The other day I was asked to provide a perspective on why logos / brands are so important and why people connect with them. The problem with this question is that a logo and a brand are two very different things and unfortunately they’re often used interchangeably. But this question prompted me to think that a post might be in order to demystify common words often associated with Branding.
What is a brand?
The definition of branding has evolved quite rapidly over the past couple of years, mainly due to the advent of social media and the decline of the influence of traditional media. No longer are brands manufactured in board rooms and no longer are perceptions shaped primarily based on what corporations tell us to believe through advertising. Today a brand can be defined as your reputation built off of both your promise to your customers and the sum of all of their experiences with you.
In order to build a successful brand, and ultimately a loyal and energized consumer base, a brand needs to start from the inside out. That means having a clearly articulated Brand Positioning, Personality and Promise, a passionate team of partners / employees who are singing off of the same hymn sheet and an organization that runs in support of what your brand stands for.
What is Brand Positioning?
A brand positioning is a statement that should answer why your target market should satisfy their need with your brand instead of your competitor’s. This is derived through:
There is structure to a good positioning statement: Your compelling point of difference + Your segment + Your validation + Your target market + Their need
How is it used?
It’s not a slogan or a tagline, it’s an internal statement. And, unlike your promise (below), it may evolve over time as the market changes.
Brand X is the coffee cafe that is a third place between work and home providing indulgence and escape to urban working women.
Note: This may have been close to Starbuck’s positioning statement when they launched. As you can see, the relevance of this statement now, with the growth of the coffee cafe market and the growth of the Starbucks chain, has diminished the uniqueness and relevance of this statement.
What is Brand Personality?
This is the tone of your brand’s voice communicated as human characteristics. Often times, when working on an existing brand for a client, we start by asking: “If you were to describe your brand as a person, what traits would they have?”. I can tell you that in my 15+ years asking clients this question, I almost always hear ‘trusted’ as one of the descriptors. It’s important to understand that the personality traits you use to define your brand should not be ‘earned’ traits.
Some examples of brand personality traits could include: quirky, rebellious, authoritative, pragmatic, shocking, engaging, warm, flirty, carefree, adventurous.
How is it used?
It’s easy to see that personality can translate to the visual, verbal and written style of your brand’s communications. It’s also critical to how a brand behaves and often influences hiring strategies, service training as well as processes. Brands with personalities tend to feel more relatable, strike an emotional chord with consumers, differentiate themselves, and generally feel more exciting.
Examples of brands with big personalities: Zappos, Apple and Virgin
Think about how these brands convey their personalities through communication style, logo, packaging, service, products, etc.
What is Brand Promise?
A brand promise is the heart and soul of the functional benefits and emotive values a customer will receive when they experience your products and services. As Seth Godin once said: “Make big promises and overdeliver”. Just imagine what would happen if every brand lived by this credo… Promises, and more importantly kept promises, build loyalty.
A promise should be unique, meaningful, believable and consistently attainable (with effort). Since a critical component of the success of a Brand Promise is keeping it, it needs the passion and support of your employees.
Ultimately your Brand Promise needs to answer: What compelling benefits / values can only you offer to your target market?
How is it used?
A promise is not usually conveyed in advertising but it should be the driver behind everything you do and communicate.
For those of you who haven’t been introduced to Quora, it’s a site that’s collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. In other words, it’s a wiki tool for crowdsourcing content about any subject. Although still quite new, it could be an effective tool for event, conference, tradeshow and even wedding planners. Sure there are plenty of others, like Twitter, Facebook Pages and Formspring, that allow you to ask and answer questions, but Quora seemingly blends the best of all of these worlds (and more):
1. Invite your attendees to ask questions of you
“The host hotel is booked, where is the best place to stay during your conference?”, or “I tried to book a Gala table but I can’t get 4 sets together. Any suggestions?”. There are often many questions asked of planners throughout the planning process. From accommodations to food allergies to course materials, many people share the same questions. The benefit of a site like Quora is that questions can be asked and answered for all to see. The other key benefit is that the community also has an opportunity to weigh in on those questions, which encourages networking, information sharing and new ideas for the planner.
2. Invite your attendees to ask questions of your speakers, and vice versa
As a speaker myself, I often ask planners if there’s a way to ask the attendees questions well before the event. After all, it helps me to create content that is custom tailored to the needs of their attendees. Quora is one answer. Speakers can create their own topics and ask for questions. Or speakers can monitor the wiki to find out if anyone has a question relevant to their session. Speakers can also send an update to their connections through social media sites asking people to ask them a question (which promotes your event wiki).
3. Create FAQs
Are there questions that keep popping up year after year? Quora has a FAQ function that lets attendees view the answers easily.
4. Get your attendees talking to one another
As people get used to using Quora to answer their questions, there’s a good possibility that they will start to use it to ask and answer questions from each other. Congratulations…you’re one step closer to creating a valuable community.
5. Promote questions
A very interesting feature of Quora is that as questions are answered you can promote answers via social networks, which amplifies the awareness of your event or conference. It can also show your willingness to immerse yourself in your community and play an active role in their pre- and post- event experience.
6. Create child topics
As the moderator of your topic, you can bundle questions that are related. For example, you might have created a topic called “Your Food Questions”. You might also notice that community members are creating related topics like “Where to go for dinner”, “I have allergies, what do I do”, etc. You can make the latter child topics under the food umbrella to make it easier for people to navigate through and find questions relevant to them.
7. Identify sages
There are likely people in your event community who are a wealth of information and have a great willingness to share their insights. These are your event’s sages. These people, who evangelize your event and seek to elevate your attendees’ experiences, should be recognized. Quora is a great tool to help you identify these sages.
8. Follow a topic
With one click, anyone can choose to follow a topic and be notified when a new question or answer has been added.
9. Voting feature
Beside each answer provided on a particular topic there is a voting feature that lets you vote the answer up or down. This is really helpful for those who asked the question to identify what the community thinks is the best answer. It also helps the planner identify how popular items are surrounding their event.
10. Analytics / Insights
There are pretty limited analytics at this time. You can see how many times a question has been viewed, monitored and followed. But you can also clearly see who follows the topic and, when you click on their avatars, what other topics they follow.
I’ve been using Quora for a few weeks now and really like this tool. But, at the end of the day, it is but one more tool in the event planners’ toolbox. Careful consideration should be made to what you’re looking to achieve, who you’re looking to dialogue with, where they spend their time online, how they use social tools, etc, before selecting which tools make the most sense for your event.
I’d love to know your thoughts…
In years past we based our decision to buy on advertisements and what our friends/family/co-workers told us we should buy. Today, advertising has dramatically declined in influence and the power of word of mouth from our immediate connections is followed closely by what strangers have to say about products & services. With this tilt in influence many businesses are being left in the dust.
Just yesterday I pointed out to one of my clients that when I do a Google Search for their brand name autocomplete shows me that the second most searched phrase is “(brand name) reviews”. I then discovered that there was not one review on the first 2 pages of search results. In other words, people are searching for what others have to say about my client’s brand only to find nothing. Opportunity lost.
Consumers complain that in this day of social connectivity there is an overwhelming amount of information to filter through. Google is just one example of a tool that helps customers find meaningful information. Another example is Just Buy This One, a site that makes a single product recommendation based on millions of reviews. As time goes on, we will see more and more ‘filter tools’ using ratings and reviews to help customers make buying decisions.
In a 2010 study conducted by social networking site myYearbook, 81 percent of respondents said they’d received advice from friends and followers relating to a product purchase through a social site; 74 percent of those who received such advice found it to be influential in their decision. For mass brands, getting someone to write a review about your products and services is simple. Just exist. Small to medium sized businesses need to have a strategy. Laying dormant online is not an option anymore.
What are you doing to get people to talk about you online?
Wikileaks has prompted a war of sorts. It has made many of us pick sides. Some Internet activists vehemently believe that Wikileaks stands for freedom of speech, while others believe (just as strongly) that too many lines have been crossed. Regardless of which side you stand on, one thing rings true: We are now living in the age of exposure.
Everyday people wield unprecedented power to expose companies’ dirty little secrets – all they need is a little bit of passion, an audience and access to the internet. Employees, former employees, disgruntled customers, competitors or anyone with a vested interest in your company can wage their own war with you smack dab in the center.
The infamous face of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, once warned that if a company wished to stay off of the pages of his site they should simply operate ethically and treat their employees well. The big lesson for businesses in this new era should be that what you say is not nearly as important as what you do.
Today, a hot story in Toronto revolves around our Toronto Transit Commission, those who control our city’s transit system. The news was reporting on a proposal that may result in increased pay for transit employee’s. Controversial, sure. But it was their statement that these employees could be paid on par with our Police and Fire workers that got me fired up.
When I oversaw Sales and Marketing for my family business, Regal Tent Productions, I set out to promote our 30m structure. I’m not sure about you, but 30m means little to me and I soon realized it meant little to others as well. Instead, I communicated that this structure was about the size of 2 NFL football fields. Every single time, I was met with a “Wow!”. Easy to understand and powerful.
Analogies are effective because they help to explain complex ideas, convert something unfamiliar into something easy to understand, and are memorable. Add to that: simple, familiar and memorable ideas are ones that are more likely to be shared.
Being a great storyteller requires capturing imagination and igniting an emotional response. Something that can’t be achieved by sharing facts and figures.
Every industry has a lowest cost provider. Every industry has companies that under-bid other companies to win business. Every industry has businesses that seemingly give away their products and services for next to nothing.
There’s only room for 1 brand to be the lowest priced in the market. Unless you’re concerned with being that brand you need to move on.
Solve a problem, provide something your customers can’t get anywhere else, and build trust. Dyson built a vacuum cleaner that would never lose suction. Apple created something that would fit in your pocket and hold 1,000 songs. The Three Waiters was conceptualized for a client who wanted unique entertainment with the element of surprise.
Stop lamenting over business that wasn’t yours to begin with. Build something your customers will want to spend money on.