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My Brand, My Voice. The power of knowing what you are saying.

June 6, 2017

As a brand owner have you ever felt like your customers are trying to pin you into a corner?  Well maybe they are and maybe it’s because of something you said……

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People approach brand development from many angles and today I want to talk about one of them.  While I’ve mentioned before on this blog that your brand is not you (in as much as it pays to step outside of what YOU like for a minute and check that YOUR tastes are shared by a sizeable and accessible portion of the ‘market’) it is fair to say that your brand is a PART of you, you birthed it.  For people who are setting up a brand that is positioned as a healthier, purer, more environmentally friendly, better for human rights OR more anti-animal testing than xxx brand,   this is for you.

Your brand is your voice in the world.

One of the things I hear often from brand owners or customer facing professionals in the beauty/ personal care industry is that every day customers will come in or call up or email through with another question, another thing they want reassurance on, another ingredient they want answers on.  While this is all perfectly reasonable, something to be encouraged even, it is often possible for the person fielding all of this to end up feeling like the tail isn’t just wagging the dog, it is dragging it deeper into the forest where there is no easy way out!

For brand owners that are the sole decision maker and investor in their brand, this can also lead to meltdown, especially when your very mission at the outset was to give people a better option.

Help!

OK so let’s start with a look at the law of attraction.

What we focus on, we attract.

So you set out to be an authentic brand that people could trust and that was your main thing.  You talked about trust, truth, transparency and authenticity and what you got was a bunch of people testing you out by asking questions to see how trustworthy, truthful, transparent and authentic you are, only those people aren’t interested in your reality, they are interested in theirs.

 

The problem that I see most often with this ‘morally good’ brand development platform is that all too often, it leaves too much to the imaginations of your customer – it isn’t developed enough.  Let me give you an example.

You claim ‘paraben free’  (everyone else does so why not).

So you write ‘paraben free’ on your label and before long  you notice that your brand is attracting people who are looking for cosmetics that have preservatives that are completely 100% safe with no down side what so ever. For one reason or another (unbeknown to you unless you take the time to ask each one) they have become fearful of preservatives and will question you about everything you put forward unless it looks so innocuous that they feel they could eat it.  Some of these people would actually like preservative free products ‘just to be on the safe side’ and will question you as to why yours are not.

 

So when you claimed paraben free what were you really saying?

From where I sit I see the moral to this story as this,  as a brand owner it is important to explore what you are saying and how you are positioning your brand in depth before you do it.  Saying or claiming something just because everyone else does is a recipe for disaster, even if you believe you are doing the right thing and especially if you are the only one who can answer the probing questions that will in time come to you.

And in cases like this time can be your enemy. 

The longer a brand owner or store owner goes on holding an unexamined ingredient philosophy the more there is at stake in examining it – what if, when you finally work out what you are trying to achieve you realise you were wrong?  What if there is no evidence to substantiate what you are saying? What if there is a consumer backlash against this unsubstantiated positioning – what if their questioning starts to overtake your understanding and they do have the evidence to back it up?  What if those with the most probing questions are those you most want to impress and can’t answer?  What if you realise that you are solving none of the problems you set out to by sticking to this idea?

So what can be done?

Well we could reframe our position as a journey.

It might be an idea to start by re-framing our position and remaining open to new information.  We can start by taking our customers on a journey, OUR journey rather than locking them into our present destination. So, we might preface our ‘paraben free’ statement with a statement like ‘innovative ingredient focused’  or ‘progressive chemistry’  or something interesting and action-packed to draw in a crowed that is less about out-right bans and more about progressive thinking although it is likely that the ‘paraben free’ tick box will still have to remain, at least while people get used to this new way of communicating. Many people still wouldn’t know what a paraben even is, only that they don’t want them!

Setting out to be the most authentic brand, the brand that saves the whales,  releases children from slave labour,  opens the cages and lets the lab rats free or re-wilds the forests of palm plantations is no easy feat and it seems reasonable enough to me that it might take several years (if not a brand lifetime) to achieve that. Expecting the situation ‘on the ground’ to remain static is, at best pessimistic and at worst just plain wrong. Science advances on, governments bring in new legislation, public opinion changes and ideas develop so why not use those changing goal posts to give your brand some flexibility AND an opportunity for your customers to get involved, give feedback, help shape your future?  Even if you don’t want customers to directly contribute an acknowledgement that your brand philosophy is a journey will at least keep them coming back to find out more!

The aim of re-thinking and re-working our ingredient positioning  is to attract people who will join us with positive energy as that’s what brands thrive off.

There are a set of customers out there that would like nothing better than to have completely amazing skin care that gave instant results for a reasonable price but that used no ingredients that look like they might be chemicals at all (even the ones allowed in an organic product).  It is currently impossible to achieve that but what is possible is to be working towards a better and better outcome for X, Y or Z.  X may be the environment, Y may be animal treatment and Z might be the results the product delivers to the skin.  Picking one as a core value is not a bad idea.

The art of researching properly.

Once a position has been fully scoped out – for example ‘I’ll go paraben free because parabens are most often petroleum derived and I want to avoid non-renewable resources’ then you will automatically find yourself in a better position to start properly researching the area and that will enable you to develop more meaningful conversations with customers.  Instead of ‘paraben free’ being a conversation non-starter, it becomes a gateway into a conversation about your tangible and measurable values.

Prepare, aim and then fire those words out into the world.

As a brand owner your words have power and if you understand that power you can harness opportunities that would otherwise pass you by.  Not only that but you can also save yourself many hours of heartache answering questions from people who are most likely never going to buy your products anyway.  So my final words on this are as follows:  You don’t necessarily have to CHANGE your philosophy, you just have to CHALLENGE it and be able to DEFEND or EXPLAIN it when CHALLENGED back.  That is much easier to do when you are aware of and in control of how your words might be interpreted as pre-examining that puts the power back into your hands.

Good luck out there.
Amanda x

 

 

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