Trained by countless hours of surfing and swiping, today’s consumers have the upper hand. There’s a waiting list for their attention, and only the brands that take the time to get things right will stand out from the pack. It’s easier than ever to put an idea into motion in our quick-paced global marketplace. As a result, many entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that by simply hanging up their shingle, throngs of (inevitably loyal and enthusiastic) customers will flock to their brand. Putting yourself out there without proper preparation can have the opposite effect.
For the past 15 years I’ve been consulting with brands of all shapes and sizes and I've seen many do it right — and plenty miss the mark. In order to help more entrepreneurs build beautiful, successful brands, I founded Poolside. We collaborate with entrepreneurs on everything they need to get their idea off the ground.
Whether you’re ready to launch (or relaunch) your brand, here are four strategies to make sure your brand captures the attention — and attraction — you want.
1) Define your brand’s personality. Like most aspects of brand-building, defining your personality is all about the details. Brands that cast a wide, vague net will end up with a splintered audience that is difficult to communicate with (too many messages to too many different customers) and doesn’t have a strong attachment to your business which means they could be swept up by someone else’s messaging in a hot second.
None of us can be everything to everyone, so be specific about your brand’s traits. Determine what they are, then be sure they are reflected in all aspects of communication, from social media to publicity. If you’re the cool, custom surfboard creator in Kauai, your brand’s language may be casual and easygoing, your photography rich, Instagram-like and candid. However, if you’re the sophisticated-yet-approachable vegan baker in Portland, you may blend a more formal language style with handwritten signage and clever flavor names.
For example, the team at Disrupt Magazine, a digital publication that caters to the “ruthless visionaries” of global social innovation, does a great job of communicating the brand’s personality on the homepage and throughout the site. The use of slightly aggressive yet tongue-in-cheek language coupled with strong all caps fonts and bold, high-contrast imagery sets a very clear and consistent tone.
If you’re clear, your audience knows where you stand and whether or not they want to be on your team. If they feel a kinship to your brand and also love your product, your customers will be more loyal because there is a personal connection beyond the transaction. Clarity and follow-through build trust, which equals loyalty.
2) Tell us what makes you stand out from the rest. We’ve all encountered brands we’re attracted to but aren’t quite sure what they’re offering. Confusion equals loss of attention. At Poolside, we often work with entrepreneurs who get hung up on the issue of clarity. People are hesitant to get ultra specific for fear of scaring potential customers away, but getting clear and focused is a good thing. No matter how varied your company’s potential offerings, it’s important to clarify what makes you different from the rest, whether it’s your purpose, offering, how you do business or even your location. Work your originality.
Online lingerie company True&Co. is a great example of a brand that is using a clear, clever approach in order to stand out in a very saturated (and thriving) industry. Unlike their competitors, customers can try on True&Co.’s boutique-style lingerie at home before purchasing, for no additional fee, Warby Parker-style. On its site, the company makes this distinction crystal clear, which helps differentiate it from others in the industry that may offer equally beautiful products. Clarity of purpose opens the door to more interest, not less.
3) Be consistent. A brand’s voice is not just its quippy tagline. It is communicated through every piece presented to your customers, from photography to packaging. It’s important for each aspect to communicate the same message, whether that’s irreverent and artisanal or clever and snarky. The clearer and more consistent a brand’s messaging, the more trusted the content. No one likes surprises, especially from a business they frequent. When you are thorough with every tiny detail, you are telling your customer you don’t cut corners and that you take their business seriously.
One example: On her blog, photographer Sarah Yates has gone to great lengths to present a consistent brand message from content to graphics to affiliate partnerships. In addition to her well art-directed photography, she maintains a very consistent voice and personality in her posts. She is also careful to associate herself with only bloggers and brands that complement her brand’s look and feel. This attention to detail presents a clear picture of what her brand’s about.
4) Stay accessible. Whether it’s the way a CEO wears Vans and speaks casually on camera or the way a company’s Instagram stream somehow feels super personal, the more accessible a brand is, the more traction they’ll get from their audience. Consumers want the chance to get to know a brand.
I think fashion designer Emerson Fry does an amazing job at letting her audience in just enough to maintain a bit of mystery, while also making them feel like she’s the kind of girl they’d meet for brunch. She integrates active social media accounts into her approach, from debuting collections on Pinterest to simply keeping links to all her accounts in her main navigation, demonstrating that social media is not an afterthought. Her simple, poetic blogging style also feels conversational, personal and unedited. It’s these (important) little details that allow customers to get to know her and the brand. Sometimes that’s all it takes.