I was at a networking event this week and I happened to have a great conversation with a brand manager about the value of branding. I had to bring up one particular brand, Justin’s Nut Butter which was acquired by Hormel in 2016 for $286 million dollars.
“But, it’s peanut butter, FFS!?” I know, nut butter! Who would’ve thought? I am the first to admit that I’m a sucker for good branding: the packaging, the colors, the story behind the brand. The way that a particular brand zags when everyone else is zigging, no matter what the product. I know that I am okay reaching for the Justin’s Almond Butter, that comes at a premium vs. the private label brand at the local supermarket. It makes perfectly good sense to me, I feel good about buying it. And I will readily defend my choices, especially when my mother goes shopping with me and shrieks, “but that’s a dollar fifty-five more!!” All I know is that I love it and it just tastes better… or does it? I’m a Justin Gold raving fan, especially after hearing his story about how he started Justin’s a decade earlier when he was selling nut butter at local farmer’s markets. Stay with me, because this isn’t a blog post about nut butter, it’s a post about the value of branding and when a powerful brand story goes along with it.
I have a confession: I’m a huge brand nerd, I literally watch people in stores as they are making buying decisions and wondering why they chose what they did. I remember my days in corporate where I sat in on consumer insights and panel discussions. There would be experiential mock store shelving setup with competitor brands. The brand team would carefully watch consumer behavior and their interactions with the brands in that moment of truth when they were making a buying decision. So how does this all translate to you, my fellow entrepreneur who does not have the benefit of being a nut butter?
So here’s a basic starting overview of how to set yourself apart “remarkably” ( an ode to Seth Godin, Purple Cow reference) so that you come to mind when a prospective customer is in buying mode and that moment of truth happens.
Let me level set though, when I mean branding in this context, I think of the way that the infamous branding expert Marty Neumeier talks about, “a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.” It’s true that when the word branding comes up people think about graphic design or a website or brand colors. And, all of those elements have their place, but the fact of the matter is that the brand fundamentals have to be created before the execution of the tactical outputs happen… make sense?
As entrepreneurs, our branding goal should be centered around capturing precious mindshare in our prospective customer’s brain so that when they are seeking a pro in your field, they think of you. Once you hit that level, like Marty talks about, it’s game over #cha-ching. So consider your brand positioning first as one of those key fundamentals to be clear on:
- what do you want to be known for?
- Are you highlighting your expertise?
- Are you downplaying what you really know?
- think about your brand’s personality, what are the adjectives that you want people to say when they mention you / your brand?
- what is your superpower and is it clear to your prospective customers?
For example, my superpower is strategic thinking for my clients. I can see opportunities of how my clients can best position themselves, their story so they are reaching their prospective customers better. I call them “drill sites,” the untapped revenue streams. When I first ventured out on my own in 2012, I completely downplayed my background and one of my early mentors quickly pointed out that my background could position my consulting services differently (shake my head on that one… it’s so clear, but I didn’t see it. We’re our own worst critics, but that’s for another blog post).
One of my clients is a consultant in the hospitality industry. She has over thirty years of hospitality experience (I call her an “OG”…[original gangster] for real, the highest compliment you can bestow on another person, in my humble opinion). She’s such a bad ass, having created seven figure businesses from the ground up. She’s mega knowledgeable in this space and was downplaying her deep knowledge base. Because of the lack of proper positioning, she was attracting tire kickers who were seeking out her consulting at bargain-basement prices *gasp*! Alas, we’re correcting that now, but the point is that positioning, crafting the right story is absolutely essential and you can see how it has an impact on everything else you do in your business, certainly the level of clients you will attract. By the way, part of this process is being clear about who you don’t want to attract. The right branding will deter the clients you don’t want to work with and that’s a beautiful thing because you’ll save time, effort and money.
Here’s the reality and you’ve probably heard this before, “perception is reality.” People will make a decision about who you are, personally and professionally based on their perception. Let me explain further, and let’s be honest, we’ve all heard the examples of branding and what warrants one price vs. another. For example, why on earth is a cup of Starbucks coffee about twice the cost of McDonald’s? Is it really that much better? In fact, you can check out taste tests on Youtube showing that McDonald’s is better. (Personally, I’m a die-hard Bulletproof coffee fan, yes I’m a sucker for that brand).
In branding, there’s a difference between rational value and intrinsic values. For example, the average salary for a life coach in the United States is about $50,000 per year. However, Gabrielle Bernstein is a celebrity life coach and makes well over a reported $2 million per year. Are her programs that much better? Is her hooby–dooby personal transformation life formula that much more transformational? Sure, her book, “The Universe has your back“, was a good read for sure! What I can tell you is that she has developed brand equity. She’s positioned herself consistently in a well-defined way. As a result, her intrinsic value has a higher perceived value to her prospective customers. Yes, the universe has Gabby’s back!
Another example is the difference between a regular family doctor who may charge $100 dollars per session and a celebrity doctor at $800 per session. I speak from a place of knowing because, in a recent struggle with a health issue, I found myself receiving a referral for a friend of mine who mentioned that I simply had to schedule an appointment with this fancy doctor. Needless to say, I quickly Googled his name and reviewed his credentials which included a whole myriad of media exposure and notable social proof pictures with prominent celebrities. The power of intrinsic value in effect.
So what is it that your brand stands for? Are you capturing that precious mindshare in the brain of your prospective customer? An easy way to find out is by checking out a Branding Pulse Check Mini-Training. It offers you a format for how to validate and some savvy guidance along the way.
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