We're excited to kick off the first post of our three-part series on branding! Throughout the series, you'll get a deeper look at our philosophy on branding and how we help clients build EPIC brands.
Written by: Tyler Price
Do you remember a few years ago when you couldn’t go to the grocery store without seeing an option of chips, cookies, soda or butter without some combination of the words “all” and “natural” emblazoned on the front of the package? We bought those all natural snacks for two reasons. The first reason is because chips and cookies and soda and butter are delicious and we are systemically addicted to snack foods. This isn’t a societal shortcoming as much as a testament to the deliciousness of snacks. The second reason is because we are systemically addicted to snack foods and need to feel better about the saturated fats we eat. For some reason the combination of the words “all” and “natural” suddenly transport us to some farmer’s market in a super healthy community where they have discovered the secret to cookies and chips and soda and butter that actually makes you thinner instead of fatter. This isn’t an outright deception by marketers or a downfall of society as much as it’s a statement about the power of words and how they can make us feel exactly the way we wish to feel about ourselves.
The truth is that we don’t simply align with brands based on the immediate value they offer us. We buy things like shoes and clothes because we need to be protected from the elements. That is the immediate payoff when you buy clothing. Congratulations, you’re not naked or barefoot. However, the longer lasting payoff is that we want to be aligned with the ethos of a particular brand and the value they provide to the whole world. Let’s take a look at how this happens in three movements.
It's Okay to Feel Some Type of Way
Empathy is the buzziest of buzzwords right now in the world of marketing. Empathy as it relates to society is the practice of seeing the world as another sees it, even if you don’t agree with a certain viewpoint. It is when a person attempts to feel what another person is feeling and relate to them on a level deeper than simply understanding their feelings. Empathy as it relates to marketing is the practice of aligning with the ideology of a customer (or variety of customers).
This was on full display during the Super Bowl this year when much of the nation was still reeling from the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. Let’s say you’re a very large beer company and your CEO was displeased in the outcome of the election and wanted to use the platform and money to share a message that hinted to this fact. It’s a tricky situation for sure. On one hand you’re surely going to make some people angry about the stance you’re taking in this moment. Maybe those people will get angry and choose to drink a different beer. This would be less than ideal. On the other hand, you’re surely to gain some new fans who agree with your stance. Maybe some of those new fans are watching that commercial drinking a different beer and tell themselves and their friends “Hey, I agree with that commercial. I drink that beer now.” This outcome would be ideal.
You see, the caveat about empathetic marketing is it has to abandon demographics. There are no reliable statistics that let you know every demographic who share an ideology. Today many brands are taking the risk to stop putting a blanket over their consumers with the hope to cover the largest share, and instead are treating marketing like a puzzle. Slowly taking ideological stands in a variety of spaces and gaining an even more dedicated following. The hope is that consumers like your product and love your position.
Using Your Inside and Outside Voice
There are a lot of different ways we want to be perceived. In high school I went through a pretty amusing emo phase. I bought a lot of tight fitting jeans and black t-shirts and even straightened my hair a few times. It was a weird time in my life and luckily Instagram wasn’t around and there is little to no record of that part of my life. But my outward voice was desperate to convey the message that I was at worst really sad and at best looked good in tight jeans (I did.) However, as badly as I tried to look a particular way there were consistent, untapped truths about myself that my clothing and straightened hair could not convey. I had goals, dreams, and values that my outward appearance couldn’t possibly communicate. The truth is everyone has a voice they want the world to hear and a voice they hear when they talk to themselves. It’s not duplicitous, it's smart. When we sit down with a client, we think it's super important to define those inward and outward voices early in the process of branding. A clear understanding of what you want people to think about you, and what you think about yourself will enable a more well-rounded branding effort.
Time For Brand Therapy
If all this sounds intimidating, you're not alone. Digging into your feelings is one of the greatest fears of every man, woman and child on the planet. It's scary, messy work. However, we're here not only to be your designers, but also your counselors. The fact of the matter is you already know who you are as an organization and we wanna help you rediscover that while getting to know you ourselves. It's one of our favorite parts of the service we provide. In a meeting with you, we go through several brand exercises that invite you to take a new look at your brand. We will fly you up to 30,000 feet so you can look down at your whole organization and see how far you've come and how far you wanna go. Then we drop you right back into the streets and give you space to rediscover the cellular makeup of your brand. Through all this reflection, you discover aspects of your brand that you weren't aware of and are reacquainted with everything you already know. Our hope is that by being candid and open about how your company operates, what it believes in, who your people are and what kind of relationships you have in the community, you can realize how outsiders see you and how you can talk about yourself moving forward. It changes the way you talk about your brand internally and externally.
Ultimately, we believe that branding is a more effective tool when it reflects all of you and your company. Who you are, what you care about, what you want to accomplish and how deeply those things run into your identity as a brand are what sets you apart and we think that’s awesome. We think to stand up for something as a brand is to invest in who you are and stand out.
Read part 2 here.