By Corin Camenisch
There’s a lot of competition among small businesses. Who’s going to stick around? The ones that are able to build meaningful relationships with their audience. The ones that go far beyond just offering a product – they create a brand experience that inspires loyalty in its consumers. The big question is, how do you do that?
If you’ve ever had any experience with a dating app, you know that most conversations start off the same way: “Hey” or “How’s your day going?” Potential matches that begin conversations this way don’t often get responses. Why? Because it’s boring. If you see x number of potential matches a day, the ones that start off with a pleasantry like “How are you” tend to be forgotten instantly.
Same thing goes for brands. You need to make an impact — immediately. Otherwise, you run the risk of being forgotten. There’s always a way to stand out no matter what category or industry you’re in. Take oral care, for example. For decades, Crest and Colgate dominated the market, and packaging and language tended to be bland and clinical. An observation that Greg Dubitsky, founder of Hello Products, used to his advantage. He created a toothpaste that is simply friendly. It looks friendly, it speaks friendly and it uses friendly ingredients. And this is not just a cute attempt to add some lightheartedness to the category, it’s strong brand positioning that actually pays off. Hello Products are listed in big retailers like Target, Walmart and CVS.
Can you picture the iconic Coca-Cola bottle? Or the color of the Tiffany & Co. box? What about the Nike swoosh? These are creative assets those brands have imprinted onto our brains, by using them over and over again. So much so that our brain recognizes the Coca-Cola logo not as a word it has to read but as an image, which means our brain recognizes it faster and with less effort. That’s what makes a huge difference when trying to capture the interest of a human being who has an average attention span of 8.25 seconds (less than a goldfish’s).
Familiarity also increases likability; when our brain uses less effort to figure out what something is, it generates a positive feeling. But consistency is not only about design assets, it’s also about the brand voice and what kind of image or lifestyle the brand tries to reflect. Coca-Cola is built on joy—and together with some additional values (togetherness, refreshment and optimism), it has built a filter for all of its communication to make sure it always is on brand.
Have you ever looked at old photos and felt deeply embarrassed about your childhood haircut or clothing? Though it might not feel like it, your parents weren’t just putting you into those flashy overalls to have a good laugh—it was cool back then. But times change, and just like with clothing and hairstyles, what used to be desirable and relevant might not be today. This means brands have to be flexible and pay attention to cultural shifts.
An example of a brand that used to be extremely relevant and failed to remain on the forefront of culture is MTV. When they started out in the 80s, MTV was rebellious, edgy and provocative. They weren’t just current, they were a leader in pop culture. Things have changed since then. Snapchat and Instagram offer behind-the-scenes access to celebrities, which is basically reality TV in your pocket. Spotify makes discovering new music effortless with their algorithm and very popular ‘Discover Weekly’ playlists. On-demand services like Netflix let you watch whatever you want, wherever you want, on any device you want. Hard times for MTV.
However, a strong brand is never built around its products. MTV was about being rebellious, edgy and provocative — if they kept that sentiment and translated it into today’s world, they would have had the chance to stay just as relevant as they were when they started out.
We all interact with tons of different brands every day, but only remember and remain loyal to a few of them. Try to think of the brands that get you excited and apply our formula—it’s likely they tick all the three boxes. Building a brand doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should be deliberate and thoughtful in order to create something that is different, consistent and relevant…and will last for years to come.
Corin is a co-founder of BLØW Branding – a brand & marketing studio that helps companies to build strong brands, offering a resourceful and direct approach. All strategy, no jargon. All creativity, no B.S. Want to blow up your brand? Contact Corin!