Brands, listen up: You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and gosh darn it – not everyone has to like you. You heard us – not everyone has to like your brand. And that’s ok.
This may go against conventional marketing wisdom, but hear us out. Buying decisions are highly emotional and we buy from brands that speak our language — and not everyone speaks the same language. It’s ok if your brand isn’t multilingual. When brands focus less on pleasing everyone and start speaking to one community, they have less friction, doubt and skepticism. People trust them.
So, why don’t more brands do this? Well, it’s counter-intuitive. The broader your reach, the more customers you have, right? Eh, not necessarily. A brand that tries to be everything to everyone comes across as disingenuous and to be brutally honest – desperate. No one trusts a brand like that.
Are you ready to stop being a people pleaser and start creating a community of belonging? Here’s how. And just to prove our point, we’ve included some examples of companies like Reebok and Marvel Comics that have built brand trust by doing their own thing, their own way.
1. Find Your Circle.
It’s a big, big world out there and finding your circle isn’t easy. On the most basic level, you need to discover who wants your product. The easiest way to do this is to find out who talks about what you sell. Stalk people on Twitter. Read blogs like your life depends on it. Find out where your people are and be there – only there.
Read: 4 Things to Consider Before You Rebrand Brands who try to be everywhere and insert themselves into every conversation aren’t authentic. Plus, it’s annoying. Remember: it’s ok to be exclusive and appeal to a select group of people – that’s your circle.
Example: Reebok is an unlikely brand that found a circle and created a niche community. The brand came up during the workout craze of the 80’s, but eventually fell victim to power brands of the 90’s like Nike and Adidas. From 2006 to 2014, the brand’s share of the U.S. sneaker market fell to 2 percent from 8 percent and sales declined a staggering 14% from 2007 to 2009 – ouch.
Instead of trying to keep up with those companies, the brand completely repositioned themselves and focused on one of the most passionate and hardcore niche communities in the fitness world: CrossFitters. In 2010, Reebok signed a 10-year partnership with a little-known fitness program called CrossFit. They developed highly specialized CrossFit shoes and apparel, even creating a Spartan Race shoe and a Trifecta Racer shoe you can only own if have survived a Spartan “trifecta.” That’s right — you have to earn the right to own that particular product.
Continuing the brand’s target on unconventional sports and fitness, Reebok has since signed on with UFC to attach its brand name to races, fights and gyms. The brand’s strategic shift to own the “tough fitness” market paid off — the company recorded seven straight quarters of sales in January 2015.
Still, Reebok’s sales pale in comparison to its parent company, Adidas and that’s ok. This isn’t a brand that is trying to be an Adidas or a Nike – the company appears to be perfectly comfortable in its circle and fans love them for it.
2. Harness Your Inner Geek
If you want your community to listen to you on their terms, you’ve got to speak their language. Listen to what they have to say and use the words that matter to them. Find your edge, geek out, and get weird. Be you and not anyone else.
Example: If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that movie studios have shifted from attempting to win “most popular” senior standout to embracing very niche, and dare I say, nerdy, communities.
Big Hero 6 was a massive success, but the visuals and storyline really spoke to the anime culture. Wreck It Ralph was equally entertaining for parents and kids, but it was really all about geeking out on video games. Guardians of the Galaxy got our adrenaline pumping, but it truly touched the hearts of diehard Marvel comic fanatics. Everything about the Lego movie was awesome because Legos still manage to inspire and awe fans young and old.
Read: The Hidden Value of Nostalgia
Just to provide some contrast, movies like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles failed to completely geek out. They didn’t learn their circle’s language and presented mindless junk that tried too hard to be everything to everyone.
If you want to win the hearts of your circle, your brand must find its edge, master your circle’s language and offer a safe place to completely geek out. We are all nerds in our own special way – embrace that and celebrate it with your circle.
3. Give Your Circle Something to Talk About.
You’ve got your circle and you’re speaking the same language, now what? It’s time to create content that keeps your circle talking. But don’t just talk for the sake of talking – no one likes that. You must deliver content that provides value. I know this advice is getting old, but some brands just don’t seem to get it.
Read: How Branding Works in the Social Media Age
Your content should teach your circle to do something, offer a distinct point of view, feature words of advice from other experts and fellow geeks, inspire your circle to take action, tell your circle where or how to find something, deliver industry insights, offer exclusive information…the possibilities are endless. Branded content must speak to the circle like an actual human and always, always serve the community.
Example: Whenever the subject of awesome content comes up here at Brandfolder, someone always mentions Moz. CEO Rand Fishkin and his crew absolutely kill it when it comes to engaging, authentic and helpful content. Whether it’s a Whiteboard Fridays video featuring Rand literally measuring the marketing funnel with a tape measure or the art of creating boring industry content that gets shared, Moz consistently delivers content that you can’t help but talk about. Plus, the brand voice is so darn likeable you practically want to buy it a beer after work.
Moz knows that when its circle is talking, they are empowered to share their experiences and connect with each other. When members of Moz’s circle connect and engage with each other, their decision to do business with the brand is validated. By doing things their own way, Moz earned the right to sell to its circle and was rewarded with a tribe of brand advocates that’s a force to be reckoned with.
The Bottom Line
Brands need to stop treating marketing like a popularity contest and start showing their true, authentic selves. And if you don’t know what that is, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Hopefully we’ve given you a good place to start.
Morgan Quinn is a recovering lifestyle blogger and the Digital Content Manager for Brandfolder, a simple and easy tool for managing digital brand assets. She has created content for brands like Mint.com, Quicken, Ugg Australia, and Martha Stewart. She threw in the towel on Twitter, so follow her on LinkedIn instead.