Don't Leave Your Branding On Autopilot
Growth hacking without paying attention to your branding can have unpredictable results. If you are in business to win, you need to build a brand that attracts an audience. Our guest, branding expert Ian Evenstar, is here to provide actionable insights for taking your brand to the next level.
Ian Evenstar runs a branding agency in Los Angeles. His company, Unincorporated, focuses on helping higher education institutions solve their branding issues. Ian works with companies to optimize their messaging, marketing, and design.
How to Hack Your Brand
Many entrepreneurs are people with a side hustle that wish to build their part-time effort into a viable business. That is why it's important for people operating on a shoestring budget to understand how brand growth hacking works.
Branding is not something that you should leave up to chance. There is a process behind it and putting your trust in that process is key.
- Why do you want to start a brand?
- Lay the foundation for your brand
- Find your message
The first step in your branding journey should involve answering one simple question:
Why do you want to start a brand?
You need to have a clear vision. If you're just looking for a side project, you don't necessarily need a brand. If your reason for launching a brand runs deeper and you are willing to commit, then you should continue forward.
As Ian Evenstar notes, you need to start with 'who.' Who are you? What is the nature of your brand?
To take a famous example, Steve Jobs said he wanted to "make a dent in the universe."
How Being in Touch With Your Brand Is a Growth Hack
Your branding needs to answer your prospective customer's question: "Who are you and why should I care?"
Fundamentally, business owners don't spend enough time addressing this question. If you can't give a solid answer on the spot, how can you expect your brand to reflect your message? You need to be able to readily communicated this message to a customer in a concise manner.
Branding is an area of your business that you need to get right from the start. If you overlook your branding in this critical juncture, you will have little chance of converting.
Focusing too much on direct results can take away from your fundamental drive. It's similar to trying to lose weight. If you focus on the fact that you want to lose 20 pounds and look only at the exercises you should do but you don't examine who you want to become, any results will be inconsequential.
In this example, what is the weight loss going to help you become? If it's about numbers on a scale, you may find yourself without purpose. The same holds true for your brand.
Your Elevator Pitch
If the market demand is high and there aren't many available alternatives to your offering, you won't need to spend much time on your branding. On the other hand, if you're delving into a more crowded space, your branding game needs to be on point.
The elevator pitch is the bare minimum you will need in moving forward. It captures the essence of your brand. A popular one-liner that serves as an elevator pitch is that of Geico Insurance. Their catch-phrase is: "15 minutes can save you 15% or more."
It's hard to forget that one-liner as well as the brand it's associated with. To create your elevator pitch, you need to be able to tell your audience about your brand in a laser-targeted and memorable phrase. By repeating that one-liner over and over, your audience as well as your employees will internalize the distilled message your brand is based on.
Consider a chef recently laid off because the restaurant he worked in suddenly closes. Someone approaches the chef and asks: "What do you do?"
One possible answer is: "I'm a chef that was recently laid off and currently trying to build a business." You'll agree that while factual, this isn't compelling. It's not going to help the chef on his way to building his unique brand.
Instead, a good elevator pitch answer might be: "You know how people are working crazy hours at home and making a well-balanced meal is the least of their concerns? I come into people's homes and prepare healthy meals for them so they can focus on their lifestyle."
Now, it may be a bit more than a one-liner but it encapsulates the message perfectly. Strive to demonstrate empathy upfront and then present your value proposition. This will always capture your target audience's attention.
Consistency or Intentional Lack Thereof
Ian talks about how celebrities create brands around their personas to remain relevant. Brands are not forever and need to be retired or recreated. Celebrities that manage to stay in the spotlight are masters of this. You should strive to incorporate some of their tactics in your own business.
One of the strategies that celebrities use is to rebrand themselves before their brand peaks. Neglecting to rejuvenate your brand can cause it to fade and even become undesirable to your audience.
One of the keys to maintaining relevance is consistency. Brands in the business world need to convey a strong sense of reliability. However, as Ian points out, there are examples where inconsistency can be a strength. This only works for more playful and zany brands such as celebrities. However, if your brand leverages inconsistency as its strength, a sense of predictable unpredictability can go a long way.
Evaluating Your Brand
It's important when building your brand to engage in self-reflection. Business owners have a fog of expertise that clouds their judgment concerning their brands.
You need to recognize your blind spots by trying to connect with your prospective customer. Expose blind spots by looking at your recent reports and metrics. For example, on your website, If you have a 10% scroll depth, then people are bouncing from your content. Your branding is lacking and you need to find your blind spots from within the data.
Furthermore, you need an outsider perspective. Someone with a knowledge of psychology and empathy can give you an honest answer as to what the message you're broadcasting is. Being so close to the workings of your business creates a fog that causes you to overlook the connection with your clientele.
If you find yourself in the fortunate position of having unlimited funds to start your brand, take some time off. Ian Evenstar suggests traveling the world to gain perspective. The insight you will gain from how people brand their businesses in different cultures and settings can mean the difference between an average brand and a life-changing endeavor.
Removing yourself from the constant digital stimulus of social media will also help you rejuvenate your point of view.
Ian's branding wisdom can be filtered down to the following statements:
If you have money but no time, advertise.
If you have time but no money, put out a lot of content.
A brand is an identity that will evolve over time. If you don't have a solid vision, mission statement, and governing values, you need to go back and work on them before moving forward.