It’s the first of November.
Anton LaVey, founder of the satanic church, has just had a son.
There was just one problem. His son needed a name. And not just any name, he needed a name that sent a clear message.
“I’ve got it!” He thought.
“I’ll name him satan – satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey!”
The name satan, comes with emotional baggage.
There’s centuries of emotion, meaning and history, behind the name. There’s a collective disdain for that name. Most parents, whether they believe in God or not, understand the consequences of choosing that name for their kid.
Website branding comes with consequences too
Your website needs to convey emotion, meaning and history. But with most businesses, that’s often neglected.
So, their website struggles.
They’re forced to beg for referrals and rely on discounts to win customers. Customers haggle and fuss about the price (if they buy at all).
“Do you price match?”
“What makes you guys so special?”
“Your competition does X, can you do that for less?”
Poor branding creates a laundry list of problems
Suddenly it’s difficult for customers to remember the website, or the name of the business. Customers treat that business as if it’s generic or insignificant.
Which is completely untrue.
But there’s no uniqueness, so customers refuse to pay their asking price, deciding instead to go price shopping with competitors.
Website branding eliminates these common problems
But only if it’s done well.
And doing it well requires that we learn four important lessons. Let’s take a look.
Lesson #1: Know your audience, speak their language
When it comes to communication, there’s a lot of variety.
The good news: people in your audience respond well when you speak their language.
The bad news: their “language” depends on a number of factors (e.g. education, industry, lifestyle, social circle, etc.)
Here’s an example of what I mean.
Content that’s expected to be technical comes with a common yet nasty downside. Complexity.
Science, philosophy and tech sites have an especially tough time with this. Many of them use big words to tell a very simple story. That’s great and all if their audience expects that, but it’s pretty terrible if they’re speaking to the average Joe.
As their content swings from one extreme to the other, their audience feels like the content is either over their heads or they’re being talked down to. They’re never really on target.
These sites consistently run into trouble with tone, voice, and presentation.
And because their audience is typically filled with both novice and advanced readers, a mismatch becomes a disaster. Customers shut down, tune out, or ignore the message – before they’ve had a chance to absorb a single word.
Lesson #2: Create uniqueness that’s meaningful and practical
“We’re unique because we care about our customers.”
“We guarantee your satisfaction.”
How do most people respond when they read something like this?
Neither one of these statements are unique. Yet it’s incredibly common for businesses to push statements like these in their marketing and websites.
From the customer’s perspective, there’s no value exchange.
“We guarantee your satisfaction.” Okay, what does that mean?
“We care about our customers.” Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?
Customers find it hard to believe in (or care about) statements that don’t convey value.
So let’s say you want to create uniqueness that conveys value. What sort of ingredients do you need for that?
- 1 Specificity. The claim “We guarantee your satisfaction” is fuzzy and vague. Do you believe it? Maybe. Maybe not. How about this? “96% of our business comes from repeat customers.”
- 2 Quantifiable. 96% is something you can measure. Adjectives like “care” or “satisfied” (and other qualitative terms) are much harder to quantify. They’re also less believable.
- 3 Verifiable. This is closer to credibility than it is to straight-forward verification and there are different types.
Maybe prospects talk to existing customers. Maybe the product itself shows that it’s unique. Or you’ve got the testimonials to validate what you’re saying. Whatever it is, it establishes credibility.
These are the kind of ingredients that make your uniqueness attention grabbing.
Lesson #3: Use someone else’s emotional history or build your own
Your content, design, logo, materials – all the stuff customers can see – tell them about the things they can’t see. Your values, attention to detail, what your business stands for, etc.
Customers use what they see, to make judgments about what they can’t see.
When you know your target audience and you know what you stand for it’s a whole lot easier to use someone else’s emotional history as your own.
Big brands do it all the time.
Frank Seiberling, founder of Goodyear, was inspired by a statue of the Greek god, Hermes. Goodyear is all about speed and so the Wingfoot symbol was born.
Safety has been Volvo’s focus for a long time. Year after year, they create amazing things to keep drivers safe.
They talked about how strong their cars are, how they protect you (and pedestrians) in a crash, even protecting you from would-be psychopaths lurking in your car.
It’s no surprise then, that they chose a logo and brand around something that captures that. And what did they choose? The ancient chemical symbol for iron.
Nike does the same thing as well. While co-founder, Philip Knight was unenthusiastic about the legendary swoosh logo, the name had a very clear purpose.
Nike, the greek goddess, was the personification of victory. Nike is all about winning. Being #1 is visible in their ads, their approach, their products and the athletes they choose.
But what if you don’t want to use someone else’s history as a starting point? What if you want to create your own?
Creating your own emotion, meaning and history requires three ingredients.
Time. Customers need time to watch and learn. They don’t start off as believers, they start off as skeptics. Creating your own meaning and history needs time; time to develop trust, safety and a relationship with them.
Repetition. “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.”
If you’re American, you know that came from Geico. They repeat the same message everywhere – on their website, in their tv ads, through their marketing. Over and over and over until it’s burned into our collective consciousness.
Do the same thing with your message and slowly but surely customers will start to remember.
Consistency. Inconsistency is a problem for many small businesses. Some of them rotate between 3 to 4 different colors, logos or designs for their business, while others create conflicting messages that confuse their customers. Others present themselves one way, but behave in another.
In fact customers value consistency so much that they’re willing to fight for it.
In 2010 Gap decided they wanted to change their logo from this:
The logo change abandoned 20 years of history and created a firestorm of anger and criticism from the internet. “This is the worst idea Gap has ever had,” one customer wrote on Facebook. The pressure was so intense that the new logo lasted… a week.
Gap folded under the pressure and brought back the old logo.
It’s really tough for customers to develop any kind of emotional connection or history in an inconsistent environment. Want to avoid that? Be consistent. Make sure the tangible aspects of your presentation match the intangible aspects.
Lesson #4: Reinvent someone else’s emotional history.
AdBusters’ McDonalds ads re-imagine history on their terms. They felt that McDonalds as a company was against what they stood for so they retold that story, sharing their view of reality.
People frequently argue about whether their vewpoint is accurate, but that isn’t the point.
Adbusters created uniqueness on the backs of the companies they attack. They’re memorable and fascinating, drawing attention to their cause. They create intense discussion and debate. And they did it by reinventing history.
Let’s say you wanted to reinvent someone else’s history to establish your own. How would you go about doing that?
Find your polar opposite. You’ll want to identify a person, place or thing that acts as the anti-thesis of what you stand for. Then, you attack (ideas not people).
Partner up with complementary sources. Every industry has complementary sources. These are businesses, organizations or people that serve the same customers you do, but in a different way.
Let’s say you’re a Realtor; the appraiser, loan officer and home inspector would all be complementary sources.
So does all this increase your online sales?
When used well it focuses your customers’ attention, their emotion, on your message.
Here’s why that matters.
Emotion is the gatekeeper. Your message has to create emotion, and attraction first before customers engage with it logically. Contrary to what we’re told, we focus on emotion first and reason second.
Long story short: We experience emotion, then we use reason to explain and justify. Good website branding uses emotion, creating an opening for you to present your message to customers.
What if your customers don’t care about website branding?
It turns out customers do care about branding. Customer loyalty increases sales. But it has to be earned, it can’t be bought.
But you get along fine without all this website branding stuff
Right? Why would you need any of this?
It’s actually a gamble. You haven’t been forced into a situation where you need the results we’ve talked about. If you’re in a position of strength or dominance, it feels like you don’t need this branding stuff.
Until you run against someone who uses it well. And when that happens, it’s too late.
You’re nothing like satan or his father
You’re smarter than both of them. Anton LaVey understood the benefits of branding. He knew “satan” was a loaded word overflowing with history, meaning and emotion; in the end, he failed to make it work.
Your website branding needs four ingredients to increase loyalty and sales.
Know your audience, speak their language. Create uniqueness that’s meaningful and practical. Use someone else’s emotional history or build your own. Reinvent someone else’s emotional history. Using these tools gives you the ability and know-how to attract customers and create loyalty on demand.
How about you? Have you used this branding stuff in your business? How’d it go?