2017 promises to be a great year for business owners and marketers who are willing to follow a few simple resolutions. I could have written a dozen or so, but that would go against the number one resolution for better branding:
• Resolve to be short and sweet. (Whenever you can)
There’s a proven paradox in marketing communications that says: The less you say, the more they hear. So stop with the generalities and the corporate double speak. Instead, try plain English. Hone in one specific idea and pound it home with powerful mental images and just a few, relevant details.
Behavioral scientists have shown, time and time again, that our brains are hard-wired to discard information. Malcom Gladwell touches on this “unconscious intelligence” in his book “Blink.” And Bill Schley spells it out nicely in his book on micro-scripts.
The human brain has a very active built-in editor, so if it sounds complicated or confusing, we just discard it.
The brain automatically defaults to the simplest, fastest, most understandable messages. So sharpen your pencils, discard all the superfluous nonsense and get the heart of the matter. That’s the key to better branding… Use fewer elements. Simple words. And images that can be “read” at a glance. Because the message with a narrow focus is the message that’s widely received.
Don’t get me wrong… there are times when long copy is absolutely the best answer. But even when it’s long, it needs to be direct and to the point. Not a roundabout of facts, figures and corporate nonsense.
Resolve to stop boring people.
It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to convince you that boring stuff doesn’t sink in. Usually, if you follow resolution Number One, you’ll avoid this problem pretty easily.
The new year is a great time to refresh and rethink your marketing materials. That old Powerpoint deck you’ve been using… toss it out and start from scratch. Those tired stock photos… commission a pro to replace them. Those little pay per click ads you’ve been milking along… gone. That website that hasn’t been updated in years… don’t shed any tears over that.
Sure, you’re creating more work for yourself, or for a qualified marketer, but the process of re-inventing is well worth it. Without even thinking about it you’ll integrate what you’ve learned this past year and improve things dramatically.
Remember, you can only get their attention and hold their interest by using unusual, distinctive, and unpredictable stimuli. Just the opposite of boring stuff.
Resolve to tell stories.
Here’s another way you can avoid boring ’em to death: Tell good stories. Stop reciting data and repeating industry cliches and start using original narratives and colorful metaphors to get your point across.
Stories trigger emotions. Emotions demand attention.
Telling a good story is not that hard. Think about it…You’ve been telling stories your whole life, just probably not in a business context. Everywhere you turn you’re entertained and engaged by stories. Every game you watch is a story. Every YouTube Video and every comic you read has a story. Even email exchanges can become convincing stories.
Storytelling is a wildly undervalued in the corporate world. But if you look at the brands that have been most successful in any given market, they’re all good at telling stories. As are the leaders of those companies.
Think about the role your company plays in stories of your best customers, your key suppliers and even your biggest competitors. Are you the Ruler or the Reformer? The Maverick or the Mentor? The Guardian or the Gambler?
Those archetypes show up in every story ever told.
What’s your story this year, and how are you going to tell it? Do you have a David & Goliath story you could be telling? Or maybe a coming-of-age story. Imagine how well that would play, relative to another, boring Powerpoint presentation.
Resolve to stop throwing money at the latest, greatest deal of the day.
This is for retailers who are constantly barraged by offers to run more and more offers. Stop the madness!
Constant discounting is not going to help build your brand for the long haul, unless your brand happens to be WalMart, Kmart, or Dave’s Discount Deal of the Day Store.
Otherwise, it’s just another way of screaming Sale! Sale! Sale! All the time. It undervalues your product, attracts the wrong kind of customers and sabotages your brand narrative. It’s like the cocaine of marketing. Is that the story you really want to be telling?
If you’re going to do Groupon-style discounting, look at it this way: It’s a short-term cash flow band aid. Nothing more. If your business is very seasonal it can help get you through the slow months, but it’s not a long-term marketing strategy, much less good branding.
Most business owners are beginning to see that. According to Fast Company Magazine, the daily deal industry is in a “healthy period of reassessment right now.” In other words, there’s a big shake-out going on and even the big guys, Groupon and Living Social, are re-thinking their value propositions because their clients are not seeing sustainable results.
Most success stories in that business come from retailers who use daily deals as a loss-leader tactic… get them in the door with a discount coupon, then up-sell them into a much larger, more valuable product or service. But remember, the people who regularly use Groupon are bargain hunters, so that upselling idea may or may not work. For most companies, it’s a profit killer, not a growth strategy.
Obviously, there are hundreds of ways you can do better branding. But these three are a good start. Resolved to do at least one this year, and you will see results.
For more on how to do better branding, try THIS post.