How to Deliver a Better Brand Through Great Story Telling
The thing about branding is……it’s a little bit ethereal. We get it. As a marketing exercise, it’s a notoriously broad concept and can be expressed in anything from the color of your employee’s uniforms to the type of return service or guarantees your company offers. So why is developing your brand from a vague set of ideals into a set of well-defined “best practices” so important? What exactly does a brand DO? How does it function? What makes a good brand great, and most importantly, how do you translate dollars spent growing your “brand” into real-time profit.
To start, we point to several well-known companies whose success can be traced directly to their ability to build near cult-like brand loyalty with a broad cross-section of consumers. These include entities from large corporations like Apple Computer and Harley Davidson to smaller local businesses like Urban Hardwood, with stores in Seattle, San Fransisco, and Santa Monica. Taking a look at one that’s trending now though, let’s examine Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Founded in 1993, part of Chipotle’s promise to its customers was “fresh, sustainably farmed ingredients”. In 2011 Chipotle started releasing sustainability reports to that effect; white papers that described how the company was faring against its own high standards; great branding. In 2013, the company issued a press release stating its commitment to moving towards non-GMO ingredients; amazing branding.
In 2014 Chipotle launched a series of short videos showing how it was fulfilling this promise with a transparent supply chain (see video below); incredible branding. In 2015, Chipotle stopped serving pork products in a large swath of the country because one of those suppliers did not meet company standards for sustainable farming…..you may see a pattern here. One commitment, followed up by a series of operational, marketing, and PR behaviors that all point back to one thing; Chipotle Mexican Grill is a company that utilizes “fresh sustainably farmed ingredients”.
Generally one doesn’t have to look much further than their own checkbook to see that emotion is the single most powerful influencer of purchasing behavior, however. Done correctly, branding has the ability to tap into this fact by creating ownership, the unique identification of a business as something more than just a retailer, but an important part of your customer’s lifestyle; one that speaks to who they are and what they value. Therefore, your brand becomes an extension of how your customers want the world to see them.
In the case of Chipotle, on-the-go urban twenty-somthings flocked to the idea they could get a quick, fresh meal, from a trusted source, that held the same “whole earth” identity as themselves.
So how does one start down this road to building a better brand? You may have come up with nifty new logos, spent thousands on graphics, web design, and maybe apparel to match, etc….. But that’s where most small business owners stop. Sound odd? Yeah, we think so, too.
Creating a great logo and calling it your brand, is a bit like walking into a job interview with an impeccably well-tailored suit and refusing to talk. While your graphic media, signage, etc…. (like clothes) may tell people a bit about you, you have to back it up with experiences that tell the rest of your brand’s story. Your company’s values should be reflective in everything you do.
Branding is inherently, part of the, difficult to measure, “long-game” of your business’s overall marketing strategy. Highly successful brands can take years to develop, with their growth often looking a little bit more like Thai Chi than Judo. Read: This is not “easy money”. It IS about making your customers a promise about the ideals and values your product represents and following through with great marketing that expresses those values.
Is your brand silly, hip, young, trustworthy, exclusive, whatever? Every piece of your business from social media to supply chain management should yell that story from the highest mountain top. What we will promise, is that once you’ve built a brand that customers feel a bond with, they will begin evangelizing your business as if it were their own, creating invaluable word of mouth marketing, providing valuable feedback, and letting you know where you’re getting it right. This is the sweet spot. And that is what a great brand will get you.