Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” As marketers, we know that our brand identity has to be more than what we say about ourselves—it has to be what people say about us. It has to be a fully rounded expression of who we are as a company. It’s more than the voice we use in our messaging. It’s our self portrait. It’s our story!
We spoke with Tamara McCleary, an expert on relationships and conscious business, and a speaker on business relationships, to get her input on approaching a marketing identity. Her experience has helped many companies determine theirs: she was the third most mentioned person on Twitter by Chief Marketing Officers in 2015.
Of storytelling, she has this to say: “We’re all wired for story. It’s why we love to watch TV and read books. If your marketing isn’t working, it’s because your story doesn’t inspire or motivate. It doesn’t fire people up.”
How do you find your brand’s story?
McCleary suggests three focal points to help a brand uncover their own story.
Mission, vision, and values.
- What is our mission in wanting to bring this product to market? This one is usually first on the list of to-dos for newer companies, but is worth revisiting for any brand.
- What is the vision in having people use the product or service? Examine the purpose or point behind your product. Mine out your deeper values. Where do humans actually connect with what you offer? This question can be especially helpful for more established companies.
- What are our underlying values? What are the human connective pieces that make your product or service important? Your story will begin to come together here.
Most companies already having an existing mission and vision statement…
But, “they’re all wrong,” says McCleary. “They wrote them to sound good. They usually need to be rewritten based on the soul of the company.”
To really break down a mission statement and define your underlying values, “you almost have to reverse engineer it. Figure out what connects a human to your product or service, then build the story around that to inform your vision and mission.”
If she were doing this work for the folks here at Appboy, McCleary would define the value piece as, “Working to amplify other people’s communication. Appboy helps others get their message out into the world through the vehicle of tech.”
The lynchpin here? “Helping someone find their voice is always a human, connected thing. The value is the flavor that comes through in your story. Maybe the value is helping, maybe it’s serving. Whatever it is, it’s the touch. The connection. You haven’t found it till you can pinpoint where the customer will feel like their needs are being met.”
Now that you have your story, to whom are you telling it?
There’s lots of great content out there on the topics of finding your target audience and figuring out how to reach them. From market research using data systems like Google Analytics and App Annie, to on-the-fly surveys, to in-depth focus groups, there’s no shortage of information and info-gathering tools.
If you’re already familiar with what those methods look like, you might be sitting on a heap of data. You’ll want to narrow that data down, and flesh out a profile or two of your average users.
Here are questions about your audience that will help narrow the target:
- Are they male or female? Somewhere else on the gender spectrum?
- Do they tend to be single? Partnered? Are there kids in the picture?
- What part of the world, country, or city do they live in?
- What’s their annual income?
- How about education level?
- What sorts of jobs to do they keep? Are they blue collar? White collar?
- What are the big problems or challenges in their life?
- What’s a big desire they have?
- Outside of your product, where do they spend their digital time?
- Where do they get the bulk of their information? Facebook? Mom blogs? Fox news? The Daily Show? The NY Times?
- What really irritates them?
- Who do they admire and trust?
- What problem is solved when they pick up your product?
Troubleshooting tips: If it’s not working, shift the story
“I’m really, really invested in the fact that we’re all creatures of story,” says McCleary. “Doesn’t matter if a brand is speaking to us through their website, or a print ad, or a media campaign. Whatever it is, we want them to show us who they are through something we can sink our teeth into.”
Does it make them laugh?
“We want to laugh at the folly of life. What’s funny goes viral. We’re all dying for a break.”
Can your target audience find themselves in your story?
“It doesn’t matter if we think a product is cool,” says McCleary. “We won’t ultimately take the action to make a purchase unless we see ourselves in the product or service. What triggers the buying signal is seeing yourself in something.”
Are you keeping it real?
One great way to appeal to people is to admit your flaws, and show customers how you’ve dusted off your knees and started again. “We trust people who admit to being imperfect,” says McCleary. “We likewise trust companies who aren’t perfect, and are willing to tell us that.”
Are you making your users or customers feel important? Safe? Cared for?
If you can’t be funny, go for heart. However you can, use the human piece to drive your relevance home.
Don’t be afraid to make a big change.
“I had one brand that had a difficult spelling for their name,” recalls McCleary. “It was Sanskrit. They thought it was really cool. It had loads of value and connection for them. But the value needs to be customer centric. We agreed that they could still embody the deep meaning of the phrase they’d chosen, but the highest spiritual thing they could do was to meet people where they were at. And where people were at was… they couldn’t pronounce it.
“We ended up changing the name of the company to make it easier for customers to spell, pronounce, and find. It was a tremendous undertaking. Everything that had been printed, their website, their whole… everything. It all changed.
“It worked out beautifully. In one quarter, they saw 300% growth in sales.”