Tag Archive for: connection

How well is your business positioned for resiliency and growth? The silver lining is that one day (soon, hopefully) this all will pass, and we will make it through. When we emerge, there will be companies standing strong and ready for growth. How can you ensure your business is one of those?

Earlier this month I was a guest lecturer for Washington Building Congress and gave a lecture on how brand can drive resiliency and growth in these times. Here are my notes.

Reality, Today

With unemployment skyrocketing and a record number of businesses and schools shuttered, our economy is awash in great uncertainty, stress and anxiety. People are switching from proactive to reactive mode, and progress and momentum is stalled.

This uncertainty is causing many of us to retreat and avoid customer relations. Maybe we don’t have a clear message to convey, or we feel like we don’t have anything optimistic to say, so we don’t communicate. 

But this causes important relationships – like the ones with our best customers – to become distanced, when what we need is actually to come together. Our collective power can help us more quickly achieve a common goal, insulate our business from future crises, and position our brand for resiliency & growth.

You can build for resiliency & growth in your business by doing three things:
1. Go within and align on your brand;
2. Engage your best customers; and
3. Innovate to fix your business’ and your customers’ new pain points. 


Go Within

Brand strategy is your business strategy seen through the lens of your customers. It is not how you look; it’s how you act. So you’ll want to plan for resiliency and growth by first underscoring what you unwaveringly stand for, to your customers. Ask:

  • What is the value you bring them?
  • How do you distinguish your business from other competitors?
  • What do you promise every customer with every interaction?

These question will reorient you on your core offering and values, keeping you aligned while you innovate.

You will also want to study what your customers deeply value that you offer that no one else can deliver. This is your unique differentiator and the backbone of your brand (for more on how to craft your unique differentiator, see this post). Articulate this clearly in order to build on it. We’ll get to innovating in a bit, and you’ll want to innovate with new business ideas that enhance and deepen the value you already bring your best customers, instead of offering them something that’s shiny and new, but irrelevant to their needs. 


Engage Your Best Customers 

Next, you’ll want to reach out to discover how your customers are coping and how their needs have shifted. Most likely their problems have changed, so you’ll seek to understand what matters to them today in this changed landscape.   

Begin by connecting with empathy. Truly connect for the sake of connecting; this is not the time for a sale. This is the time to be honest. It’s a scary time for all, and none of us know how or when this will end. So be genuine in your concern for them, their welfare and wellbeing.

Listen and resist the urge to solve their problem right away. Often, in our haste to provide value, we jump right to problem solving. But if we don’t have the right problem, we’re retrofitting an existing solution instead of listening for a new potential opportunity. So listen to find the problem first; listen to hear their pain points. Approach this exercise with humility and openness and seek to understand instead of being understood.  


Innovate & Pressure-Test

Channel these learnings into innovation sessions. From your brand vantage point, begin by interrogating your reality and discussing the new challenges facing you and your customers today. Be honest. Global supply chains are broken. Many of your customers may be shut down; millions of consumers are out of work. Some core aspects of your current business model may be upended. Discuss what you’re struggling with, and discuss what your customers are struggling with. What needs to change within your model for you to succeed? What needs to change in order to address your customer’s new problems?

Then start exploring new ideas for innovation. Challenge orthodoxies like “we’ve always done it this way.” Consider wild constraints like ‘how could we operate with only half our staff?” Today, more than ever, people are open to new approaches and new ways of doing things. 

As you and your team come up with ideas, begin to pressure-test them. Evaluate how these ideas solve customer pain points and shape the value equation for your customers. Run ideas by a core close group of partners and trusted customers for feedback and refinement. Give yourself the freedom to fine-tune your ideas as you go.


Outcome

This strategy exercise is time-consuming and demanding, but the outcome is that your brand is resilient and poised for growth. Your relationships with your best customers are strengthened, and they see you as an empathetic partner in a difficult time. You’ve identified opportunities for innovation that will add to the value you already bring, positioning you and your business for resiliency and growth, even in the face of a crisis.

If this all sound helpful but also daunting… we can help. We guide brand positioning and innovation sessions as part of our brand building efforts with clients. Please connect with us; we’d love to help make your business magnetic to success.

Ever notice that certain brands make you feel a certain way? That’s not accidental. Companies use psychology in branding – better known as Archetypes – to create an emotional bond that drives connection, likeability and loyalty. Here’s how it works, and how it can work for your brand.

Ever notice how Harley Davidson can automatically make you feel a bit bad? Devious, mischievous, even rebellious?
Or how that American Express card in your wallet makes you feel a bit…taller? More confident?
Coca-Cola might make you feel suddenly lighthearted, more carefree; like it’s time for a break.
Or put on those new Nikes, and suddenly you’re more energized, almost invincible in the face of a tough workout.

Isn’t it interesting? These brands connected to emotions.
Why is that so? Aren’t we just talking about products?

Psychology to Create Connection

The science of why people buy what they buy is complex, and “need” is just one factor of many in the equation. Nuanced research shows that people buy based on emotion and how we feel about the product or brand. Then we rationalize our purchase decisions with facts or functional benefits (Tesla: “well, it gets 45 miles per gallon.” or Starbucks: “their coffee beans and almond milk are organic.”). 

For these reasons, many brands seek to build an emotional connection with their customer base. Emotional connection builds a stronger bond, shortens the purchase cycle and makes their product the more likely and obvious choice. And one of the most powerful ways to do this is to use psychology in branding: archetypes. 

Archetypal Analysis

The study of archetypes came about from Carl Jung (a student of Freud’s), who in 1917 codified 12 main archetypes – motifs that appear throughout art, history, literature and culture – as universal symbols that powerfully reflect our humanity back to us. 

Source: Archetypes in Branding by Margaret Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen.

When we encounter a story that has a familiar archetype – say, the coming-of-age adolescent who must grow up quickly on his/her own – we are subconsciously reminded of our own childhood experiences when we were in a similar situation, and as a result, we become vested in the outcome of the story, and bond unconsciously with the protagonist. As an example: David and Goliath; Jacob and the Coat of Many Colors, Huckleberry Finn; Romeo & Juliet; Hansel & Gretel; Beauty & The Beast; Dumbo; Elsa in Frozen; Dory in Finding Nemo, and countless more: in each of these stories, the character suddenly becomes intimately familiar to us. We are reminded of our own experiences and how we acted and reacted in the face of similar challenges. This recall bonds us to the protagonist and story, and we become emotionally vested in the outcome; we’re hooked.

Archetypes in Branding

Archetypes have been around for thousands of years but only started to become popular in branding in the 50s and 60s, as brands sought to draw closer emotional connections with consumers. Advertisers realized that brands that express these archetypes can – and do – create deeper positive feelings with their customers. 

Here are some brands and their archetypes:

The Innocent – CocaCola, Snuggle
The Sage – TED, Harvard, The Economist
The Explorer – North Face, JEEP
The Rebel – Harley Davidson
The Magician – Intel, Disney
The Hero – Nike, The Marines
The Lover – Victoria’s Secret, Godiva
The Jester – Cheetos, BudLight, Geico
The Citizen – Levi’s, Ikea
The Caregiver – J&J, Nivea, Tom’s Shoes
The Sovereign – American Express, Rolex
The Creator – Apple, LEGO

Example Archetype in Action: The Innocent

You might be thinking “okay, but how does psychology in branding play out, exactly?” So I’ll ask you to think back to your childhood, to your best childhood memories: maybe it’s playing outside, or riding a roller coaster; the weather is probably warm, the sun is shining; there are friends and laughter and balloons; there’s happiness, a lightness, and life seems simple and uncomplicated; for a minute you can take a break and just float your worries away.

This is the memory Coca-Cola strives for in their communications, with their use of The Innocent archetype as a means to create a more carefree, fun and happy brand. Consider that their most recent advertising campaign is entitled “Unbottle happiness.” And here are the words from their popular jingle coined in 1971:

I’d like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves. 

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company.

Source: Coca-Cola Corporation, 1971.


Archetypes Strengthen Your Connection with Customers

Archetypes can be powerful emotional connectors for your brand and can deepen the bond you have with your customers; they can shorten the customer journey and build trust and likeability faster. How to use psychology in branding to your advantage?

First, determine your brand’s archetype. A brand strategist can help you with this exercise, or you can try and ascertain your archetype by yourself (there are a few books on archetypal analysis that I can recommend: The Outlaw and The Hero by Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson, and Archetypes in Branding by Margaret Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen. There are also some online quizzes to help you crack your company’s archetype). You’ll want to explore your brand story origin, your values and purpose for clues about your archetype.

You’ll also want to determine how and to what extent the archetype shows up in your brand. Some brands allude to the archetype in their logo and color selection; others use it as their voice to come through in communications. Some brands rely heavily on their archetype in messaging (Harley Davidson, Victoria’s Secret, Nike); others are more subtle (Microsoft is the Ruler; Salesforce is the Explorer). What’s right for you is entirely subjective and depends on your preference for your archetype and how you choose to bring it to life in your branding. If you’re interested in learning more about archetypes and how to leverage them for your brand, let’s connect and schedule a time to discuss your brand. 

What price would you pay for clarity, differentiation, connection?

I recently had a conversation with a prospective client on the cost of branding. She has a small, thriving cybersecurity business and was looking to hire a branding agency because she felt her business lacked a strong brand presence. Word of mouth had landed her in front of me, chatting about branding and marketing and her business. But when our discussion turned to pricing, she backed off.  “Oh my goodness,” she said. “I never would’ve thought branding could be so expensive. I just don’t see how it could cost that much.”

I thought of that adage, “if you think good branding is expensive, you should see what bad branding costs.”

But she’s an engineer and there’s likely a knowledge gap regarding what branding is and what it does for a company – and how much work goes into it. Just say something about our brand, get some new fonts and hire that art school intern to create a logo in InDesign. What’s the big deal?  

I think it’s helpful to define ‘branding’ so we’re in agreement about what it actually is and does for a company, and then we can get to pricing. Many people think branding is basically a new logo, a snappy tagline and an updated website. These are cosmetic changes and often get updated during rebranding. But branding is more.

  • Clarity. Branding is a declaration of what your brand says and does in the world. It summarizes the value you bring to customers and partners. It captures your company’s heritage and reason for being, and drives your business vision and strategy. Branding creates a North Star that focuses you and your team on what you’re all about.
  • Differentiation. Branding also gives you a competitive edge. It involves a thorough competitive analysis and landscape assessment that leads to finding your “white space” – e.g., your brand’s unique selling proposition. Branding helps to identify what differentiates you from the others, and what’s your true advantage over the competition.
  • Connection. Most importantly, branding is about synthesizing these facets to ensure your brand message connects with the people who matter: your employees, customers, owners and community. Your brand can say anything. What should it say? What will resonate and convince them to act?  

And I don’t have to tell you that your customers are highly intelligent and have incredibly short attention spans. And they are capricious. They tell you they want only facts – but quietly admit they’re bored by facts. They ask that you only address what’s in the RFP, nothing more; but later complain that most companies are uninspiring, that they want to do business with a brand that gives them confidence and assurance. Customers are people. Like you. And me. They want to be engaged. They want to feel something when they encounter your brand; they want to know they’ve unequivocally made the best decision.  

In a (lengthy) nutshell, that’s what branding is.

Now, if you’ve got your branding figured out: brilliant. You can stop reading and go straight to a brand design shop for that logo, website and collateral materials. More importantly, you’ve dodged an incredible amount of hard work, so consider yourself lucky and in the lead on the branding front.

But if you’re thinking you don’t quite have a strong brand presence – if you’re not quite sure what your brand should say to the world and to customers – then it’s likely you’ll need to invest in brand strategy.

Which brings us back to price. What‘s a fair price to pay someone who can clearly articulate what your company stands for, silence your competitors and connect with your stakeholders and customers in a way that shows you’re the best solution?  What price would you be willing to pay for that informed business strategy?

Or let’s ask it another way: What’s the true cost of running your business with no clarity or vision, using price as your only differentiator, and watching your employees hesitate to give out their business cards at a trade show?