This week’s Pancake Session was supposed to be about our off camera one-light set up, but we have something in the works for you guys so we’re going to bump that out one week. :) Instead, this week we’re going to take it back to the business side and talk about brand power.
Yesterday we had the pleasure of guest speaking on the Sallee Nordstrom “Turn the Key” Tour, and we opened up the day talking about Cultivating Brand Power. Ok great, so what is brand power and why should you care about it?
Well first, let’s be clear on what brand power is not….which is that it is not just the logo design and color selection that goes into branding. Yes, that process is very important and can play a large role in a company’s overall brand power, but they are not one in the same. Because real brand power ultimately comes down to how you make your customers feel.
But I even want to bump that one step further and say that it’s not just as simple as you do something nice for your clients and therefore they feel happy. It’s so much deeper than that. The purest, most powerful form of brand power is when your customers are so connected to you as a brand that they start to feel something about themselves in virtue of being one of your customers. And pretty much all of us have brands like that in our lives. We definitely do.
Any of you starbucks drinkers out there will know exactly what I’m talking about. It kind of becomes part of your identity. :) You know how it feels to walk down the street holding that cardboard cup of caramel cider awesomeness, and you can’t possibly imagine life would ever feel the same holding styrofoam from Dunkin Donuts instead. You Mac fanatics can relate. Owning and being loyal to Apple products becomes a part of who you are. A part of how you see yourself. It’s the whole reason the I’m a Mac/I’m a PC commercials were so successful. And, as any of you Whole Foods devotees know, when you walk out carrying that reusable bag full good, wholesome food you just feel like you’re building a better life for your family versus how you feel walking out of any other regular, run of the mill, mass-market grocery store.
And what we know is that when you have that kind of brand power with a company there is a fierce, unwavering loyalty there. I would never choose Dunkin Donuts if there is a Starbucks anywhere within a twenty mile radius of us. We would never replace our Mini with a Toyota (please don’t get me wrong, I know there are a lot of people who have that kind of brand power with Toyota. We’re just not one of them.) And Justin might actually drop dead if he ever found a Dell on our door step. And when your customers are loyal like that to you too, all of the other competition and what anyone else is doing starts to fade away.
Until you are only competing with yourself. And now we’re talking about something really powerful.
So how do you go about cultivating that? I’ve come up with my top 5 tips for getting you started, and then we’ll take it from there. :)
1. The most powerful brand is YOU. Make it count.
As Justin & I have evolved in our brand from Imagine Imagine (no, I’m not making that up) to Justin Marantz Photography to just plain ole Justin & Mary (no last name, kind of like Madonna), the more personal we made our brand the more fiercely loyal our clients became. The more we put our faces out there, the more we wrote about our lives… the more our clients felt like they already knew us. The more connected they felt to us. And the more they felt like we were something they wanted to be invested in.
I know that can be so hard to do, especially the being on the other side of the camera part. Or it may feel like you have absolutely nothing interesting going on in your life to write about. But the irony of it is, it is exactly those things that as you’re writing them you think to yourself “who could possibly care about this,” that will connect people to you the most. We wrote about doing dishes in our about page. And even as I was writing it, I was thinking to myself “WHO CARES??” Three years later, “You Wash, I’ll Dry” is pretty much synonymous with our brand.
2.Never miss an opportunity to make it personal
Once we started to realize the power of making it personal, we realized we were letting a lot of opportunities to make it personal pass us by. For example, we were just putting up matter of fact status updates on facebook & twitter (“going to the gym” “buying groceries for dinner”) instead of using that as a way to put our quirky sense of humor or the way we see the world out there. If we had been featured somewhere, we were just throwing up a “hey we were featured here” blog post instead of writing something that might help people feel like they know us better. We knew that it was going to take about 20% more work on our part to make that happen, but we also knew that margin was best possible investment of our time. Because it was that thin line of difference that would start to separate us from everyone else. So now we’re looking at every branch of our brand from social media to our blog to our meeting space, to make sure they are as personal as they can be.
3. Don’t cast a wide net: be unapologetically You.
Companies with real brand power don’t waste any time watering themselves down to capture larger and larger shares of the market. Instead, they exclusively target that very specific, fiercely loyal subset of customers who love them just as they are. So your run of the mill brands are like Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding. “Love me, choose me, let me make you happy.” While companies with real brand power are more like Popeye. I am what I am. Love me or hate me, take me or leave me, but this is who I am. And the people who love me will love me without fail. Do you want to see that in action? Apple Computer has about an 11% share of the market, and yet they are teetering on being named the most valuable company in the world and currently have more cash than the federal government (ok, ok so maybe that last part’s not so hard :). But the point is, never underestimate the power of a small group of fiercely loyal customers who love you just as you are.
4. Know what it is that you want your clients to feel. And make sure that’s what you stand for.
Take the time to actually write down what it is that you want your clients to feel about themselves in virtue of hiring you. Be as specific as you can. Don’t just write romantic, write “Romantic in that John Cusack holding up a boom box sort of way.” Now make sure that’s actually what you stand for. Like we talked about recently, we want our clients to feel like we will take what might seem to the rest of the world as just an ordinary moment and show it for the epic love story it really is. Because we believe there are no ordinary moments. But if we say that, and then are tweeting or blogging about how it’s only the grand gestures that really count or that ordinary moments are so boring, then we don’t really stand for what we want our clients to feel. It isn’t authentic. And if it isn’t authentic, it’s not going to work. Period. Because people will see through that every time.
5. Be grateful for the people who love you just as you are. Because they make it possible for who you’re going to become.
This one pretty much speaks for itself. To all of our clients who have loved like that for us, who have shown us what it is to be fiercely loyal, you rock our world. Hard. And we are grateful for you every single day.