Co-authored by Cory Zibell, Technology Lead & Inessa Yusupov, Senior Art Director.
As you walk into a party, who do you notice first? Maybe the loudest person. Or the most attractive. Either way, being noticed first isn’t important. Being remembered is. Who do you remember? The person who told the best stories. The one who connected with you on a personal level. The person with the most presence. That's who you remember. If you think about your brand as a person (and, legally, a corporation IS a person), being unforgettable is about having presence.
The reaction a consumer will have to your branding is the same reaction someone has to meeting someone new or seeing an old friend. They will have a gut feeling – a reaction to your presence– just as someone will have a gut feeling about your brand, whether they've never seen it or they interact with it on a daily basis. As Marty Neumeier puts it, "A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization."
Engineering the correct feeling requires the right walk, talk, and presence. As Simon Sinek explains, knowing who you want your brand to be needs to start with why your company or service exists in the first place.
If you want to be the most magnetic brand at the marketing party and connect with your intended audience on a personal level, you need to start with a three-dimensional look at who you are as a brand, and carefully determine where you need to plot the X, Y, and Z of your brand.
The Y Axis of Branding
Like Simon Sinek, we're going to start with Y. This the essential first step for building the brand equity of your meaningful, future-proof brand. What is your brand trying to accomplish? What makes you stand out? Where are you going? Where did you come from? These are the questions that determine the wh(Y) of your brand. They provide you with a set of answers that define what your brand’s composition is. With a bit of refining, these answers should allow you to explain who your brand is in a 30-second elevator pitch. The key is to be concise, yet specific. Don’t worry, the world wide web has a plethora of resources to help you get started. Explore the Elevator Pitch Builder (available on GitHub here: https://github.com/mjumbewu/elevator-pitch-builder) to get a jump start on understanding your brand at its core.
Your epic journey to becoming unforgettable is going to feel a lot like reliving your teen years. It’s going to be a struggle. You’ll certainly learn a lot of lessons the hard way. You may even think you’ve figured out your Y, but find yourself doing a few big pivots before your company’s pimple-faced pre-pubescent self is able to express the value it could provide.
Take Arccos Golf, a connected technology brand Digital Surgeons brought to market, for instance. The young startup was looking to change the game of golf through connected technology. While having a solid product and valuable consumer insight is every company’s dream, a weak brand position could have seriously reduced the lifespan of a startup like Arccos. The first brand development challenge we faced was to address whether or not the company belongs in the golf and sporting segment or the technology category. Focusing on one segment and not the other would rob Arccos of many opportunities. On the other hand, pursuing both categories with an equal level of resources would be a shot in the foot. Instead, a hierarchy of focus was established: Arccos is the expert of self-improvement through stat tracking in golf. That means that, above all else, the startup is a an expert in statistics and technology, but has a heavy background in golf.
This focus on self-improving tech future-proofs Arccos as a parent company because it allows the startup to branch out into a variety of subsegments such as targeting pros or pursuing alternate sports. Future-proof your brand’s presence by asking yourself what the true purpose of your company is and how can it extend beyond the now. Getting it right early on, regardless of how many iterations a brand grows through, will provide a strong return as you move forward.
The X Axis of Branding
Developing who you are (the Y your company establishes) will not necessarily make you stand out from those around you. It will make you different, sure but what makes you stand out is your personality, or your X (communication strategy).
How will your company fit among the lineup of competitors in the marketplace? How will you find your place and still stand out? Understanding who you will build a relationship with will dictate how you communicate with them.
Every brand encounters a different challenge when establishing and pursuing a target market. As you might expect with any startup, we encountered a few more twists and turns while crafting the brand strategy for Arccos Golf. Typically, a brand will target consumers from a small age range with a key set of qualities in order to establish a rapport that resonates with these consumers. In their case, they marketed to the 22-year-old and 65-year-old golfer alike.
How you speak to a consumer is just as important as where and when you engage in conversation. Publishing frequency and timing has a significant impact on viewership and number of interactions with your content. Buffer, the social media scheduling application, has studied this, and has it down to a science. For example, their research shows that Facebook engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays. Do not let quality content go unnoticed. Publish at relevant times and remember, done is better than perfect when it comes to real-time communication. Explore our Guide to Content Marketing for a crash course and a range of resources to keep your content game on point, consistently.
Add an additional layer of effectiveness to your content by establishing and/or crafting shared language that is specific to your brand. A well-crafted brand voice helps to build communities around your brand by engaging your consumers and encouraging a mental shift. It gives those who are passionate about your brand a way to communicate about it. This creates communities of advocates who empower your brand and amplify its presence, spreading the good word about your brand so you don't have to do all the talking.
Beyond community-building power, a valuable implication of shared language and coined terminology when branding your business is increased SEO (Search Engine Optimization) value. The shared language defined by your brand voice and content guidelines resonates well with search engines and improves your search rankings the more frequently you leverage your unique lingo. Today, discovery means everything for brand development. Arccos reaped the benefits of their proprietary Tour Analytics platform, not only as a product, but as a tool to build up their online presence. By consistently publishing content that leverages their coined phrase, search engines began to associate “Tour Analytics” with the branding itself.
Remember to differentiate your content across social channels in order to reach a range of audiences. Social media is a seemingly over-hyped and over-used venue for increasing your brand equity through your overall online presence, but it is an undeniably powerful portion of a greater SEO strategy. It allows you to use shared language and supplemental content to focus your SEO where it matters most. The end result of this is a more well-rounded SEO strategy and search value gained through domains you don't control. Get all the tips for increasing page rank from our guide on winning the SEO and content marketing arms race.
The Z Axis of Branding
The third dimension of brand design may be the most important because it is what gives your brand depth. Whether you call it zee, zed, or zeta, the content is the same, but different people have a varying affinity for each expression. Use the wrong style and you could lose your audience. You want your brand to stick — both stick to others and stick together. Simply put, you want your brand to be both adhesive and cohesive. Adhesive Branding means being memorable — it’s about presence after all. It’s the fine difference between being remembered or being unforgettable. Cohesive branding is about being well rounded and sticking together.
Establishing your target audience is a seemingly easy task, but you might be surprised to find an untapped market or an unrecognized niche demographic for your specific segment or industry. This is where insights can help. Carefully researching your customers, their pain points, their behaviors, etc. can ultimately lead to uncovering the untapped markets and niche demographics you dive into. Because your target audience may vary, you may need a range of communication strategies that resonate with each demographic. This is where brand cohesion becomes key for building long-term connections. All aspects of your brand should create the same gut feeling. Essentially, Cohesive Branding is about staying together and remaining well-rounded. It’s ok to have a different style or tone depending on your message, but your identity or voice should never change. Your brand should always strive to achieve the same perception within anyone who interacts with it.
As mentioned, in these instances your brand voice doesn’t change, but your tone can differ depending on your brand message and target audience. The same applies for your visual style. Your brand identity remains, but the way you express yourself can shift in order to build a stronger connection with your range of consumers. Linguistic and visual nuance is key when building this communicative identity. A solid place to start is to ask, “how does my company say, ‘great?’” For instance, Dove might say “wonderful,” while Axe may say “awesome.” Check out our Brand Voice Toolkit for more tips to get you started.
In the case of Arccos, the core message and offering, “connect to your game,” was universal regardless of who was part of the conversation. Yet, the tone taken with the 65-year-old golfer was that of a savvy individual who specializes in game technique, while the tone taken with 25-year-old golfer encouraged a more competitive edge.
Cohesive Branding inherently implies that a variety of brand components must remain aligned. The idea that a brand is composed of rudimentary building blocks is key. Many mistake a visual branding exercise as being limited to logo development, but your brand is more than just a pretty face. Instead, focus on developing a visual brand design system because your logo gets its power by virtue of association. The human anatomy is, again, a relevant metaphor for a successful brand. A face may be how we recall a person we’ve met, but it’s their clothing, hair and skin, body shape, gait, stance, voice and lingo, and overall presence that spark that recollection. How many times have you recognized someone from behind? Heard their voice and instantly known it was them? Or even received a text and instantly recognized it came from someone else completely? When a company maintains consistency throughout every aspect of their brand components, they become essential psychological triggers that form that brand’s presence. To put it more simply, the effectiveness of your brand comes from the feeling that it generates — a feeling that is worth talking about.
It’s important to realize your brand is not just made up of the direct interactions you have with your customers, but also includes those who talk about it. Both those who speak positively (promoters), and those who speak negatively (detractors). The depth of your brand includes these advocates. They are your brand as much as you are your brand.
Knowing what people are saying, and specifically who is saying it, is extremely important in knowing how your brand presents itself. Using surveys to calculate your brand's NPS (Net Promoter Score) gives you insight into what people are saying. From here, you can start to change the conversation. Giving your promoters tools to talk about your brand and match your voice and tone is the first step. And making sure you address those talking negatively about your brand comes next. Providing excellent service to detractors can turn them into promoters.
Adapt and Maintain
Keep coming back to the party with the most magnetic personality by regularly revisiting the three dimensions of your brand. Stay healthy and well-rounded by reevaluating your relevancy to your core purpose and your consumers’ needs. If your brand isn’t where you want it to be, take time and figure out who you are, what you are saying, and how you are saying it. Better brand management means understanding how your three dimensions function as a greater whole and how each brand component contributes to overall brand cohesion. Here are a few resources to get you started on your brand journey:
- Future-proof your brand: The Four Things Brands Need to Sustain Future Growth
- Understand the key tool to increase brand strength: Your Experience is Your Brand
- Increase your marketing efficiency: How to Use Layered Data, Targeted Content, and Powerful Platforms to Bank Better Brand Currency
Want to make your brand memorable? We'll make it unforgettable. Reach out to us to see how.