The saying “Content is King” in marketing is more true than most would like to admit. But have we considered that the content we write actually makes us better. Pausing to conceptualize and effectively communicate a thought in two or three paragraphs pushes our intellect and our depth of understanding concerning ourselves and our brand. And for the most part…it’s free!
I often point out to clients that value is not just about money. It’s about necessity. It’s about urgency. It’s about happiness. We all value different things.
I remember when I was a child, growing up in a lower-income neighborhood of Miami, learning this lesson. Many of my friends, whose family were on government assistance and struggling to make ends meet, had many of the so called “luxuries” my family could never imagine providing. New Jordans, gold chains, Cadillacs, big TVs, and more. The issue for many of these families was not whether or not they could afford it, but rather what they valued. Some lived in a run down house, but the feeling of driving down the block in a great big Cadillac (Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin’ the scene with a gangsta lean, gangsta whitewalls, TV antennas in the back) seemed to make them feel better. Some bought their groceries via food stamps, but doing so, wearing fresh Jordans, seemed to bring a sense of confidence they desired to “make it through” the situations they found themselves in. Keeping up with their impression of Mr. Jones was what was most important to them at that place in life.
Now, I’m not condoning this sort of behavior, however the lesson learned was, people will find a way to make things happen if it is important to them. In a down economy, it’s not necessarily money that changes what we buy, but value. Consumers may not buy what you’re selling simply because they don’t value it. Maybe they value family, rest, their home. Maybe they value luxuries that make them forget, even just a little, during hard times.
Asymmetrical Press released a book called “Advice to My 18 Year Old Self.” Branding is not a logo. Branding is who you are and where you’re going. Who I am has not changed significantly over the years as much as my comfort with who I am has. At 40, I give myself significantly more permission to be myself than I did 22 years ago. I have become more confident in the brand that is me. This same concept applies to artists, businesses and products.
Here’s my letter to me, at 18.
You are smart and see things differently. Stop worrying that people don’t think you’re smart. Your confidence will be far more useful than trying to prove how smart you are. Don’t try to suppress your imagination and A.D.D., use it like the FORCE to envision millions of ideas, all while everyone else in the room is still listening to the question.
Embrace mistakes. Make a ton of them, as quick as possible. Try new ideas. Experiment with the old. Question everything; this will get you in trouble, but just smile and take it as a compliment. Read Socrates and Aristotle.
Be kind. Not everyone sees things the way you do. Warning, the way you see things can create a very real threat to other’s status quo. Don’t feel so bad about the relationships that didn’t work out…you’ll soon meet a girl, marry her and have a super amazing kid.
Who you say you are isn’t interesting, people don’t care. What you do is everything. Just do things. Create. Make the world better. Do, and then you’ll never have to tell people who you are. They’ll know.
Serving your community will be your everything and that look will way different than you think it should look at 18. The more you learn how to speak for others, the more you’ll gather people and empower them to speak for themselves. Remember, a great leader works their way out of a job. Also, remember, sometimes, silence justifies those who are doing wrong, so don’t be afraid to speak up. Freedom comes with responsibility, so, don’t waste your liberties by watching tv and wasting time.
Don’t worry so much about finding a job…get some experience under your belt, and when you’re ready, make one up and be the best at it. Live in such a way that you won’t need to retire.
Finally, Joshua, know that all that you do for the world is great, but that the sooner you catch on that your humor is the best way to warm people up to the real lessons you want to teach, you’ll see that everything goes better. It’s like that great philosopher said, “Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Humor is how you’ll remind everyone that they will inherit the earth.
Your 40 Year Old Self
I was reading Seth Godin’s blog post this morning and it profoundly hit the nail on the head. Here’s what he said,
It seems arrogant to say, “perhaps this isn’t for you.”
When the critic pans your work, or the prospect hears your offer but doesn’t buy, the artist responds, “that’s okay, it’s not for you.” She doesn’t wheedle or flip-flop or go into high pressure mode. She treats different people differently, understands that she is working to delight the weird, not please the masses, and walks away.
Isn’t that arrogant?
No. It’s arrogant to assume that you’ve made something so extraordinary that everyone everywhere should embrace it. Our best work can’t possibly appeal to the average masses, only our average work can.
Finding the humility to happily walk away from those that don’t get it unlocks our ability to do great work.
Knowing who you are and where you are going is branding. That is the brand, whether the brand is you, a product or service. Being confident in allowing your brand to be itself is not arrogant…it is strategic. We must be artists, creators, innovators; we are all original.
I asked a client (singer/songwriter) the other day in a session, “Who was Michael Jackson like?” “What about Prince? Or Miles Davis?” The answer, obviously was no one. They were confident in being themselves and they created forms of music that no one before them had created. We don’t really consider musicians who followed in their footsteps to be legends. Being legendary requires being unique, different. It required these artists to be themselves, not attempting to please everyone, but pushing to have personal integrity and originality in their work.
No one can be you. There is no competition to you. When you choose to be yourself and stay focused on a clear path, you don’t really compete with anyone. You now have something unique. Now all you have to do is market, effectively tell your story to a specific demographic. Branding and marketing…defining who you are, where you are going, and sharing that story effectively.
I was perusing the interweb doing some reading on storytelling and came across this fantastic article by Jonah Sachs, CEO of branding agency Free Range Studios, and author of Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future. Jonah clearly explains to basic fundamentals of the importance and (possibly more important) process of good storytelling. Once brands (individuals, products or organizations) recognize the importance of telling a story to their audience, they can begin to develop the skills to do so effectively. Enjoy.
As the media landscape continues to evolve, audiences are gaining more and more control over the information they view and share. To remain relevant, brands need to know how to tell compelling stories to reach them.
Traditional messages in the old broadcast style — exalt your product and tell your audiences why they need it now — are at best overlooked and forgotten; at worst, ridiculed. But successful stories, such as Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, can garner 150m YouTube views in a couple of months and supercharge brand awareness and loyalty — without talking about the product at all. This is what success looks like for brands that shift from broadcast messaging to storytelling.
The transformation begins by realizing that your brand is nothing more than an ongoing story–a set of meaningful emotional experiences unfolding between itself and your audiences. Just like stories, brands can be inspiring, clear and actionable, or self-important, bland and confusing. The inspiring ones light up social networks, passing virally from storyteller to storyteller. The others instantly disappear.
Here are four simple steps that will help your brand become effective at storytelling.
One of the first things people ask me when they find out what I do is, “so, should I be on (insert any social media platform)?” Small businesses, rockstars, CEOs are all confused about the same thing…what social media platforms should they be using.
Social media platforms are like tools in a toolbox. They are all beneficial at different times and for different outcomes. Once you come to grips with you are (your brand) and where you are going it makes the decision a bit easier in choosing what to use.
The first step is education. Find out what each tool does. What is Facebook good at? What type of people can you reach through it? What about Instagram? Do people still use Twitter and if so, how? Now think about your target demographic…which platforms will they potentially be engaging?
The second step is being social. Remember, “SOCIAL” media platforms are supposed to be social. Don’t just have one-sided conversations with random folks who are logged in. Engage. Ask questions. Respond. LIKE what they are doing.
Third, be consistent. Not only be consistent in the time you use to engage, but be consistent to your brand…don’t try to be someone you’re not.
The last thing to remember is to not get stuck. Be open to try new platforms. When it comes to technology, what worked last year, may not be the most effective this year.
Good luck and happy engaging.
The viral music video of the moment is right here.
The question for the marketer, music or otherwise, isn’t, “what are the hooks and tricks I use to go viral?” No, the question is, “is it worth it?”
What does the fox say has the hooks and tricks in abundance. It has Archie McPhee animal costumes, nonsense words, just the right sort of production values, superfluous subtitles, appropriate silliness. It would probably help the cause to add spurious nudity, but give them points for getting the rest of it right.
To what end?
If your work goes viral, if it gets seen by tens of millions of people, sure you can profit from that. But most of the time, it won’t. Most of the time, you’ll aim to delight the masses and you’ll fail.
I’m glad that some people are busy trying to entertain us in a silly way now and then. But it doesn’t have to be you doing the entertaining–the odds are stacked against you.
So much easier to aim for the smallest possible audience, not the largest, to build long-term value among a trusted, delighted tribe, to create work that matters and stands the test of time.
“Baby bump bump bay dum.”
I spent some time on Pinterest lately digging through branding & marketing quotes. Quotes like, “Your brand is what people say when you’re not in the room.” Rethinking our understanding of branding is imperative. When we think of branding as merely a cool design or great presentation, we miss the point and so will our customers.
When I sit with a potential client for the first time, I do my best to help them understand what it is I do. I help them understand that designing is secondary and so is their logo, their website and all the print collateral they will likely want to create. I help them understand the art of storytelling. What is their brand’s story? What will woo the masses to fall in love with them? It’s always an interesting conversation. I told one client, you pay me to give you permission to be yourself and to tell your story the way it was meant to be shared. They agreed.
Here is a great little article from Prashant Pinge from Media Panther about storytelling…enjoy.
Stories take people away from the vagaries of life, from the harsh reality that they find themselves trapped in. Stories allow a person to suspend disbelief, to believe in fantasies, to visit different worlds. Stories give people the opportunity to live those few moments vicariously, to experience what they otherwise never would. Stories inspire people to pursue lofty goals, to hope that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Stories do all this, provided they are told well.
Branding is also about storytelling. But brands are very real. However, it is through their stories that people can really connect with them. A plain product remains functional. It performs its duties and is relegated back to anonymity. A brand on the other hand performs the function of the product. It also provides an escape of sorts to the consumer, creating an emotional connect to form a long-lasting relationship. And if its story is a truly gripping one, it also allows the consumer to express themselves through its use. That is the hallmark of a story truly well told. For instance, Apple’s story provides all three benefits.
When telling a story, it is important to keep in mind the audience. The story is not about the storyteller, it is about what pulls the audience in. A great brand does exactly that. It intrigues the mind, it appeals to the heart, and it engages the senses until the experience is a truly unique and memorable one, one that the consumer can keep going back to again and again. A stellar example is the Harley Davidson story. The consumer becomes willing to suspend any doubt, to step into the fantasy, to truly enjoy the experience, to be inspired and ultimately, to become one with the brand.
I was reading Seth Godin’s blog this morning and this stood out to me:
When you sell unlimited hope…
then all news is bad news. That’s because news is fact, what happened, not hope, and the truth can’t possibly be as good as the hope was.
The problem with marketing promises that spin out of control, that pile expectations on top of dreams, is that when reality appears, when the quarterly numbers or the new policies or the final product arrives, it will inevitably disappoint.
This is the challenge of the Kickstarter artist, the growth stock CEO and the well-published author. Dreams are irresistible, but they will never match reality when it finally appears.
The desire to promise the world is nearly uncontrollable sometimes. If you do this then everything will be alright. If you follow me, then life will be better. If you buy my new CD, it will change you forever.
Chances are, even if they are beneficial, they will not meet the expectations put on them. The old proverb says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up again.” We get better though the journey, through mistakes and through failures.
Next time you’re selling something, consider whether your product is promising the world or supporting the journey. And consider which one will benefit your customer for the long haul. Which one will bring them back over the years?