Hello! Here at Davis Parker, we have certain notions about branding, certain expertise you might say. Below, we have spelled it out for you. No beating around the bush. No ambiguous statement of how we are going to fix your business. These are just some ideas that we feel are integral to forming your company as a well positioned, deliberate brand. We understand if you don't choose to read the whole thing. It's a little long.
Why So Many Businesses Fail
With each passing day it is getting increasingly harder to get the attention of potential customers. The internet has turned the world into the neighborhood and the neighborhood into the world. The reaches of your business are only limited by your imagination. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well, everyone also has that same power unfortunately; meaning your competition is not only the guy down the street but expansively everyone in your field. You cannot think that your product or service is so life-changing in and of itself that it will gain followers effortlessly. There are some crucial aspects to your business or product that need to be distilled down to their most elemental forms in order to get real, enduring business.
First, your product has to be seen as something that will help your customers either thrive or survive. Your product needs to help people be accepted, achieve an aspirational identity, bond with a tribe, find love, etc. Your product must scratch a fundamental itch that others within your industry are failing to satisfy.
Second, your product needs to be tied to a psychological, physiological, or even a spiritual need the brain has which is inherent, i.e. do not make people think about why they need your product. They just need to know they need it. When you think, your brain burns calories. Your brain does not like to burn calories unless it needs to. This survival mechanism within your customers’ brains is designed to tune out confusing information. Imagine talking to someone who is in a life or death situation about the history of can openers. It may be interesting, but considering the situation, I doubt they will remember a word of what you said. If your company message isn’t extremely important to them and consistent, and they will be burning calories to process the information you are sharing…..you’re done.
You cannot build a brand with overused promises and every cliché in your industry. Do not use the overused “promises” most businesses employ in their messages. The problem in doing so is prospective customers end up hearing the same words we all use “to define how unique we are” when in fact we are each attempting to convey very different things. Can any one company use the same words, messages, and promises as other companies and convince the world how ‘unique’ they are? Of course you can’t. Clichés are marketing’s silent killers. Weed out clichés and choose to adopt something that is truly distinct and differentiating. It is easier said than done but clichés are average. Another word for average is mediocre. You can expect mediocre returns from average branding.
The Old Way of Doing Things (The TV Industrial Complex)
Organizations and businesses that do marketing used to do marketing by interrupting people. They used to do it by yelling at people who didn't want to hear from them about stuff they didn’t want to hear about. And they figured that if they just yelled it at enough people often enough, they’d make enough money to earn it back. Some companies still seem to live by this model. Small businesses have wrestled with this because they didn’t have enough money to yell at everyone. Lucky for them the world is changing pretty dramatically. You know what they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well I say, “If it ain’t broke, it might be time to break it.” “It’s what we’ve always done” isn’t a strategy. It’s an excuse.
We have discovered that people don't pay attention to ads, they skip the ads, they don’t respond to the ads, they don’t even remember the ads. What the internet is doing is making it easier to follow people you want to follow, and to connect to people you want to connect with. So the future of marketing as it turns out, is leadership. If you do something that people want to follow or connect with, they’ll join a tribe or group of people interested in accomplishing something in common. And if you can lead said tribe, the marketing will take care of itself.
Small businesses have a big advantage now because they’re run by people, whereas big businesses are run by committees. People don’t want to follow a committee, they want to follow people. You must be genuine and authentic with your tribe. You have to care. They will be able to tell if you don’t. Market with people, not at them. You can't communicate emotion and trust to someone if they're not listening and the only people going to listen to you are the people who were pre-sold on you because someone told them about what you do and how you do it. You cannot make someone interested. But what you can do is amplify interest. Take advantage of the fringed.
Just know...not everyone cares. Not everyone is choosing to pay attention. Not everyone is “that” kind of person. Do not be the company who say, “We know you could choose anyone, and we’re anyone,” ...because then you’re doomed. Lots of people or companies are “just anyone” and they’re better at being “anyone” than you. Know that not everyone is looking for you. And because they aren’t looking for you and there is too much clutter and too much noise, you’ll never be seen. Most of the people you are trying to reach with your product, course, or service do not have the problem you are trying to solve, or at least they don’t think they do. And if people have the problem, they are probably not looking for a solution, and if they’re not looking for a solution...then you’re invisible. They are clicking and moving on. So who is looking for your solution?
Target the smallest possible audience, not the biggest possible audience [meaning the smallest you can live with (S.V.A- smallest viable audience)] should be your target audience. Your competition will be ignoring that audience and that audience will fall in love with you; tell all their friends about you, and then the bigger stuff takes care of itself. Metcalfe’s Law (the opposite of Fight Club) states that the strength of any network is equal to the square of the number of connected users in a system. In layman’s terms, the more people who know about something, the more power it has. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he didn’t keep it to himself.
Go to the edges and find people who want to be found. Make stuff for the weird people. Facebook, Zipcar, TED Talk, Kickstarter, Instagram, Spanx, AirBnB, Chobani, Slack, Warby Parker, Zappos, Kindle, Innocent, Uber, TaskRabbit were all made for the weird people. Weird people care. If people do not care, you do not have their permission. If you do not have permission, you are merely being tolerated. You have to be trusted, worthy of our attention. But if you have someone’s permission, you have an asset. And that asset is priceless. It is the priceless asset of attention. Now that you have people’s attention, you can treat different people differently (melting bell curve). Whisper to the people who care, you do not have to yell. Dynamic marketing is possible for the first time in history. Take advantage of it.
is all the audience
you need to shoot for.
Lucky for you though, the curve is melting.
More! More market share, more students, more sales, more emails, more interruptions, more revenue, more revenue, more revenue!....This trend is toxic. This leads to Mass Marketing. Average products for average people. If you want to Mass Market and interrupt the masses, you better have something the masses want to buy…which is average. We say, “That’s ok! Because Google will find us, that’s ok because we’re on Facebook, that’s ok because people can get it on Amazon.” That is small, shortsighted thinking. Never take a shortsighted approach to a long-term goal. Most people massively overestimate what you will do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a decade. Do it on your own. ‘Sort by price’ is the bane of your existence. ‘Sort by price’ is a game you will never and should never win. Those three companies are preying on other companies who make things less special. They make it to where if you’re not the #1 search and if you’re not showing up on the 1st page...you’re invisible. The only way to get noticed is to be special, and the only way to be special is to not be average, and the only way to not be average is to ignore almost everybody, and to make it for a few people.
People, we're flying too low! We think everyone needs a lot more hubris, a lot less obedience, and a lot more awareness that this revolution was just handed to us. The Internet. If all we are using it for is to put up silly pictures of cats and the Pope, we’re wasting it. There is a difference between just throwing rocks and creating a ruckus. You make a ruckus in the service of something worthwhile. That it feels way more risky to you than it does to everybody else; that if you do it in the small, you'll get good enough to do it in the medium and in the large. And that's where the next great innovation will come from. We need more people push for the future. Don’t be the one to let it fall by the wayside. The hardest things lead to the best results. As the greatest daredevil of all-time, Evel Knievel wonderfully put it, “Where there’s little risk in life, there’s little reward.”
This was a societal principle presented by Raymond Loewy, one of the most acclaimed industrial designers of the 20th century. Loewy sought to give his users the most advanced design, but not more advanced than what they were able to accept and embrace. You should take it one step further than what is present in the market, maybe two but never three. You go three steps further and you’re not making anything anybody wants. Another way to look at it is, to sell something surprising, make it familiar; to sell something familiar, make it surprising. Whatever industry you are in, push said industry a step or two forward. Do not just “show up.” It’s not good enough. You should ask yourself, How can we push our industry? Who can we transform by our product? What complacency can we disrupt? What frustration can we transform into a movement to revolutionize how things have been for way too long? What monopoly can we democratize for an underserved group of people? Remember, a good brand makes us feel good about what they stand for. A great brand makes us feel good about what we stand for. Excite your customers. The more awake your customers are, the more alive they are, and the more they’ll talk about you.
Safe vs. Comfortable
All creatures need shortcuts in life, safety is a big one. Specifically, we do not have time to reevaluate the safety of everything. If you take a mouse and put it in the middle of the floor and shine a light on it, it will scurry away. It will just run away the second you point your flashlight at it. It does so because it is uncomfortable, because it feels unsafe there. So in order to succeed, organisms, particularly humans, have to build a comfort zone that matches their safety zone so they don't have to worry about whether it’s safe or not, they just have to worry if it’s comfortable. Because if it’s not comfortable, it’s not safe. If it’s not comfortable they run away. I talk to businesses who say,“You know, that's not really in our comfort zone.” What I say to them is,“You know what? Your comfort zone isn't working because you only want to do things to feel safe and they're not safe, they’re dangerous, they're going to leave you out of business. You are going to have to do this other stuff over there that may feel uncomfortable... but is actually safe.” So the safest thing you can do is take a risk, or what feels like a risk. And the riskiest thing you can do is play it safe. The world is constantly changing. You need to change with it. You need to feel a little uncomfortable. If you are not willing to risk the remarkable, you will have to settle for the average.
Differentiate or Die
As a business owner you may think that lowering your prices is what will bring more customers in. You may think that your prices are the reason why potential customers may be spending their money elsewhere, that price is what is separating you from your competitors, it isn't. Price is rarely ever about money, it’s about value. Lowering your prices for the sake of sales belittles your brand and shows the market and your customers that you have no control over your business. Do not lower price for the sake of possible customers. Price is what someone pays. Value is what someone gets. The more value you provide, the less price becomes the driver. A cheaper price may inspire a purchase, but it won’t inspire loyalty. Why would customers pay more for the same thing somewhere else?
The only answer is to not be the same thing. You have to be the only one. When you are the “One-and-Only”, then you got a shot. You have to differentiate if you wish to survive. Branding is a symphony. It’s that perfect moment of silence between the notes. That symphony of design, color, shape, form, and motion captures people’s attention. Every brand must ask,
Too few companies ask themselves, “Have we done everything possible to not be ignored and not be seen as average?” A prerequisite: You have to have something worth being heard when you get that attention. The reason why social media fails for so many companies is that they think, “Let’s get a ton of followers!” You need to have something to say when all eyes and ears are on you. Think of your brand as a party, your dialogue is your refreshment. When everyone’s serving luke-warm pizza, be the one to serve amazing seafood, sizzling steak, and mouthwatering appetizers; never boring, never predictable.
Be vitally relevant. Use design, language, color, and storytelling to make that connection, that impression, that unparalleled dent others try to make, to rise above the noise. Facts, products, services, information, and numbers aren’t your brand. The magic is your brand and a brand can achieve so much more than facts and figures. Brands (when done right) should shift a wandering eye into a focused one. A transaction or sale is the result of the magic that preceded it. Don’t forget the Magic. The transaction is a simple confirmation that the magic, the real value, (the care, compassion, interest, and passion) occurred before the sale. What adds value in today’s world? Speed, efficiency, surprises, learning something new, getting more than expected, anything on top of the product that a customer would assume to get from you.
Every company needs to clearly establish their brand’s point of difference. That difference equates to value. Worthwhile, quantifiable value. Speed, convenience, better service, greater experience, higher quality, variety, fresher goods, handmade delicacies, faster connections, or simpler ‘one-click’ checkouts, scarcity tactic, are all ways in which to differentiate yourself. Fail to clearly and persuasively define and communicate difference, the customer will do it for you. If consumers notice “no apparent difference” amongst competing companies they’ll ask one question, “Which one is cheaper?” Failing to clearly establish a difference that’s valuable, the only “value” left is “getting the same thing for less.” If you and your competitors start lowering prices as your difference (we’ll spoil the ending to that story) no one wins in a race to Zero.
Another point of difference that customers may not be expecting is after the sale. Almost all companies think that their brand stops at the point of sale, thinking that your product is the end-all. They think that the roping-in of the customer and the purchase of said customer is the whole journey. They are forgetting the final aspect of the sale, after the sale. This neglected opportunity is showing that customers are only a sale and not an integral part of your business. This last third, is where you differentiate, lock in loyalty, and explode brands exponentially. Consider customer relationships instead of sales. The relationship begins after sale. Provide value, not move product. Exceed expectations. Your product alone is not the after sale. Even something a simple as a handwritten letter to the customer would go a long way.
"Why should anyone give a darn
about my business?"
Clarity is Key
If you haven’t clarified you message, your customers won’t listen. Clarifying a message can be hard. But if you do not, you’ll lose to an inferior product if they have a clearer message and better customer communication. Ambiguity in a company’s message can be like trying to read the label from inside a bottle. People will try to decipher the message but give up long before its meaning is understood. Luckily, there is a shortcut to clarifying the message of any business...story.
Brands are in the storytelling business. What you do doesn’t actually matter in a sense. Your brand is not what you do or make, it’s what your customer gets that changes their lives for the better. Every brand must be 100% clear on the difference between what it makes (and sells) vs. what its customers buy. Once you know what you’re selling, clarify what your customer is buying. Porsche makes a car, but customers buy status in the passing lane. Häagen-Dazs makes ice cream but customers buy the ultimate adult indulgence. Chanel makes a fragrance but customers buy beauty and elegance. Storytelling is part of branding. You need to provide ‘inspiration’ through ‘information’. Some brands though have “telling the truth” confused with “boring me to death with facts.” ‘Established 1906’ used to be really important. Now, apparently, it can be a liability depending on the industry. Just stating data or information about your company will do nothing but make the consumer think. If they have to think about your business, work on your clarity, work on your story.
The last project Steve Jobs worked on before being fired by Apple was the Lisa Computer. He had a 9 page article in the New York Times for it in which it showed all the figures and facets on the computer. It dig very deep into the statistics of the machine. Long story short, the computer bombed. After Jobs’ firing from Apple, he helped in running a new company that was shifting from the computer industry into storytelling. This company was called Pixar. Now a household name, Pixar taught Jobs the importance of story. After coming back to Apple, Jobs wanted Apple’s company message to be customer-centric, compelling, and clear in their communication. Apple’s first marketing campaign after the return of Steve Jobs went from 9 pages to just two words on a billboard. “Think Different.” They identified what their customers wanted, which was to be seen and heard. They defined their customers’ challenges, that people did not recognize their hidden genius. And Apple offered their customers a tool that they could use to express his or her hidden genius, being Apple’s computers. Notice Apple’s story is not about Apple itself. Their story is about the customer or consumer. You have to make the customer of your product the hero of their own story, and you are just a tool they need to win the day. John Lasseter, one of the founders of Pixar once said, “No amount of great animation will save a bad story.” The story you tell is more important than the product you sell.
A Story to be Told
Story to the Rescue! Story is a sense-making device. It identifies a necessary ambition, defines the challenges to achieve said ambition, and provides a plan to help conquer those challenges. You need to define those elements of story that relate to your company’s message. You need to create a map your customers can follow to engage your products and services more accurately. So story equals clarity. “But I’m not a writer,” you may say. You do not have to be a writer to come up with your company’s brand story. Just follow the outline of a typical book or movie. What you need to figure out is who the hero is and what do they want in your story? Who does the hero have to defeat to get what they want? What tragic thing will happen if the hero is defeated? And what wonderful thing will happen if the hero is successful? Remember, the hero in your story is not your company, it’s your customer. So let’s re-word those inquiries pertaining to business. Who is your ideal customer and what do they want? What problem does your customer have that they need your help in solving? What awful thing will happen if your customer does not get your help? And what fantastic thing will happen if your customer uses your product? Again, the three crucial questions that must be answered to tell a clear story are what does the hero want? Who or what is opposing the hero getting what he/she wants? What will the hero’s life look like if he/she does ( or does not) get what they want? So story in a nutshell is a character, a problem, a guide, a plan, a call to action, then either failure or success. Seems easy enough. Now you need to figure out those questions. Just as an example, Fancy Feast Gourmet Cat Food is not for cats, it’s for people. They are telling you that you are a good person for buying your cat this food. The story resonates with you, not your cat. Your cat does not know or care about Fancy Feast.
In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (your customer) has three types of problems: an external, to defeat the Empire, an internal, is he a jedi? And a philosophical, good vs. evil. He meets Obi-Wan Kenobi (your business), who teaches Luke to trust in the force (your product), to go defeat the Empire (customer problem). If he fails, the Rebellion is crushed, but if he succeeds, the Rebellion live on to fight another day.
Customers have burning questions and compelling problems inside them. If we are not answering those questions, they will move on to another brand that will. Every company needs to get their story straight in order to properly communicate with consumers. The main enemy of any business is noise. Noise from the marketplace yes but more importantly, from within your own business. No business is too diverse or complex to have a story. What you think you are saying to our customers and what your customers are actually hearing are two different things. Customers make buying decisions not based on what you say but on what they hear. The more you can cut out in your message, the less noise you have within your story, the easier communication will be to your customers. If you confuse, you lose. So ask yourself, what do you offer? How will it make one’s life better? What does one need to do to buy it?
You get through all that? Wow! If you were that interested, maybe you would like to talk about it. Drop us a line.