’t realize they have a mice problem."

Be sure to show some love by subscribing and giving a 5 star rating!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/surviving-the-startup/id1123822513?mt=2

How Does Your Brand Get Your Customer Laid?

Macbook

When I consult with clients and they struggle with the story their brand tells about their customer, my favorite shortcut is to ask, “How does your product or service get your customer laid?” I literally ask my clients this very question. At first, they’re shocked. But it works.

Strong brands help their customers solve problems, present a positive image to the world, feel empowered, feel accomplished, and feel like the hero in their own personal stories.

Think about what happens when you’re feeling like you’re on top of the world, feeling heroic, and feeling that everything is working out the way you hoped it would.

No matter which cliché you use—the feeling of having wind in your sails, the world on a string, or holding life by the balls—that feeling puts you in the mood for sex.

When I say having sex, it may mean literally jumping into bed naked with your partner. But it may also have a more figurative meaning: experiencing the exhilaration of neighbors or other moms in the carpool complimenting, fawning over, and praising you, as well as having your ego stroked and being appreciated your husband and children. All of these things feel great, too.

Branding is about making people feel so good that they want to take a roll in the hay. That’s it.

The IT manager as hero

The most successful and profitable brands in the world are created around people. Sure, some brands are naturally sexier than others, but why should a purchasing manager have less of an emotional connection to their microprocessors than I do to my shoes?

Let me give you an example.

My company works extensively with Dell Corporation on the enterprise side of their business, the part of their company that sells systems and solutions to the IT managers of other businesses. Traditionally, Dell treated enterprise IT managers as if they were robots—completely devoid of feelings and abstract thoughts.

What we know here at Sol Marketing is that each of those IT managers has a story they are writing for their own lives. That story involves them, eventually, getting laid.

If your brand can help that happen, you’ll have a loyal customer.

When I am working with Dell or with any other company that sells technology products and services to IT purchase influencers, I want the company to step outside of itself as a brand and step into the hearts and minds of its IT manager customer. That IT manager is a human being who has wants and needs and desires.

Conjure up an image of that person in your mind. Ask yourself, “What does success look like for that person? What does getting laid look like for him or her?” Then ask yourself, “How does my product/brand/service do that for them?”

Dell sells a lot of servers. The servers Dell sells go into racks that live in computer rooms and data centers all over the world. Servers don’t feel cool when you hold them in your hand. To the unindoctrinated, run-of-the-mill human, a server probably looks like a mess of metal and plastic and wires.

On the surface, a server just isn’t that sexy, nor is the Dell brand. A server is not like a bottle of perfume, a designer leather jacket, or a Ferrari.

So let’s do an exercise for illustration’s sake. For purposes of this exercise, take a walk in an IT manager customer’s shoes. Let’s say this particular customer is a forty-seven-year-old man. He works at a nationwide furniture retailer with stores in twenty-two states.

He has a need to put together an IT program in which all of the remote stores can send their transaction and inventory data to a central location at night. That requires a lot of computing power, remote access capabilities, and powerful servers and software—none of which are very sexy. All of those things must work together flawlessly.

If you think about what is unsexy about this IT manager’s job, it is a phone call from a store manager in the middle of the night.  Also unsexy is when the chief information officer comes down on him hard and says, “We did not pull data last night, and we don’t have the store-by-store results. My boss is up my ass for sales results, and because of an IT infrastructure issue and a network failure, we cannot do that.”

These are terribly unsexy things that can happen to this guy, and they absolutely can prevent him from getting laid.

The essence of brand strategy is to take that unsexiness and turn it around. To do that, you should ask, “How do we actually get that guy laid?”

How we get our IT manager laid

Dell does that by offering reliable products that they stand behind and develop with IT purchase influencers’ needs in mind. Dell is trying to give that IT manager the world-on-a-string feeling we described earlier in this chapter by delivering on its promises to him.

Dell’s goal is to make that IT manager the hero in his own story. It’s right there in their current brand manifesto: “The Power to Do More.”

Dell gives an IT manager the power to do more, not only with IT but in his life. Dell gets him home for dinner on time and inspires him with the confidence that everything back at work is functioning flawlessly, even when he’s not there.

Dell’s industry-leading uptime and reliability get him laid by preventing phone calls in the middle of the night when stores cannot send their data to the home office.

Dell makes sure the boss is not standing in the IT manager’s office at 8:00 a.m. the next morning growling, “Where have you been? The network crashed.”

These are the things Dell does to help him become the hero in the story of his life. Sure, Dell products are reliable, scalable, flexible, durable, innovative, and a good value. But it’s the way they make, sell, deliver, and support those products that enable their customers to “do more.”

How can you get your customer laid?

Take a moment to answer this same question for your own brand.

What does your customer need? What gets them love, attention, and affection? What could go wrong with your brand that would ruin their chances at sex?

By understanding the story behind your customer’s purchase, you’ll be better suited to ensure you are getting your customer laid. That’s the whole game.

The Importance of Understanding Your Customers (and What To Do About It)

Business Handshake

As we discussed in Your Brand Comes From Your Customers, Not You, branding isn’t about your color scheme, or the clever tagline you come up with from the confines of your office. Branding is about how your customer actually perceives you.

If your customer perceives you as filling a need (tangible or psychological) they have, that’s the essence of good branding.

With this perspective in mind, it becomes clear that the first step to successful branding is understanding your customers and their needs.

We’ve talked about the three questions, the brand values pyramid, and the ideal customer profile—all great tools to dive into your customer's’ needs and psychology—but the next question most marketers ask is always...

How do I learn about my customers?

So how do you learn everything about your customers?

Three words: talk to them.

There are many different ways to talk to your customers. On the super-low-budget end of the spectrum, you can just hang around in a Starbucks and ask people to try your product or service and then ask them for their opinions.

Be sure to ask open-ended questions, such as “What do you like about this brand?” Or, “How do you see this fitting into your life?” Or, “What would you change about this?” Actually talking to customers face-to-face is one of the most valuable things you can do to understand your brand.

Another easy way for marketing managers and executives to interact with customers is by fielding customer service calls or inbound sales calls. Even at the CEO level, if you take customer service calls for a few hours every month, it might just be the most valuable time you ever spend. The callers won’t have any idea you’re the CEO, so they won’t sugarcoat how they feel about your brand. And you can ask them almost anything you want and they’ll answer honestly.

Another free method is hosting a pizza and beer party (or pizza and wine party, depending upon your target demographic). Invite friends and friends of friends to visit your office or your home and try your product. Tell them you’ll provide take-out food and beverages in exchange for their time. The key here is to make sure you’re getting honest feedback. Friends and family usually will try to tell you they love it, even if they don’t. So offer them the booze in exchange for brutal, unvarnished honesty.

Those three ways of talking to customers are free. Even if you’re an entrepreneur on a shoestring budget, you have no excuse not to do them. As we discussed in When You’re Ready, It’s Too Late, the sooner you can start doing exercises like this to understand your customer, the better.

On the opposite end of the cost spectrum is formal market research, such as in-depth interviews, ethnographies, focus groups, and surveys. Professional focus groups can yield a tremendous amount of data, but they’re costly. Many books discuss techniques in market research. If you’re on a budget, or you have no budget, you may want to check out the book called The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, which suggests many methods for obtaining customer feedback throughout the development and growth process.

Don’t overcomplicate things. If you are having trouble answering the question, “What does it say about a person that they use your brand?”, just go out and ask them.

“What do you think it says about you that you use this brand?”

It’s as basic as that. Start there and then you can expand your customer research to learn other important things about your products, services, and brand.

The bullshit test

Understanding what your customers need and marketing to that isn’t enough. You need to walk the walk.

Once you understand your customers, ask yourself, “Do we have places where it’s an incomplete experience? Are our customer service representatives embodying what we say our brand stands for? Does our product or service really do what we say it does? Do customers experience the essence of our brand in a way that adds value to their lives?”

It’s important to know the answers to these questions so you can assess how well you and the rest of your organization are aligned on delivering a brand experience.

Zappos.com is known for its excellent customer service. That’s their brand promise. But what if a customer called and had a problem with a pair of shoes and wanted some resolution but the customer service rep was snotty to her on the phone?

Their marketing materials wouldn’t matter, because the customer’s experience wouldn’t be living up to the brand promise. They wouldn’t be fulfilling the need that the customer had, and therefore wouldn’t be living their brand.

When to hire outside help

One reason you may need professional help is that sometimes your boss or your team or your CEO is so in love with the brand that they can’t see its flaws. Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective.

I look at my daughter and I am just in love with her. I think she is amazing, incredibly beautiful, smart, and talented, but I probably overlook a lot of flaws because she is mine. I made her. She came from my genes and my loins. A brand can be like that, too. It’s easy not to see the flaws, especially for founders and long-time team members.

Bringing in an outside brand consultant might make sense for you, but it’s getting ahead of ourselves.

  1. Speak to your customers. Try to really understand their wants, needs, and motivations.
  1. Read Branding is Sex. Use the tools discussed earlier in this post to gain clarity on who your customers are and how your brand needs to serve them.
  1. If you’re still struggling to get your branding right, or if it just isn’t clicking with your customers, think about hiring an outside brand strategist.

The Definitive List of Brand Archetypes

Brand Archetype

We all want a loyal following. We’re constantly looking for that magical marketing plan that will connect us to our audience and make our product an irreplaceable part of their life. What we don’t often realize is that connections are relationships. If we aren’t clear about who we are, no one is going to be interested in dating us.

In my book Branding Is Sex, I’ve devoted an entire chapter to understanding who your brand is, and how you should be starting a relationship with your customers.

The short version is this: There are 12 basic identities—or archetypes—a brand can assume. Below I’ve broken down all 12 in extreme detail to help you understand where you belong.

1. The magician makes dreams come true

The magician archetype is all about vision. Magician brands don’t build you a better toothbrush or help you keep your house clean, they bring your wildest dreams to life.

What they offer is a grand experience no one else could achieve. A magician is so in tune with the fundamentals of the universe that they can create the impossible.

Magician Archetype
Magician Archetype

Disney is the perfect magician. Disney is fundamentally a media company, but they are unlike any other.

Quick—think of the books and videos that have helped you in your career. You’re probably thinking of titles targeted to your industry, full of actionable advice and guidance.

Disney doesn’t do any of that. What they offer is a transformative experience.

They are in a category of their own because of the grandness of their vision. Imagine another brand that could build a “Magic Kingdom” or a “Disney World.”

2. The sage is always seeking the truth

To a sage, wisdom is the key to success. Everything else is secondary to the pursuit of knowledge.

A sage brand might not feel warm and cuddly. They don’t enrapture you in a fantastic world like Disney. Instead, a sage commands your respect by showing their brilliance.

Sage Archetype
Sage Archetype

Harvard University is one of the most revered universities in the world. Boasting an alumni list that includes eight US presidents, 21 Nobel laureates, and Mark Zuckerberg (sort of), Harvard’s brand is all about being the smartest.

Take this video for example. It’s not about success in life or fantasy, it’s about the power of knowledge. The video says the secrets of the universe hide in books, and that Harvard is where they are studied.

3. The innocent just wants to be happy

The innocent belongs in paradise. Everyone is free, virtuous, and happy in an innocent’s world.

An innocent brand will never guilt you with an ad or go over the top to convince you. Instead, an innocent brand will charm you with something much more powerful: Nostalgia.

Innocent Archetype
Innocent Archetype

Orville Redenbacher is the prototypical innocent archetype.

orville redenbaucher
orville redenbaucher

[source: Hammer and Rails]

What adult do you know who is that happy about their suspenders? What adult do you know that even owns suspenders?

But that’s Orville’s appeal. They sell you a childhood treat, popcorn, and their mascot is a grandpa who hasn’t stopped having fun since bowties were a thing unironically.

Nothing heavy-handed, just happiness.

4. The outlaw wants revolution

The outlaw isn’t afraid. Outlaw brands control their own life without regard for the status quo.

Where the innocent archetype touches the part of you that loved snack time in kindergarten, the outlaw archetype appeals to the part of you that cut classes in high school.

Outlaw Archetype
Outlaw Archetype

Building a cult following like Apple is the ultimate goal of an outlaw brand.

Remember those old iPod commercials where monochrome people had the best times of their lives dancing?

Apple Magician Archetype
Apple Magician Archetype

[source: Cult of Macs]

That ad doesn’t tell you to stand in a crowd or go to a concert. It tells you to be yourself, to dance whenever you like, and to do it with Apple.

If you think Apple doesn’t have a cult following, consider this. Did people wait in line for hours when the Galaxy S7 was released? No, is the answer.

5. The jester lives in the moment

The jester is all about having fun. Jester brands might not be curing illnesses, but they’re making your day better.

Humor, silliness, even nonsense are all in a jester’s toolkit. The goal of a jester brand is to make you smile with light-hearted fun.

Jester Archetype
Jester Archetype

The Old Spice Man is one of our all-time favorite ad campaigns, and the perfect example of a jester archetype.

Old Spice Man Jester Archetype
Old Spice Man Jester Archetype

[source: ePharmacy]

Some guys react well to hyper-masculine branding. Other guys don’t. By making a joke out of these super manly brands, Old Spice gets to appeal to both sides.

Guys who are into overly masculine brands get to be in on the joke. Guys who aren’t into macho brands get to laugh at them.

Everybody laughs, and everybody likes Old Spice as a result.

6. The lover wants to make you theirs

Passion, pleasure, and sensuality are the lover’s keywords. A lover brand wants you to associate them with intimate moments in your life.

What do you buy to celebrate? What do you buy your significant other for birthdays and anniversaries? Chances are, you’re buying from a lover brand.

Lover Archetype
Lover Archetype

Think of Godiva Chocolate ads. Do they ever make you think about your health, your finances, or your future?

No. Godiva seduces you. It shows off its richness and creaminess. It invites you to take part in life’s greatest indulgence: Chocolate.

7. The explorer wants to break free

Freedom is all an explorer cares about. Where other brands might try to help you build a home, explorer brands want to get you outside.

With this in mind, it makes sense that many outdoor brands are natural fits for the explorer archetype.

Explorer Archetype
Explorer Archetype

Subaru is the classic explorer brand. They don’t sell their cars based on luxury or comfort, they stress the freedom a Subaru provides.

Subaru Explorer Archetype
Subaru Explorer Archetype

[source: Tutsplus]

Blizzard? No problem. Subaru lets you decide where you’re going, no matter the circumstance. You’re free.

8. The ruler wants absolute power

Luxury and exclusivity are what the ruler is all about. A ruler brand is a gatekeeper. If a customer buys from them, they get to belong to the elite.

Being perceived as high-quality and expensive is critical for a ruler brand. Jewelry and high-end vehicles are natural fits for the ruler archetype.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.03.40 PM
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.03.40 PM

Do you buy a Mercedes Benz because of its crash test rating? What about its gas mileage? Its heated seats?

No. You buy a Mercedes Benz because you can afford to, and most other people can’t. Whenever you park your car, people will understand your status without you saying a word.

That quietly understood value is what a ruler brand sells.

9. The caregiver wants to nurture you

The caregiver is benevolent. They want to be there for you and the people you love.

Caregiver brands are all about warmth and trust. You can depend on them when it comes to your children. It’s rare to see a caregiver brand run an ad that takes a shot at their competition. They are the opposite of confrontational.

Caregiver Archetype
Caregiver Archetype

Johnson & Johnson’s tagline line is “Johnson & Johnson: A Family Company.” You can’t get more committed to families than that.

Johnson & Johnson Caregiver Archetype
Johnson & Johnson Caregiver Archetype

[source: Johnson & Johnson]

A Johnson & Johnson ad always focuses on how their products help you take care of your children. How their products build families. This is bread-and-butter for the caregiver archetype.

A caregiver is all about instilling trust between in the customer that for the rest of their life, the brand will be there for them.

10. The hero wants to prove himself

The hero makes the world better by being the best. A hero brand isn’t concerned with nurturing you, they’re interested in challenging you.

If you want to rise to the occasion, you’re going to need a hero’s help.

Hero Archetype
Hero Archetype

The U.S. Army is the ultimate example of a hero archetype.

Think of the recruitment commercials you’ve seen with troops jumping out of helicopters, running through training courses, and protecting the country. Any of that resemble your day-to-day?

Of course not. It’s not supposed to. It’s designed to compel you to “answer the call” and rise to the occasion by joining with a hero brand: The U.S. Army.

11. The regular guy/girl wants to belong

No glitz or glamour, just a reliable product that gets the job done. That’s what regular guy/girl brands are selling.

The archetype is focused on providing something so far removed from pretentiousness that it can appeal to everyone. It is the hardest archetype to pull off, because you have to have a product that actually appeals across demographics.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.05.19 PM
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.05.19 PM

Everyone drinks coffee. Not every individual person, but every major demographic with the possible exception of infants. That’s what makes Folgers a great every guy/girl brand.

Folgers doesn’t market to a hip crowd. They don’t brag about their high quality, all-organic coffee. They keep it simple: “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”

Everyone wakes up. Everyone drinks Folgers.

12. The creator craves perfection

A creator isn’t worried about the cost of production or making things at scale. They care about one thing: building the perfect product.

While the magician also stresses vision and imagination, creators are different in that they don’t unlock the world’s magic and create the impossible. They create the perfect product.

Creator Archetype
Creator Archetype

Lego is a great example of a creator archetype. Take a look at this ad for Lego Vision:

Lego Creator Archetype
Lego Creator Archetype

[source: Ads of the World]

Lego recreated in stunning detail the most famous sights of the world. They didn’t build new sites, and they didn’t create some new technology that put the sites in your home.

Lego used the simplest technology possible: blocks. They took this simplicity and pushed it to its most perfectionist extreme. That’s what being a creator is all about.

What archetype is your brand?

This is one of the key questions we help clients answer at Sol Marketing. Almost every client comes to the table assuming they are the every guy/girl, but in 99% of cases, they aren’t.

Drilling down into what makes your brand special and how your customers best connect with your products isn’t easy, but it’s the most important thing you can do to understand what archetype you should be using.

The ideas in this post were inspired byCarol Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes.

Branding on a shoestring - Deb Gabor at General Assembly ATX

Money
When starting your business, there's a lot to think about -- your product/service, your team, your employees. But there's also your brand. You want to make a big splash, but you don't have a big budget. So where to you start?Learn from Deb Gabor, founder of Sol Marketing, noted brand dominatrix and author of "Branding is Sex: Get Your Customer Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything." Register today for

Branding on a Shoestring General Assembly 600 Congress, 14th Floor Monday, August 8

Free social media is a good place to start, but there are strategic things you can do up front to dial in your strategy to ensure you maximize the use of your limited funds and unexpected low-cost opportunities to build your brand's visual and verbal assets. This class is highly interactive, so expect to roll up your sleeves and begin the process of defining your brand's core DNA and go-to-market strategy.
This session about branding for early stage companies will expose you to the following ideas:

  • Basics of branding -- what it is and what it isn't
  • Why and when to brand your early stage company
  • Using DIY techniques to define your brand's core DNA and story
  • Building a visual and verbal identity on the cheap
  • Growth hacking your go-to-market strategy
  • Getting in market without going out of business
  • Using your resources wisely

When should we brand? Early, often, and always

WorkplaceBranding

By Deb Gabor I hear one question from business owners all the time: “When should we brand?”

My answer is always the same: “Early, often, and always.”

Branding is not optional, and the risks of not taking it seriously are very real. Your customers might lose touch with your brand and leave you. A competitor with a strong commitment to branding might overtake you. Or, perhaps worst of all, the market might define your brand for you.

Brand yourself, or someone else will brand you. It’s very dangerous to let your customers, or the news media, or bloggers, or social media, or your competitors define your brand for you.

If you don’t intentionally control your brand yourself, it will take on a life of its own.

Brand or be branded For decades, cable television companies had no competition. They owned a local franchise, which allowed them to do business in a particular geographic area, and that was that. The regional cable companies had mini-monopolies because their customers had few options for home entertainment.

Hence, they often didn’t treat their customers well.

The cable companies knew their customers weren’t going to leave and, as a result, poor customer service became an ingrained way of doing business.

I don’t know if you’ve ever personally had the experience of being a customer of any of the big cable TV companies. If you have, then you’ve probably experienced the overwhelming sense of dread that comes whenever you have to call a cable company about anything. Dealing with cable companies is not a pleasant experience.

Invariably, you’ll start by waiting on hold for 30 minutes. When you do get a customer service rep on the line, you have to repeat all your account information that you’ve already entered. Then the rep will ask you a bunch of stupid questions you already answered for the person you spoke with previously. When you do schedule your appointment, customer service provides you a four-hour window of time when you need to be home. The technician shows up either early or late, or not at all. Finally, you get your cable bill, which is already too high to begin with, and discover that the company charged you way more than you expected for the service call.

When it comes to customer satisfaction—or the lack of it—it doesn’t get much worse than this.

With that atrocious level of customer service, pretty soon some of the big cable companies earned a dismal reputation among customers. You can go into a party and overhear people talking about how frustrated they are with their cable provider. “Oh gosh, I had to call the cable company the other day. What a nightmare. I’m still upset!” Everybody in the room utters a sigh of disgust because they’ve experienced the same thing.

Pretty soon, Consumer Reports or Temkin Group releases a survey and finds that the cable industry has the lowest customer satisfaction scores of any industry. Then the news media picks up the story. The bloggers start ranting. Twitter goes crazy.

Before you know it, the cable industry has been branded as an awful industry that abuses its customers. It can be very difficult to shed that reputation, and it can take years.

The cable industry lost control of its brand and let someone else—in this case, customers—own the brand. When you don’t take control of your brand’s image, and you don’t properly manage the relationship you have with your customers, the results can be devastating. And they show up on the bottom line.

What to do instead Branding doesn’t need to be complicated. You don’t need to have a major branding agency on retainer or go on weeklong branding retreats.

By answering three major questions, you can take control of your brand and understand who you are and how you fit in the market.

These are deep questions, and three full chapters in my book, Branding is Sex, are dedicated to understanding them and how best to answer them.

1) What does it say about the customer that they choose your brand?

2) What is the singular thing that only your brand can deliver to your customer?

3) How does your brand make the customer the hero in their own story?

By understanding the answers to these three questions, companies can ensure that they are sending the right message, and that their customers’ experiences are aligning with their messaging.

Branding is not a step-by-step process I want to be clear: Companies cannot just answer those three questions once and then hang up their branding hat. Answering the above questions is an ongoing exercise that should happen throughout the life of the brand. Branding is not something that takes place at a single point in time.

The answers to these questions will always be evolving and, even more importantly, living your brand and ensuring that customers experience your values is a constantly ongoing process.

You are in a competitive environment with changing customer needs and market forces that are beyond your control. Your brand needs to be constantly evolving to meet these challenges. You have to be in constant touch with your customers and your customers’ needs or subject yourself to the risk of becoming irrelevant.

Create your ideal customer profile

IdealCustomerProfile

By Deb Gabor

What’s the one thing that should always be at the center of your brand?

It isn’t design, color schemes, or masterful copywriting.

It’s your customer.

Some business owners have a hard time understanding this, but your brand isn’t about you. Your brand exists to bolster your customer’s self-image, lead them to achieve their goals, and help them become the kind of person they want to be.

To accomplish this requires you to think carefully about who your customer is. You need to understand them better than they understand themselves.

First, ignore traditional marketing advice Traditional marketing has always taught us to think about segmenting and dividing markets.

When you’re bringing a new product to market, the traditional textbook methodology is to think about who are all the potential people who could possibly buy this product, and then segment based on the potential use cases, the possible purchase channels, and their reasons for buying and not buying the product.

In other words, traditional marketing methods tell us to identify as many potential audiences as we can and then divide them further based upon demographics or shopping behaviors or desires and attitudes.

Using that old way of thinking often means taking your brand message and dividing it rather than multiplying it. Segment marketing suggests that you’re going to create a different brand experience for each of those different audiences. When you start dividing and segmenting your market, you start creating more and more marketing messages that are dissimilar from each other. If not managed, that practice can dilute your brand’s impact.

I’m not against segment marketing. In fact, part of my company does quantitative psychographic research with the goal of creating and identifying market segments and then coming up with marketing strategies and tactics for companies to go after those segments.

But when you create your brand, you need to look to what’s similar among all of those segments to create a singular brand for a singular customer archetype. That customer archetype is called the ideal customer, and it’s an in-depth profile of the customer who is most highly predictive of a brand’s success.

Who is your ideal customer? The ideal customer archetype is something that serves as a guiding principle for everything you do in branding and gives you a singular, highly identifiable customer persona toward which to point your brand’s story.

The ideal customer archetype is a fleshed out, detailed, hypothetical profile of your absolute ideal customer.

This doesn’t need to encompass anyone who might engage with your brand. I like to think of the ideal customer archetype as the profile of that single customer who will spend the most money with you over the longest time because he or she has so strongly bought-in to your brand experience.

Create your ideal customer profile This is where your creative skills come into play. After you’ve spoken to enough customers and people in your social networks who use the product, it’s time to write down a description of your ideal customer.

Close your eyes and conjure up a vivid image of who the perfect person is to buy your brand. Who are they? How old are they? Are they male or female? Married or single? What is their income?

Conjure up an image of who that person is, and write down everything you can think of.

Once you’ve written down everything you can think of, dig deeper.

The best trick I’ve found is to try to imagine his or her lifestyle. For instance, for a hypothetical online grocer in the Northeast, the ideal customer might be a thirty-five-year-old mom with two school-age kids at home.

That’s great as far as demographics go, but we can dig deeper by picturing the rest of her life. She works thirty hours a week outside of the home. She lives in the New York suburbs. She shops for groceries once a week in a big shopping trip, and then she does fill-in shopping every other day. She’s a technology user — she has a smartphone and a laptop and a tablet. She wears high-end casual clothes with designer labels when she shops. She carries a gigantic pocketbook. She keeps a yoga mat in her expensive European SUV, and she does not like minivans. Her total household income is around $200,000.

Now dial in your vision even further. Imagine her getting out of her SUV wearing one of her pairs of high-end designer jeans that cost around $200. She’s wearing a puffy down vest from North Face because that’s what all the other moms are wearing when they pick up their kids from private school.

Continue to go through the process of envisioning who this person is and what their life looks like. Write it all down. Even draw a picture of her if you have to.

Identify the Ideal Customer’s Needs Once you’ve created this ideal customer profile, the next step is to think about that person’s needs.

This is the hardest part of the ideal customer archetype process. This is the part where you have to really dig in.

Let’s go back to our suburban, working mom with two kids. From that detailed description, I can probably deduce some of her needs. She needs to feel like she is the best possible parent she can be. She also needs to look like the best parent in comparison to other moms at her kids’ school. Since she works outside the home, she likely feels the strain of balancing her job and spending time with her kids at this critical age. So she has needs for activities and services and products that give her as much time as possible to spend with her kids in the way that she wants to that also makes her feel like she is fulfilling her potential as their mom.

We also know that she values quality in the products that she buys because she doesn’t have time to drive around town making returns. In thinking about food, for instance, she probably wants to have the healthiest, most nutritious meals she can get for her children without the need to do a lot of shopping or preparation. She certainly doesn’t have time to shop at multiple grocery stores, and sometimes she doesn’t have the time to cook everything that comes to the table for a family meal. However, she still wants to feel like she’s the provider of tonight’s dinner and that the meal meets her very high standards.

Understanding your ideal customer in depth enables you to understand what that person needs most from you and your brand. By getting inside the head of your ideal customer, you’re able to extract from it the story that the customer wants to tell themselves and the world about who they are.

Eventually you’ll get a clear image of who your ideal customer is and, ultimately, whom your brand is for.

The ideal customer profile exercise This is great, but how do you actually do it? How do you figure out who your ideal customer is?

The ideal customer archetype exercise is ideally done in a group brainstorming session with the staff in your company who are most involved in customer-facing roles.

Don’t just invite the top executives! Often it’s your salespeople, customer service reps, returns processors, and delivery drivers who are closest to the customers. They actually know more about your customers than your marketing team ever could.

What I’d recommend is bringing a group together with a big roll of butcher paper, and dividing up into smaller groups to answer the following questions:

  • Who is our ideal customer?
  • What does their average day look like?
  • What are the needs they’re looking to fulfill?

This seems easy enough, but companies often struggle with these branding exercises because the conclusions are sometimes difficult to swallow. It’s hard to leave behind the myths and beliefs that are part of the company history.

But, ultimately, this ideal customer process is extremely galvanizing for companies.

I’ll give you an example. One of the companies that I worked with for a long time was iVillage.com. Back in its heyday, iVillage was probably the largest online destination for women. At the time I started working with the company, it had just become part of NBC Universal. With a mid-2000s onslaught of “mom media,” iVillage struggled to remain relevant and knew it had to reinvent itself in order to compete. Additionally, the proliferation of highly focused digital media sites in passion verticals, such as food, entertainment, parenting, fashion, and beauty, was stealing their readers.

By late 2011, iVillage was struggling to figure out how to both narrow its focus and grow traffic. As part of a branding engagement, I had them do the ideal customer exercise.

For iVillage’s ideal customer exercise, we did exactly the process described above. My team brought out a big roll of butcher paper and cut it into six-foot lengths. We divided up the staff of about one hundred employees into smaller groups. We gave each group markers, art supplies, magazines, photographs, glue, and scissors. Then I gave them the assignment of creating an image of iVillage’s ideal customer, using all that stuff.

One group actually had one of their team members lay down on the butcher paper, and they traced her body with magic marker. They gave her big eyes and big ears because they wanted to communicate, “Our ideal customer is somebody who has a curiosity about the world around her and is seeking information from other people.”

Another group drew their ideal customer as a woman with a gigantic pocketbook filled with items from different categories, such as parenting, beauty, fashion, and health. Their idea was, “Our ideal customer is somebody who is super engaged and productive in her world and needs inspiration, information, and connections in all of these different areas of her life.”

Another group drew this Picassoesque Cubist version of a woman with five arms and six legs and ten eyes. This was their version of a woman who is doing a lot of things at once.

Each team presented their ideal customer diagrams to the rest of the teams. Then I challenged them as a larger group to combine those traits to come up with a singular ideal customer profile. That group of one hundred people used all of those inputs to create the North Star version of their ideal customer.

Although it was difficult for them to give up some of their company’s tribal knowledge and assumptions around who their audience should be, it was extremely galvanizing for them to narrow their focus to align on a singular profile.

What’s next? The ideal customer profile is just one exercise I recommend for companies to align their focus on exactly who their customer is and what deep needs they are fulfilling.

For all the tips, tricks and exercises we use with our Sol Marketing clients, as well as a deeper understanding of how to think about your customers’ needs, check out my book, Branding is Sex.

 

Why understanding your customers' desires and needs will drive irrational loyalty in 2016

2015 was all about content marketing. Brands realized they needed content, and a lot of it. Things kicked into high gear as marketing teams struggled to fill nurturing programs with assets. Customer journeys, personalized marketing, retargeting, account based marketing and increased implementation of marketing technology stacks all fueled this insatiable thirst.

The results, not surprisingly, were often a case of more not being better, but simply more being more.

A huge challenge – and thus, we predict, a huge trend in 2016 – will be for brands to up the quality level while producing enough quantity to fill their programs.

Making better content is important, got it.

So, how do we do it? The old processes and rules need to change. You need to streamline workflows, put serious resources into repackaging already-good content into new forms targeted appropriately, and most importantly, get a thorough understanding of your customers.

It’s not enough to create personas based on demographics or even behaviors. You need to understand what motivates people, what they’re trying to accomplish.

Once you know what drives someone, the path to creating content that engages and moves them toward purchase and loyalty becomes clear.

The megatrends of mini-customer insights, people looking for emotional connections and a maturation of the content marketing ecosystem are converging. We predict 2016 will be the year a deep understanding of your customer will power quality content that creates irrational loyalty and bonds between your customers and your brand.

Make the most of every media opportunity

The media loves Sol Marketing! Learn what Deb Gabor says about maximizing every media opportunity that comes your way, from understanding reporters' motivations to paying it forward. Thanks to Arthur Bryan Marroquin of ABMPix for this awesome photo of our fearless leader Deb Gabor. Learn how it works