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They’re Your Rules, Break Them

Could your brand benefit from the surprise factor? If you can package your information into a ‘mystery’, you’ll hold your audience in the palm of your hand.

Douglas Kruger

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The phrase has become iconic, and even those who have never caught an episode are familiar with it: ‘Winter… is coming!’

Many viewers have a love-hate relationship with Game of Thrones. It is impeccably well made, and, as the most expensive television show ever produced per episode, visually stunning.

Yet the level of violence beggars belief. Even if you are not an especially squeamish viewer, the assembly-line massacre of leading characters is perpetually shocking. And therein lies at least part of the reason why the enterprise is so successful.

No, it’s not the gore. It’s the unpredictable nature of each new development. The good guys don’t necessarily win. The bad guys don’t necessarily lose. Upheaval and disruption rock the storyline at every turn, making it one of the least formulaic productions around. You simply don’t know who’s going to prevail and who’s going to perish colourfully, and that keeps fans coming back for more.

So why is it so attractive for a store to defy conventions and, in a sense, ‘betray’ expectations? And can a brand story make use of the same dynamic?

I did not see that coming

In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, authors Chip and Dan Heath describe the powerful communication technique of ‘breaking people’s guessing machines’.

Related: The 3 Blueprints For Starting A Business

To make communication genuinely riveting, simply organise the information into a mystery, something in which the recipient can’t tell the outcome in advance. It can be done with something as traditionally dusty as a university lecture. George R.R. Martin certainly did it in a medieval fantasy about warring kingdoms.

It can even be done in a sales pitch. In Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Babble founder Rufus Griscom is described giving a completely counterintuitive presentation as part of a sales pitch. He headlined his slide: ‘Five reasons you shouldn’t buy Babble’.

And there was no trick implied. The presentation covered precisely these ideas, and not in an ironic way. He went into detail about the obstacles the company was facing, and described why these hurdles could be a difficulty to investors.

So why did it work (and work it did!)? The answer is two-fold.

Initially, the novelty factor drew attention. How do you not listen to a presentation like that? Secondly, the executives evaluating the presentation were basically being covertly invited to problem-solve.

‘That’s not so bad!’ they would say, psychologically bypassing the ‘should we or shouldn’t we?’ step and going straight into assumptive ownership. They then began discussing ways of overcoming the obstacles. It became a challenge to their abilities.

In all of these cases, the approach has been to break accepted conventions in order to ‘break the guessing machine’ of the audience. The net result is heightened engagement, sustained curiosity and delight upon the reveal of the ‘answer’. When you depart from the accepted formulas of communication, you create cognitive dissonance. The audience (despite themselves, in the case of Thrones viewers who might not like violence), have to know how this will turn out.

Breaking the rules makes you distinctive

Rules can create set expectations. Formulas and accepted approaches do the same.

When you break and betray the rules, the level of anticipation remains high. In communication, surprise is effective and often attractive.

Does your brand ever surprise? Or is it constantly communicating in ways that are so predictable as to be mildly sedating? In your pitches and presentations, does your copy stand out? Or suffer death-by-predictability? What might you accomplish if you tampered with the rules on purpose, in order to up-end expectations? Do you have what it takes to break the human guessing machine? If you do, you just might achieve true brand distinction.

Related: 3 Strategies To Implement A Culture Of Innovation In Your Business (Without Blowing Billions)

Beyond mere words

The technique of ‘breaking the human guessing machine’ is not just limited to pitches and presentations. Your entire brand tells a story too, and with each new initiative, each new enterprise that it undertakes, it adds to the total tale in the public consciousness.

I contend that brands in South Africa tend to under-utilise the possibilities available to them. In an understandable quest to be taken seriously, they speak the language of ‘dependable business,’ rather than ‘exciting venture.’

A ‘dependable business’ has the narrative of stasis. There is no movement. An ‘exciting venture’ by contrast, speaks in vivid movement and attractive energy. It has purpose, mission and meaning.

The key to actualising this idea is theatre. And to understand the power of theatre in a brand’s narrative, let’s go straight to what must be the greatest example of brand theatre the business landscape has ever seen.

‘Here, hold my space shuttle’

Imagine you owned two organisations. One created space shuttles. The other made electric sports cars. What if you launched one of your cars out of earth’s atmosphere, using your own rockets? What if you then set the car into an orbit around the planet, with a little spaceman mannequin hanging out the side, playing a David Bowie hit as he cruised through eternity? Do you think such a theatrical initiative might just make it into every newspaper on the planet?

In doing just this, Elon Musk led the way. He demonstrated just how far we can depart from stuffy brand narrative to tell an exciting story, a surprising story. … And what will he do next?!

The very fact that we even ask such a question is proof of the concept.

It’s not about big budgets

Naturally, not every business has the budget to tinker with near-earth orbit. But theatre doesn’t have to be expensive. Have you ever dropped by a luxury car dealership, to have your cappuccino served to you with the brand’s logo drawn into the froth? That cost nothing but a little imagination.

Have you seen the number of YouTube views BMW achieved with their ‘drift-mob’ video in Cape Town? It runs into the millions, and growing.

Achieving surprise and telling a distinctive brand story need not be exorbitantly expensive. Kulula sets themselves apart with their inflight announcement. My all-time favourite is still: ‘In the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting your child. If you have more than one child, please pick your favourite now.’

This month, what if you challenged yourself to think about the key word ‘surprise’? What could your brand do that is unexpected and delightful, that will have people turning to one another and saying, ‘That was awesome!’, while still remaining true to your mission and vision? In fact, what if you started by looking over your mission statement, and then asked, ‘How could this be done in a way that is publicly surprising?’

Theatre can set you apart. It can make you what US speaker Joe Callaway calls, ‘A Category of One.’ And it only requires that you use a little imagination, then have the courage to be different on purpose. Your goal is simple, emotional impact. Wow factor. Nothing more intellectual than that.

New toys for rule-breakers

There are many other opportunities for rule-breakers to create strategic disruption. You might ask why things have always been done in a certain way. You might carry out an exercise in which you ask what ideal end-usage looks like for your client, then challenge your team to try to achieve that goal, using the phrase, ‘Couldn’t we just …?’ You might even ask insightful questions about what you actually sell, and not what product you believe you’re selling. All of these are useful exercises for the courageous maverick, and all can lead to different forms of productive rule-breaking.

For this month, though, pose yourself this single challenge only: What could we do in our brand narrative that might have a Game of Thrones-level impact?

In our household, that looks like this:

  • Douglas: ‘I can’t believe we keep watching this show!’
  • Wife: ‘Me neither!’
  • Douglas: ‘That was so shocking!’
  • Wife: ‘Unbelievable.’
  • Douglas: ‘Want to watch the next one?’
  • Wife: ‘Absolutely!’

… And that’s what you’re after.

Douglas Kruger is the only speaker in Africa to have won the Southern African Championships for Public Speaking a record five times. He is the author of ‘50 Ways to Become a Better Speaker,’ published in South Africa and Nigeria, ‘50 Ways to Position Yourself as an Expert,’ and co-author of ‘So You’re in Charge. Now What? 52 Ways to Become a Better Leader.’ See Douglas in action, or read his articles, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Email him at Kruger@compute.co.za, or connect with him on Linked In or Twitter: @DouglasKruger

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Branding

5 Ways To Make Your Personal Branding Statement Stand Out

If you have a LinkedIn account, you have a brand statement. But does it make you easily discoverable and motivate others to connect?

Mel Carson

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If you’re reading this, you likely already have a personal branding statement: If you have a LinkedIn account, for instance, you have a branding statement. But, is yours the kind of summary that makes you easily discoverable and motivates others to reach out and connect?

Maybe yes, but maybe no.

A strong personal branding statement is connected to your professional purpose, or the reason you do what you do. While your professional purpose serves as an internal compass, pointing your passion in the right direction, a personal branding statement is above all your calling card.

It’s the first impression of you that you offer on paper and the thing on which many will base their “Do I engage or not?” decision.

So, yes, your branding statement is a big deal. It’s a living statement about you, your passions and your capabilities and should therefore be written with thought and care. But, honestly, for all that’s riding on crafting a strong branding statement, it’s not that hard to do.

Here are five quick ways to make sure yours stands out in a crowd.

Move beyond your professional purpose

Do you have a professional purpose? A statement that describes the why behind your work? If you don’t, that’s step one.  A personal branding statement combines your purpose with some relevant data about your professional world to accurately describe who you are, what you do and why you do it. To gather that data, take a few minutes to free-write about the following:

  • Your education experience
  • Your work experience
  • What you love about what you do
  • What you find hard about what you do
  • Where you want to be in three years

Here’s the formula: purpose + data = personal branding statement.

Related: The 3 Biggest Mistakes CEOs Make With Their Personal Brand (And How To Turn Those Mistakes Around)

Pull out the mission

This is your opportunity to be bold and clear about what direction you want your career to go in. Look at all the information you’ve written down and use it to flesh out a mission – this should be a powerful sentence or phrase that tells people who you are.

Your mission sentence can be helpful for two reasons: It serves as a personal reminder to you and carries with it an element of accountability, but also helps prospective employers or clients quickly assess if you’d be a good match or not.

Identify your value

Within your personal branding statement, identify your professional value.

A subjective term, this “value” could be described in the following ways: Your experience, industry expertise, noteworthy clients, education level and personal passion.

At this juncture, I would encourage you to take a moment and empathise with prospective clients, customers and employers. What would be a strong value indicator in your field of work? What are they looking for? Don’t be fictitious, of course (an immediate career killer); but do be choosy. Include points of value geared toward both your professional career goals and your industry niche.

Be real

Sounds simple, right? Be real, be you, but it’s it one of the hardest things to do. Writing about ourselves is uncomfortable. It’s difficult to find the right balance between not saying enough and saying too much. Here are a couple of pieces of advice I would offer toward the goal of being real:

  • Avoid the fluff and stay away from fancy claims you can’t back up. They will bite back.
  • Stay away from buzzwords. (Here’s a list of words to avoid in your LinkedIn profile.) They will do the opposite of what you intended.
  • Be self-aware and write a statement that accurately reflects your experience, passions and capabilities. Simplicity is OK. Short statements are, too.

Here’s an example of my own personal branding statement broken down: “Focusing on helping businesses and individuals achieve success through enduring social media, digital PR and personal branding strategies …”

Next, I put the customer (my target audience) first and mention my fields of expertise: “My 18 years of online advertising industry experience and seven years at Microsoft as digital marketing evangelist, enable me to provide counsel to my clients that is truly relevant, robust and real-time.”

Notice that I make sure to draw attention to my seven years at Microsoft (a value indicator) and state my mission:  “Always striving to keep pace with the ever-changing nature of digital media and technology, I aim to improve my clients’ competitive position through partnership, tenacity and accountability.”

I continue on about my mission, but also describe my aim for achieving clarity, using my own words without sounding over-stated.

Related: Personal Brand Or Business Brand: Which Is More Important?

Revisit the statement on a quarterly basis

Your personal branding statement should grow with you.  As you rise in your career and work with new, interesting clients, take on new projects or learn a valuable skill, your personal branding statement should reflect those changes. I would encourage you to revisit it every three months or so to double-check that your purpose, mission and values still ring true in the present day.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

The First Thing You Should Do When Building Your Brand (Hint: It Isn’t Pick Out A Logo)

The best way to build your brand is to start from the inside out.

Rebecca Horan

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When you’re launching a new business, it’s tempting to go straight to the fun stuff – the logo, the colours, the mood board. But, before going down the Pinterest rabbit hole, it’s important to establish the core purpose and belief system of your brand.

Indeed, studies show that companies with purpose grow twice as fast as those with a low sense of purpose. So, a beautifully designed visual brand identity without a clearly defined purpose is like an exquisitely wrapped present that’s … well, empty.

Despite this, a Gallup survey shows that only 41 percent of workers know what their company stands for and how it differs from competitor brands. That’s a problem. Because informed and engaged employees are often the front line ambassadors for a brand, this disconnect can lead to customer confusion or worse, indifference. The snazziest logo in the world can’t save the business that neglects the heart of its brand.

As a brand strategist, one of the first steps I take in developing entrepreneurs’ brands is to help them to establish their core purpose. Having a clearly defined and expressed purpose not only serves as an internal compass that guides their decision-making and strategic direction, but it also acts as a beacon for their ideal customers – making it easier to understand, relate to and remember what the business represents.

Related: Are You A Commodity Or A Brand?

The best way to build your brand is to start from the inside out. It’s like constructing a building: You need a strong foundation. The following three steps will help you to understand and articulate the heart and soul of your brand.

1. Create your mission statement

Articulating your mission is one of the most important, yet often overlooked steps in creating a powerful brand. Simply put, your mission reflects what you’ve set out to do.

What makes a great mission statement? It should be clear, provide some strategic direction and inspire. When crafting your mission, think about your business goals, the value you’d like to bring, whom you serve and how you do it. Ideally, your mission will also be clear enough for people outside your organisation to understand and concise enough for you – and your employees – to remember.

Let’s take a look at how Honest Tea does it:

“Honest Tea seeks to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow our business with the same honesty and integrity we use to craft our recipes, with sustainability and great taste for all.”

The first sentence describes what’s being produced (great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages), while the second sentence touches on important elements of the value the business brings (honesty, integrity and sustainability) and who it serves (for all).

After you’ve written your mission statement, revisit it regularly as you build your brand. You might find that it needs some tweaks as your business grows.

define-your-vision

2. Define your vision

If mission is the “what,” then your brand’s vision is the “why.” Your vision is a future-focused statement that paints a vivid picture of what the world will look like once you’ve accomplished your mission. It’s not just inspirational, it’s aspirational. Rallying around a powerful vision can help everyone in an organisation stay motivated, inspired and focused on the big picture when things get tough.

A great way to approach the vision statement is to think about the ultimate impact of the product or service you provide. A good strategy is to focus on the benefit of what you offer. Then dig a little deeper … What is the benefit of that benefit? Keep going until you have a clear picture of what the future will look like when you’ve succeeded. Above all, think big.

Ikea’s vision is:

“To create a better everyday life for the people.”

It’s a deceptively simple-looking statement. For anyone familiar with Ikea, the explanatory statement that follows is unnecessary, but it explains each component of the simple vision statement:

“Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

Related: How To Build A Community Around Your Brand

3. Identify your values

Your brand (or core) values are like the pillars of your company. They are going to help guide your organisation’s actions, influence the workplace culture, help your team to make sourcing and hiring decisions and ultimately impact customer loyalty. Why? Because it’s in our nature to want to align ourselves with people, products and organisations that share our values.

Think about what you stand for – and what you’ll never compromise on. Consider the beliefs and qualities that have a unique, direct and meaningful impact on the way you do business. While there’s no “magic number,” for brand values, more than five can be difficult to remember and internalise, and fewer than three isn’t really enough to give the full picture of your business.

Once you’ve determined your brand values, write them as statements that exemplify how they’re implemented in your business. A great example of this is Starbucks’ values:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

Imagine the difference if they had simply listed words like “Inclusion,” “Courage,” “Transparency” and “Accountability,” instead of illustrating these concepts with these descriptive sentences.

It’s not enough to simply slap some values up on your website and call it a day. Successful business owners know that it’s all in the implementation. We must weave our brand’s mission, vision and values into the fabric of our business. Everything we do and say, from our offerings to our marketing to our hiring approach, should not only align with, but reinforce our mission, vision and values.

Once you’ve laid the foundation, other elements, like a logo, will come easier to you, your team and any outside partners.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

How A Branded Car Can Boost Your Business

Below are just some of the ways a branded car can boost your business.

Amy Galbraith

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If you own a small business or you have a franchise to run, you know the power of branding. And you likely use it on a regular basis to draw in more clients and retain your current ones. If you understand that getting your brand out there in the eye of the public is important, then you will have looked into unique ways to do so. One of these is to invest in a branded vehicle for your company.

You can speak to the used car dealers in Gauteng and surrounds about which cars are the easiest to brand and move on from there. Be sure to choose branding that reflects your company or you could choose to have your logo incorporated on the vinyl. If you are looking at pre-owned vehicles, a luxury car will help to improve the message of your brand, depending on your industry.

Awareness of your brand is increased

Roadside advertisements are eye-catching, especially if they are on billboards or larger signposts. But when was the last time you actually stopped and noticed one? This is likely because, as a driver, you are paying attention to the other cars rather than advertisements on boards and poles.

Branded vehicles are much more effective at increasing brand awareness because they are noticed more often by other drivers and passengers. If you are sending your company car into the traffic every day, then your brand will be getting more exposure than it would with a billboard. This is because other drivers are noticing it and can spend longer looking your logo and contact details.

People will become familiar with your brand

Consumers would rather purchase from a brand they know or have heard of than from one they know nothing about. And by branding your vehicle, you will create familiarity in consumers, leading to trust and eventually to more customers.

If people know your brand, they will buy from you. You can breed this familiarity by branding your company car so that whenever your staff are out at meetings or making deliveries, the public will notice your brand and company details.

For example, if you sell bespoke wedding cakes and you drive around a certain geographical location on a daily basis, the next bride who lives in that area will recognise your brand and might use you to create their wedding masterpiece.

Related: 6 Personal Branding Rules To Being Popular And Profitable

It creates a positive association

Having a positive brand association is ideal for every business. And vehicle branding can help with this. Once you have chosen your company car from one of your local second-hand car dealerships, you can create a vehicle wrap with your company logo, branding and details on it.

An effective way to create a positive brand association is to ask your staff to park in front of health and wellness centres when going to meetings or high-end shopping centres. You should also always ensure that whoever is driving the company car obeys the road rules and does not cause any accidents on the road. This will show the public that your business or company values people and thus values consumers, giving them a positive association with your brand. It is a simple but effective way to garner new clients and impress current ones.

You will look professional

There is nothing more embarrassing than turning up to a client meeting in a dilapidated car. The first impression that you make on the client will not be positive and you will be entering into an agreement with someone who views your company in a negative light, which is never a good sign.

Having a branded car will make you look professional and will set you aside from the competition. You should look for cars for sale in Gauteng and surrounds with little to no rust or damage before branding the vehicle. You will show the clients that you take your business seriously and want to make an impression on them.

If you are making house calls or delivering goods to a customer, they will feel reassured when seeing a branded car pull up outside. Not only will you look professional, but you will be proud of your company and will want to show it off.

Related: The Economics of Branding

Show the world your style

Aside from helping you look professional, a branded vehicle will show the world your company’s style. You will be able to show clients that you take your work seriously and, because your car is out in traffic, you will garner familiarity with consumers.

People will become more aware of your brand and will have a positive association with your brand and image. So, if you want to boost your business and stand out from the crowd, be sure to look into branding your vehicle and making it shine among normal cars.

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