TBP002 Creating a Visual Brand Identity by Arthur Germain & Michael Simbrom
Welcome to Brandtelling where B2B marketers like you get information, insights and inspiration about connecting with your audience through the power of story to grow your business.
Is Brandtelling limited or expanded by the medium you use? What does this mean to your story?
In 1964, Marshall McLuhan penned the phrase “the medium is the message” to highlight the influence that a medium exerts over the content it conveys. He used a light bulb as an analogy for his theory – while it doesn’t carry content, he said:
I don’t agree with all of McLuhan’s theories and assertions – I recall seeing a poster that teased, “McLuhan thought that television would replace reading and he wrote a lot of books to prove it.” But I do agree that the environment for your story will have an effect on the behavior of your audience.
Think about seeing a movie first hand and then having a friend retell the movie to you. Or your nine year old. The information changes, there may be new emphasis on a different part of the story. It may sound like a different story altogether.
Steve Rubel at micropersuasion discusses the influence of renting versus buying your social media (see that word medium captured in its plural) and it’s an apt way to consider this idea as well.
Now think about brandtelling in the age of Twitter and Facebook. What does this mean for your story? Can your story be reliably remembered, repeated and rewarded? What will need to be changed? What will be kept or discarded as your story is “shared” by others?
Word of mouth is generally considered to be the most powerful form of marketing on Earth today. But we find that it is poorly understood, because most of us look at it from the lens of our experiences – particularly B2B demand generation.
Why is it so important to learn the principles of Word of Mouth marketing? Simply said, it’s very low cost, even free. But it’s also a lot of hard work. And it can be very counter-intuitive.
Take the example of a lead capture form. In B2B demand generation, you’re encouraged to keep the form as simple as possible and use progressive profiling to capture additional information during multiple visits. Many experts advise you to reduce the “friction” in your forms. This ensures a large percentage of visitors will fill out your form.
But in Word of Mouth marketing, you’re not looking for a lot of people to opt in – instead you’re trying to uncover highly passionate people. That means you may want to create a complex form that requires an hour to complete. By raising a barrier, you screen out those without passion.
Another key concept of Word of Mouth is this: Become fans of your fans. You want to champion your fans. Fans are the key to Word of Mouth, so you need to motivate them.
Perhaps the best way to explain Word of Mouth marketing is to share a success story.
The Word of Mouth marketing firm Brains on Fire worked with the State of South Carolina in a project to reduce teen smoking. Other states were running TV ads, but when the ads stopped, smoking went back up. The goal was to develop something more sustainable.
The project was named Rage against the Haze. (Note: That name was selected by the kids.) Let me simply share the story as told eloquently by Brains on Fire.
Rage against the Haze
When the state of South Carolina received their Tobacco Settlement stipend, it became the responsibility of the state to create an awareness campaign for teens about the dangers of tobacco use. And do it in Big Tobacco’s back yard (not an easy task).
Other states were pumping their settlement funds into huge media campaigns with in-your-face TV ads. But once the ads quit running, the teen smoking rates went back up (SOURCE: American Cancer Society).
Instead of trying to engineer a media campaign, we created something much more sustainable. We gave the reins to the teens and helped them develop a youth-led movement. So, we hand-picked 92 teens who we knew could champion the cause. They played a key role in the development of everything – from the name and identity, to the proprietary curriculum that we penned. We trained and armed them with the tools to spread the word, and then sent them on their way to find other “ViralMentalists™.”
To help, we conducted weekend retreats, statewide tours, Festi-Viral events led by the teens in different cities across the state. We created an interactive website where they could check in with each other, and a RAGE store where they could get SWAG – but only if they were out spreading the word and could prove it.
We sparked and shaped the movement. But the teens are the ones that owned and grew it.
Word of Mouth marketing is incredibly powerful, but you have to take risks, like putting teenagers in charge. You have to pick your champions careful – passion far more important than popularity. And you have to let your champions lead.
“We sparked and shaped the movement. But the teens are the ones that owned and grew it.”
A common complaint from many prospects — or even current customers — is that most websites look to be selling everything and the kitchen sink. This approach may work if you’re selling home goods and appliances, but not if you’re a professional services company.
The problem is — website space is cheap. There is nothing to stop you from putting content about every service, product or solution you offer onto a web page. Length doesn’t matter — lots of SEO copy, right?
Wrong. Your prospects don’t care about everything you provide. They don’t care about most of the things you provide and they certainly don’t care about you. They may care about one, specific thing that you have to offer and you’ve hidden it in a maze of navigation and copy.
What can you do?
Try developing microsites for specific services, vertical industries or topics of interest among your prospective clients. If you offer multiple lines of insurance, but your clients are looking specifically for a retail solution, break out your retail offerings into a specific microsite.
I know, I can hear some of you asking, “Can’t I just add it to my main website with additional navigation?” Sure, you can. But if that information was easy to find already, you probably wouldn’t have read this far, would you? No, you’re better off using your main website to briefly list information about your company with product and service overviews. Then you can develop specific and relevant content for smaller, topic-specific microsites.
For example, Logicalis, an international provider of integrated information and communications technology (ICT) solutions and services, offers a number of IT solutions, including outsourcing services, which can be found on the services pages of its website.
The company has identified, however, that customers can yield three specific benefits through outsourced services — Save Time, Reduce Costs, and Stay Current.
This approach enables Logicalis to invite prospects to the microsite via social media, emailers, direct mail and public relations. There they can learn more about this specific service and click to get more information or speak with a sales consultant. It’s a smart move and avoids wasting prospects’ precious time.
The point is, when a prospect first comes to your website, that’s not the time to try and immediately cross-sell or up-sell everything you offer.
Depending on the size of your organization, there may be a specific group (marketing, public relations) that has the formal, job-description task of telling your brand story.
But don’t kid yourself — there really isn’t any control over who tells your brand story. No matter what size your organization, everyone has a stake in telling your brand story. Owners, managers, employees, shareholders — all of them (you) are brandtellers. So are your prospects, customers, patrons, members, guests — whatever you call the community you serve.
So, the question is: Who isn’t telling your brand story and what are they saying?
In today’s multi-communication-channel, non-stop, 24-hour-a-day world — anyone and everyone is able to tell some story about your brand. Some it it you may like and some of it you may not. Some of it will be true and some of it will not. That’s why it’s important to remain open and accessible, and to communicate frequently.
I love this terrific brand storytelling cartoon by Tom Fishburne at Brand Camp. The point he’s making here, though, is one we all need to take to heart. Are our stories boring? Are we telling them half (a tenth?) as creatively as we could? I think that the honest answer is: not all the time.
Take something simple, like a
press news release. (N.B. Stop writing press releases. Write news releases instead. I’ll talk more about that soon.) Think about your last news release — did it start out the same way?
Company, a leading something something-else in the something-or-other industry, today announced…
B – O – R – I – N – G -!
I’m not saying that I haven’t written those releases as well. I have. But I try (really) to tell better stories with releases. Stories that my audience can relate to and connect with.
Because, as with Tom’s cartoon above, we’re really beginning to put our audiences to sleep otherwise.
Confession: I did well enough in school, but I was not the Smartest Kid in Class. In high school, that would have been Andy (now Andrew Shooman PhD). But I think there are lessons to be learned from being the Smartest Kid in Class that apply to your marketing content. Certainly, it helps if you are, in fact, the smartest — a thought leader — in your field. Your content automatically gets treated with a little more gravitas than content from other sources. But, on your way to becoming that thought leader, here are a few tips:
You get the idea? Your marketing content can become the Smartest Kid in Class by providing thought leadership, nuanced reasoning and sound advice.
Have you ever noticed that some people (especially politicians), products and companies often describe themselves by saying who or what they ARE NOT, rather than who or what they ARE?
You’ve heard all the variations:
“I’m nothing like my competitor.”
“We’re different from the leading brand.”
Why do people — and companies — misuse this messaging tactic so often? We have all done this at some time or another, but it invests an awful amount of energy into someone else’s brand story rather than your own. I think the reason is because it’s easy to do and uses an established brand — good or bad — around which we can package our message. Unfortunately, when you do this, the negative take — the who you’re not — tends to dominate the conversation.
There is another way which I think works much better. Simply state who you are or what your brand is about. On my company pages we say, “We are a brand storytelling agency. We pride ourselves on being a small agency that enables us to be client-service oriented,” rather than, “we’re not a gigantic agency.” It places the focus on OUR brand story, delivered in the context or frame that we’ve built.
That way, we can then have an entire brand conversation without the need to ever directly mention other brands.
Besides, clients — internal or external — want marketers to talk about THEM, not ourselves or others. So let’s focus on doing that!
The team at Story Worldwide has developed a very useful and scientific approach to categorizing and developing brand stories. It’s called the Storytelling Matrix and they describe it best in the video below.
As you watch the video and listen to the examples, think about where your specific brand stories may fall — and begin to look for gaps. For example, your customer success stories or case studies may be more linear — that is, you don’t offer a way for the reader to interact. That’s fine, it’s difficult to interact with a piece of collateral that you pick up at a trade show! But, what could you do to make it more interactive? What about offering a webinar or a video of the case study that your audience could then participate in or share with others?
I think that lots of brand stories probably fall into what the Story team calls Linear, High-Density and Highly-Customized. That means the story is shared (but not participated in), filled with information (and often lacking a light touch) and very targeted to one group (and not broad). This is good if you are delivering a specific presentation to a prospect, for example. It can be highly targeted and relevant to them, But too often, we see these types of stories filled with technical detail, jargon and targeted to a tech specifier when there may be a committee of business buyers involved (NB: technology marketers, I’m looking at you…)
Consider ways that your story might be broadened to offer a fresh approach to buyers you’re not reaching today. I’m not suggesting that you “dumb down” your brand story — if you sell rocket science, you’re going to discuss math. I am suggesting though that not every story needs to be told with the withering specificity that a rocket scientist might require.
Where does your brand story fall in the storytelling matrix?
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