Words & Image by Tess Robinson, Smack Bang Designs
“Branding is just a cheap shot attempt to create fake emotions to manipulate the gullible. It’s out of touch, artificial and insignificant.”
As I trawled the interwebs on my casual morning perusal, I read this remark on a less than credible looking site and thought to myself, “I bet this dude is a burnt-out, cynical man with a bad haircut. Bless his cotton socks and his big fat opinion, but no.”
That’s the best thing about the internet, right? We’ve all got a soapbox to preach from; at the moment mine is a comfy lounge, cup of tea and and furry, warm bottom belonging to my kelpie.
If I were an internet troll (and had more time up my sleeve), I would have compiled a 4,000 word thesis and sent it over to old Joe Bloggs to tell him what I really think. But that’s not going to happen seeing as I’ve got a business or two to run and a distaste for stirring the masses of keyboard warriors.
Instead, I got to thinking: what is it about branding that I feel so strongly about? What is this “brand halo” that I aim to shine above all of my clients’ businesses?! For me, I’m all about them feels – a brand should ignite affection, connection, devotion and genuine appreciation, definitely not “fake emotions to manipulate the gullible” – no, real emotions.
So if emotional connection and strong feels are the key ingredients to building a solid brand, what are the key ingredients creating a lacklustre one?
Here are seven ways your brand is breaking my heart:
#1. IT’S A PHONY BRAND
I was on a call to a lovely new client earlier this week and received a compliment that really resonated more than any, “Love your work”, “Think your website is amazing” or “Your logo floats my boat”. She told me that she was compelled to call us and inquire about our services because she felt our brand was genuine. From our social media to our website and across every touchpoint, she felt that Smack Bang was a brand she already knew before meeting. She said that she trusted us and could see the authenticity of what I had built.
I’m not sharing this story to gloat, even though we really are the most authentic brand ever! I’m using this to illustrate the point that people connect with real, genuine, down to earth brands that stand by what they believe in and wear their heart on their sleeve.
Allow me to take a leaf from the genius of Dr Seuss: ‘Today you are You, that is truer than true. There’s no one alive who is Youer than You.’
In a world that often values persuasion and cajoling over authenticity and transparency, it’s like a breath of fresh air to see a brand stick its head out in a genuine and endearing way. People can smell a phony a mile away, especially in a time where a little research and a lotta knowledge lies directly at our fingertips. Your audience has a highly evolved BS radar, so get on their good side by portraying your brand in all its beautiful, raw, perfectly imperfect glory. It’s hard enough to get a word in edgeways in high density brand-land, so you may as well put your best voice forward – your own.
#2. IT’S A VANILLA FLAVOURED BRAND
Vanilla is that comfortable, colourless, inoffensive flavour that screams safety and ‘meh’. Vanilla Brands are like milk arrowroot biscuits, who teeter on the fence of both sweet and savoury without ever making an actual stand. Don’t be another tall glass of tap water, because there are plenty of glasses out there and yours needs to have a unique flavour, distinct target audience and kooky straw with an umbrella on the end.
Your point of difference is what compels people to check out your brand, so rather than merely being ‘same same’, be original, colourful and flavoursome!
#3. IT’S A DAZED AND CONFUSED BRAND
There’s no denying that some brand offerings are more intricate than others. But whether you’re flogging your Dad’s lemons straight from the tree to the side of the road, or promoting the benefits of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in discovering the elusive ‘God Particle’ and basically explaining the meaning of everything, clarity is crucial and simplicity is smart.
Convoluted brands are generally confusing brands. It is vital that your brand cuts straight to the core message with simple positioning that consumers understand without any need for explanation. Clarity brings deeper recognition, trust and loyalty.
#4. IT’S AN ALL TALK BRAND
So you’ve nailed your brand values, company vision and your website copy is as sweet as pie. But when someone calls and your sales rep grunts down the line with a rude and disinterested tone, you’ve really undone all your hard work. If you don’t stick to your standards and values, your reputation will suffer big-time. Failing to deliver on your big brand promises (even the occasional slip-ups) can do some serious damage to your brand’s integrity. Take your Grandma’s shop-worn advice and practice what you preach.
#5. IT’S A GUNG-HO, OTT, IN-YO-FACE BRAND
We’ve all dodged the overly enthusiastic girl at the shopping centre waving you down and literally straining to drown you in some miracle hand cream that will allegedly make you look twenty years younger and simultaneously cure world hunger. Yet, when you’re cruising through the supermarket aisle and you see a beautifully packaged and branded array of creams and moisturisers you actually consider buying it. Why? Because you’ve had the time and space to make up your mind on your own accord.
The worst thing that marketers can do is to jam their business offerings down someone’s throat. No-one likes a hard sell. The reason social media is such a hit is because people like to engage with each other. As a business, you’ll get the best sales by being of value to your audience – get to know them and allow them to get to know you. Successful brands are the ones that entice their customers and provide them with value. Perhaps you’re offering free content or a monthly newsletter, or a Mediterranean cruise on a 90ft luxury yacht with Tay Tay’s squad. Whatever it is, it has to be meaningful and of worth to your ideal customer.
#6. IT’S A RIGID BRAND
I love the phrase ‘dead wood’. It’s so descriptive and encapsulates the notion exactly. Although most often used to describe old Agatha the Year 6 teacher who’s been around since the dark ages and still brings her cane to the classroom, this phrase can also be applicable to your brand. Is your positioning, product, marketing material and overall brand essence outdated? Are you proactively keeping up with the times? Successful brands are nimble; they’re like yogis, slipping in and around the nooks and crannies of the new-age world. It’s important to be flexible with your business and willing to adapt and make changes to stay relevant to an ever-changing market.
#7. IT’S AN APATHETIC BRAND
Passion and enthusiasm are infectious. If you’re not passionate about your brand, then I can guarantee no-one else will be either, your mum included. If your brand lacks excitement, passion and enthusiasm, it’s going to be one hell of a mission to get people to buy your product. The best brands are built by people who love what they do and love finding new ways to push the boundaries. Businesses that possess and embody these characteristics are well talked about brands, as customers who interact with an inspiring, passionate brand are more likely to adopt this passion and enthusiasm themselves. They are also more likely to tell every Tom, Dick and Prince Harry about it. People respond to passion. So, if you want to start gaining some traction, you sure as hell better be backing yourself 110%.
To the old mate from the introduction who swears that branding is nothing but a manipulation tool and coercive skullduggery, you’re entitled to your opinion, sure! But to those who are passionate about providing exemplary products and services to their audience of devoted followers, branding is simply a fundamental step toward promoting cohesive, accessible messaging about who you are and what you do. Branding inspires community, connection and collaboration, and so be encouraged to continually align your brand to face true north as you catapult into endless possibilities and reach beyond your goals.