Gaining Perspective – tips to brand success part 2.
So, yesterday we pondered the statement ‘your brand is not you’ in a bid to make the whole process of sales and marketing more palatable and ultimately more profitable (however you choose to measure that) but that’s not the whole story. Once you have got used to the idea that your brand is a separate entity then it is time to ‘frame’ it or define the space that it occupies. Think of this as the mental equivalent to drawing up a house plan either for a house that you already know and love or for something new (depending on where your brand is at). It is difficult (not impossible but extra hard) to build a house without a plan, plans can help us when we come to re-develop or extend our house as we know from the plan what space we have around us and inside of each room to move. We can also check up on legal requirements to make sure our new plans remain compliant for our environment. Same goes for a brand.
Now before we go any further I want to point out that I’m not asking you to write a big business plan here and now. Yes that might be useful and some of you will find that doing that ‘ticks’ this box but what I encourage people to do BEFORE (or even instead of ) that is to FEEL it. Really feel it. While I do meet all sorts of personalities in this field I mostly find that it is the creative, non-conformist, go-getter, energetic, expressive and crazy people who end up owning brands. I know this because I’m one (with my Realize Beauty and Amongst Sisters) and as such a good old-fashioned paper plan doesn’t cut it. We need to feel this from the ground up.
So, this is what I do:
- Look inside the box activity – Find yourself some time and space where inspiration can flow and bring your brand to mind. It may help if you have it in front of you but it doesn’t have to be that way. What we are going to do is conger up an ‘ideal customer’. More about this later.
- Outside of the box activity – OK so now it is time to turn your attention to the big wide world. Many people tell me that they have a unique idea and they do but chances are that someone else had that same unique idea and just framed it differently. We need to evaluate the market.
- Build it – So now is the fun bit made easier by tools such as pinterest and internet shopping! This step involves the marrying of your ideal customer with your brand and really breaking down what makes this work – we can call these points ‘unique selling points’ or ‘features and benefits’ if you like or you could call it ‘brand connection points’, ‘brand love’ , ‘relationship ties’ or ‘bonding’. Whatever you need to do to conger up the plan of how your brand and your ideal customer relate to each other.
Let’s look a little deeper.
1) Inside the box.
Building up a picture of your ideal customer is neither easy or hard it just is once you see it as a necessary part of owning a successful brand. Many of us create or are inspired by brands that solve OUR problems – be it those that we wear or that a member of our family wears. If our child has eczema and we develop an eczema balm it is tempting to say ‘the target market for my brand is kids with eczema’ but that may be missing the point entirely. Who buys products for eczema prone kids? What else is going on in their life? Do they have a restricted diet (allergies?), Do they travel frequently or are they home bodies? Do they read the natural news or are they a fan of commercial TV? What is their education level and engagement in this subject? How old is the child? Is the child likely to be otherwise medicated? What is the household budget? What colour is their bathroom? What car do they drive?
Sound crazy detailed? It really isn’t. My work has shown me that the more you can do this the more successful you can be. Whatever your brand idea you will be competing against others, some with much more money, more Facebook followers, more experience and a bigger budget than you. That is good, one day that might be you if you can do this.
A successful brand has to be seen as without eyeballs I would argue that you don’t even have a brand. To be seen you have to be recognised by your target audience. If you don’t identify a target audience then you can do everything else fantastically but your products will remain invisible.
Your ideal customer needs to be built and fully visible to you in a form that resonates as this is who I will ask you to refer to (have a board meeting with) every time you make a brand decision. You may give ‘her’ or ‘him’ a name and a space in your office. I can’t stress enough how important it is to really feel a connection with this person so do whatever it takes, even if it means making or buying a doll and dressing it up to sit on your bedside table. Just do it 🙂
Some more tips on how to build then get to know your ideal customer:
- Use art as your medium paint, draw, model or otherwise build them.
- Gather objects that you think they would like – stones, ribbon, wallpaper clippings, fabric, perfumes etc.
- Power point presentation or pinterest boards work well.
- Compile a ‘mix tape’ of music that they would listen to – some people find this the best way to tap into their customers vibe even though it doesn’t seem obvious.
- Live their life for a day – go to the shops, restaurants and bars that they would, eat as they do, dress that way and absorb the media that they would be exposed to.
- Write – anything from a long-hand story to a short poem to find their ‘voice’.
- Talk into a dictation machine about this person.
Some other guidance points:
- Yes it does have to be just one person (ideally as it is often only one person that decides on the shopping). Don’t worry about this though as it doesn’t mean that only this person will buy your goods. Branding doesn’t work that way.
- Make sure you can get a feeling for this person, don’t just do one of the things on the list because I said so, it has to come from you and your inspiration. None of the above methods are any more or less valid than another. It just depends on your learning style.
- Take whatever time you need. Sometimes you might sit down and have this nailed in 2 hours while in others it can be a process of slow evolution over a year. Don’t worry either way, you can still progress with your business in the meantime as there are many other jobs you could be doing just be aware of procrastination. It is important that this gets done.
The next two steps are really easy as long as the first is completed thoroughly.
2) Outside of the box.
Now that you know everything there is to know about your ideal customer you can turn your attention to the outside world and see what they are buying now. In most cases your solution will be an evolution of what is currently on the market and as such your customer will already be in the market. Use this to your advantage and build a visual map of the options open to your client in the market/ markets that you intend to operate.
Once you have these other brands in your sights evaluate them in terms of things that would matter to your target customer: Price point, pack size/ shape/ design, ingredients list, claims, product feel/ performance, smell, company ethics/ background, accessibility of the brand (where do you buy it), brand/ customer engagement profile etc. This should enable you to rank these products and find your closest rival.
Shirking on this point will give you a skewed view of what is already out on the market and may make you over-state your points of difference (that aren’t different at all). It can also see you focus on things that aren’t actually ‘big deals’ for clients.
Don’t worry if after this you think ‘my product is no different/ has no unique benefits’, that isn’t necessarily true. The subtle detail and energy behind your product will make it attractive to someone and you will sell. You just have to do it well.
3) Build It.
This is the time to bring everything you know together. You have your target customer in sight and know everything about their life. You know what other brands are out there competing for their eyeballs. You now have to marry those two things with your product and we do this through words, images, packaging and ingredients.
Words – the language you use on your labels, website and social media pages does matter as this is what builds engagement and compliance (you want people to use your product as directed for safety and results). Make sure you are talking in your customers language and not just yours. If your customers are highly educated be wordy, if they are time poor cut the text to short, snappy sentences. Think about what each word means and how that either re-enforces or detracts from your product both on-shelf and in-use.
Images – this is where your branding comes in terms of logo, branding elements, colours etc. Again make sure it matches and is relevant to your target. Designers can help with this and tell you more about what each font, colour and pattern means so that you can build depth in your branding rather than just stick to what looks pretty.
Packaging – packaging is key for the success of your cosmetic product as it helps with functionality, product protection, use compliance and shelf appeal. Take your time to evaluate this properly and produce a real solution that works in the way that your customers will use it.
Ingredients – this is where we do lots of work. Choosing ingredients that compliment your story and make sense to your audience really matters – for example I would suggest chamomile extract for a product aimed at 65-year-old women looking for a soothing skin repair cream but I would go for the active component of chamomile – bisabolol in a product for soothing the skin of 30 something year olds with sun damage. Perfumes and essential oils also fit here and can be crucial to brand success as can anything else smelly that you have in your product!
By the end of all of this you will have come a long way down the track of building a brand that isn’t you – even if your target customer looks and lives just like you (or how you would like to live) and this means that you are already thinking like a successful brand. The only thing left to do is put the pedal to the metal and roll.
The time to grow is now.