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Scrolling through Facebook this morning, I stumbled upon a video by VICE. It tells the story of NomNom, a Welsh chocolate factory set up by 18-year-olds. They produce such unusual tastes as “old books” or “marmalade”. The business started in founder mom’s backyard and moved to an abandoned chocolate factory. The founder himself is wildly passionate. In the video, we see him in a garment that makes him look like a cross between a leprechaun and a person straight out of 19th century.
The video lasts around three minutes, yet in this short time, it manages to showcase everything we need to know about the NomNom brand – what makes them special and, most importantly, why the customers should pick them instead of Cadbury’s.
This is exactly what I am going to talk about in this article. In what ways can branding affect marketing? How can you make sure that your business successfully merges the two?
The goals of your marketing campaign
On its most basic level, marketing is all about creating and communicating value to the customers. Of course, every business does that in its own particular way, using different channels of communication, content, etc.
Marketing went a long way from being a way to simply drive as many sales as possible to create a meaningful relationship with the customers. In a highly competitive world, businesses can’t simply feed people a pap of advertisements, promotional products and landing pages. You need to take the effort to create a more personal relationship with your clients. Keep in mind that 10 loyal and paying customers who interact with you on a regular basis are worth more than a 100 of people who don’t really care who you are and don’t see the ways, in which you are special.
What is branding actually all about?
To do branding is to shape the opinion of customers about your business.
A good brand:
- Connects your customers and prospects emotionally with your business,
- Creates a loyal customer base,
- Increases your credibility, not only as a business, but as people,
- Delivers the message in a clear and coherent way.
In the next sections, I am going to talk about how to construct your brand and the ways, in which it can enhance your marketing campaign.
Let’s get back to NomNom. There’s something instantly appealing about a business set up by 18-year-olds. In a short VICE video, the company managed to communicate their brand straight away.
Your business may not have a teenage team, the coolest location ever and a CEO who looks like he ran away from a period drama set. It doesn’t mean that your business doesn’t have something to be proud of! I strongly believe every company has! The thing is, you need to take effort to uncover these features.
Find your niche
You cannot focus your business on everything. Of course, there are companies like Dunlop or Yamaha that make everything, from car tires to guitar picks. Most companies, however, focus on a single area – Apple and Samsung produce tech for everyday use, H&M does clothes and Lamborghini – luxury cars. It doesn’t end on huge, transnational companies though.
Take a walk around your local area. You’ll probably go pass numerous smaller and bigger businesses. Each of them specializes in something. A shoemaker, a cafe, a bakery – all these have a clearly defined mission.
How can you find a niche for your business?
According to Lynda Falkenstein, a specialist on ‘nichecraft’, finding a niche is a seven-fold process.
1. Who do you want to sell to
Specify who do you want to make business with – create a detailed customer profile. That will help you design the style and channels of communication as well as the character of your marketing campaigns.
2. What do you want to sell
Small is the new big and you can’t cater to everyone’s needs. Pick a very specific area – the more passionate about it you are, the better. Think of what you’re good at, what you’re experienced in and how can you sell it to the people.
3. Think how your potential customers think
Go deeper into your customer profile and think the way your prospects think. What do they need? What do they want? How do they want to be approached?
4. Put your business idea together
Now you should know what to do and how to do it!
5. Evaluate your ideas
According to Falkenstein, there are five steps you need to consider when evaluating your niche:
- Does it take you where you want to go?
- Will someone else want it?
- Did you plan every aspect of it?
- Is it unique?
- Will you be able to make it grow?
6. Test your ideas
Ask your friends and family what do they think of your ideas. Go out there and give out free samples of your product – ask people about their opinion. Simple means can produce great results – “If you spend huge amounts of money on the initial market test, you are probably doing it wrong” says Falkenstein.
7. Make a move!
Once your idea for a niche business is galvanized, turn it into reality! Devote your time and means to make it work. Believe me – there are few things more satisfying than running a business you’re passionate about!
A niche can determine your brand identity
It’s easy for a niche business to create its brand identity. But what is a brand identity?
Let’s go back to the examples of small businesses I’ve mentioned earlier – a cafe, the shoemaker and a bakery.
Brand identity can consist of the simplest things – for a shoemaker it can be the tradition. His grandfather opened the workshop and he inherited it from his father. The cafe is known for their fantastic cakes and a great choice of ethically sourced coffees. The bakery – for their gluten-free and vegan choices.
Brand identity is something your business is instantly recognized for. How to make sure that the way people recognize your business is based on your brand identity? Communicate it!
This is where the marketing part comes in. You need to match your communication channels – social media, email marketing, even the name of your business – to your brand identity.
In this way, the bakery could allude to their gluten-free and vegan products in their name and share pictures of their products on social media.
The most important thing is that it all needs to click!
The importance of storytelling
What’s the story of your business? What are the stories of your employees and customers? How did you come up with that groundbreaking product you’re selling? How did you obtain your first shop? Storytelling is a powerful branding tool that can heavily impact your marketing conversions!
Customers want to know that there’s more behind your company than simply money. They want to see genuine passion and commitment. People don’t trust businesses – they trust other people.
This is why you need to tell stories. You need to make people familiar with your company and with the things you believe in.
Stories do not have to be told directly and explicitly. They can be conveyed within your “About us” page, your blog posts or social media posts. If you do public speeches, include stories as well.
How to tell stories
John K. Bates has said that: “People don’t connect with your successes, they connect with your messes. Your message is in your mess”.
The normal part of everyone’s lives is struggle. Whether it’s sleepless nights, balancing two jobs, an illness or anything else, we are able to connect with these. People don’t like overnight success stories, they prefer the “started from the bottom, now we’re here” ones! Why? Because they are able to relate to them!
How to translate this into your storytelling?
Don’t just share your accomplishments. Share the road that took you to achieve them. The cafe I talked about before could tell the story of how they obtained their space and renovated it. They could upload pictures showing stages of progress or even the special things, which the previous owners of the building left behind. Then, after the cafe’s opening, they could tell the stories of their coffee, how it’s produced and sourced.
It’s easy to relate to tales of slow progress and hard work, because, hey, that’s what most of us do!
How stories can impact your marketing
A couple mouse scrolls up, I talked about what marketing actually is. It’s, among others, about communicating value to the customers. It is, however, the value in terms of how the customers’ lives can be improved thanks to you.
Storytelling allows you to showcase the value of your business itself. It’s all about channeling the ways, in which your company is authentic, trustworthy and simply, human.
Creating a branding strategy that expresses how genuine your business is, will allow you to communicate value to your customers in a better, more trustworthy way. Take for example an email marketing campaign. A company that really invests in maintaining a strong brand will be able to go far beyond simple newsletters telling people about the latest deals. Engaging customers on a really personal level can seriously improve your conversions. Having a group of people that trust you will make it possible for you to communicate with them in a more intimate way. In this way, branding can really enhance your marketing.
Give your business a face
Let’s elaborate on this whole “people don’t trust businesses, they trust people” thing.
Telling stories is one thing. But you need to put a ‘face’ next to the story. This doesn’t just mean that you need characters – you need actual people.
How to do this? Talk about your employees. What was their journey before they joined you? What are their passions and goals? Do a similar thing with your customers (of course, in all cases you need their consent!). Ask them why they decided to do business with you or in what way did your business fulfill their expectations! A great example of customers telling their stories is Marketo’s website. Marketo is a marketing automation tool, which works with businesses such as Panasonic, Nokia or George Washington University. On their website, they have a section named “Customer Stories” where the companies, which used Marketo share their experiences.
Finally, as a founder of your business, you can share your own story. How did you come with the idea for the business? What pushed you to turn it into reality? Even things like sharing your morning routine or a playlist of your favorite songs will win you the trust of your customers.
How strong is your brand?
To answer this question, you will have to do a similar kind of evaluation that we did above with the niche.
Answer the following questions:
- Does your target audience understand your brand without much thought? Does it ‘click’ with them?
- Does your brand represent who you are and embodies the reasons why you’re unique?
The answers to these questions should come effortlessly. Kind of like something you come up with during a brisk walk. If you find yourself lost in thoughts, unable to give a quick and simple response, then you still need to work on your brand!
So, why branding is important in marketing?
The answer is simple: it highlights all the good things about your business. These are the kind of things that are decision-making factors for customers. Faced with a choice between two similar businesses, they will choose the one that’s more genuine and trustworthy, which is the one with a better branding!
Creating a brand should be seamless. It should stem from what your business already is. Don’t ever force it – being genuine is the key to any brand! This is also the only type of brand that will truly and positively impact your marketing!