What is Branding

Manifesto

We're going to find out what branding is and isn't... and unpack the difference between branding and marketing before showing you how you can build a Durable Business brand using the power of storytelling.

Branding and Marketing are not the same things.

Marketing is what you do to build Connections
Branding is who you are

Marketing is about tactics.
Branding is about strategy. 

In order to determine what your brand stands for, you need to ask yourself 5 questions.

  • What are your core values?
  • Why are you in business?
  • What is your unique unfair advantage?
  • How do you want people to feel when they think of you?
  • What is your ultimate outcome?

Marketing is all about tools, tactics, and metrics. It covers a number of different approaches all of which may achieve the same goal by using different methods involving more or less control.

Each method may be designed to Connect to the potential customer at different stages in their journey to find a solution to their job to be done.

Hence the different approaches

Some examples of Marketing…

  • SEO / Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Paid Traffic
  • Email Marketing
  • Television / Radio
  • Print Campaigns

Whichever marketing approach suits your talents best, you would be wise to answer the 5 branding questions first for they will define the mindset needed to devise a successful strategy.

And the strategy itself...

Marketing is about the process of Connecting with your people. Building a Community and Converting leads into sales.

Branding is about building emotional bridges so that your people can Connect with you on a deeper level and eventually become Super Fans of your product.

To build a brand that means something to your customers, you need to attach it to a product/service that means something to them.


That means you do not segment your audience by their demographics or psychographics but by the job they need to get done.

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole!”  Theodore Levitt - Harvard Marketing Professor


Yet so many people segment their markets by drill bit type and price.

Then they do their best to pack their offer with more and more product features to make it ‘irresistible’ before discounting the price ‘for a limited time only.

This is a race to the bottom

In truth, segmenting your audience by demographics and psychographics is no better because you are not addressing the deep emotional needs they have… the job to be done.

Take for example the “quarter-inch hole”.

Say…

The customer wants to create a series of quarter-inch holes so that he can build his wife a surprise gift for her birthday.   

The trick is to segment based on the result that each piece of your audience wants no matter their age, sex, education or location, etc…

That is where you connect your brand to the product.
For it is there that your audience sees the most value.

A purpose-driven brand is able to connect with our audiences on a functional, emotional or social level.

So there is…

  • An external desire… Represented by a functional goal -  a series of quarter-inch holes.
  • An internal desire… Which is an emotional goal - to build a surprise gift for his wife.
  • And a philosophical desire… The social need to be seen as a good husband (for instance). 

These three combined create tension. 

This is the essential ingredient in any story. 

Tension sucks your audience in and turns them from spectators to participants. It transforms them from being resistant, to being receptive to ultimately becoming Super Fans.

Purpose-driven brands are built in people’s minds by leveraging the power of story to motivate and inspire them to join your community and deepen their connection with you.


Next, I’ll unpack the 5 questions in more detail so you can start the process of defining what your brand stands for.

Then we’ll go into how you can combine your marketing tactics with your branding strategy so you can develop a joined-up end-to-end system that supports your goal of building a Durable Business.

The world and his wife are fixated on their marketing tactics in a drive to make more sales forgetting that effective purpose-driven branding builds value and increases margins...

And margins are the lifeblood of a Durable Business.

In order to determine what your brand stands for, you need to ask yourself 5 questions.
  • What are your core values?
  • Why are you in business?
  • What is your unique unfair advantage?
  • How do you want people to feel when they think of you?
  • What is your ultimate outcome?

So let’s dive into those five questions, without any further delay.

#1: What are your core values?

Values act like magnets. They attract people who feel aligned with them and repel the rest. They are part of what differentiates you from your competitors especially if you are upfront and transparent about them. 

Your values are your Why. Watch this TED Talk by Simon Sinek in which he explains why finding your WHY is so important.

When I was a child, I used to drive my parents nuts by asking why? All the time. I wanted to know how things worked but most of all I wanted to know that they had a good reason for every request they made of me.

Just in the same way, your folks want to know WHY you do what you do. For them, knowing your 'why' is fundamental to whether they should do business with you.

Here are my core values as follows…

  • Treat everyone like a valued customer, regardless of whether money has changed hands. 
  • Focus on delivering the result that our customer yearns for.
  • Tell memorable stories that attract people I want in my Community and repel the rest.
  • Be Transparent. Show up as I really am. Warts and all. Don't create artificial barriers or force everyone into a one-size-fits-all process.
  • Play the long game. I realize that 85% of my new customers will convert in the next 18 months, not in the next 90 days so I plan accordingly.

I want to put them out there for you, not only because I want to be transparent, but also to make sure you have the opportunity to decide whether my values align with yours.

... And whether you want to spend more time reading this manifesto.

#2: Why are you in business?

For me, it’s about the strategy of preeminence… about treating my folks as customers long before money changes hands.

It’s about having a story-driven business that leads with empathy and focuses on serving people safe in the knowledge that in doing so I am building up a store of value that will be unlocked one day.

This contrasts strongly with a competition-driven business that wants to crush the competition. Be the biggest and the best. Join the two comma club and be the cock of the roost.

It’s horses for courses. Deciding what sort of business you want to own is fundamental to your long-term peace of mind. 

Volkswagen is an example of a competition-based business that compromised its values by cheating on emission regulations...  

As a result, VW was fined billions of dollars. Leadership at the highest level was found wanting. The company was found guilty of manipulating data to its advantage.

Elon Musk runs Tesla as a story-driven company.

He gives away his patents to help others grow the EV market and, in the process, is true to his stated aim of changing the world.

Deciding what sort of company you want to run is key to your long-term success. 

#3: What is your unique unfair advantage?

Through your upbringing, education, experiences, and belief system, you are unique. 

No one else has quite the same mix of attributes or the same network of friends and connections. No one else has the same character, talents, expertise, or experience.

Defining your own unique unfair advantage is another essential to defining your brand and what you alone can bring to the table. 

Watch this fascinating video on how people get ahead and you’ll discover that there’s a lot more to it than you might imagine. Then read ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell.

#4: How do you want people to feel when they think of you?

A well-told story drives emotions. Emotions evoke feelings. When your audience starts to feel they start to become involved. They move from being observers into participants.

Or to put it another way. 

When someone first connects with you, they are resistant. Bombarded with 3000+ different sales messages every day, they block out as much 'noise' as possible. 

Stories cut through that noise. They engage people. Without exception, we are hard-wired to listen to and tell stories. Defining the story that you want your brand to tell is key to connecting with your audience and building a community that loves what you do.

Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” - Jeff Bezos.


#5: What is your ultimate outcome?

Being deliberate about what you want your business to produce is crucial to you making the right strategic decisions. If your ultimate outcome is to produce happy customers then everything you do, decide, and optimize for is focused on that one outcome.

The magic is in understanding that there are unpredictable positive behaviors when you treat your business as a system optimized for one goal...  And that all the parts work to serve that single goal.

The magic is in the interaction of the parts working together to produce a happy customer factory.

While acknowledging that happy customers are important for your business, you may argue that making a profit, scaling, and becoming the market leader is more important.

I beg to differ.

Remember Tesla is a story-driven company, that gives away its patents AND is the most valuable car company on the planet.

The best route up the mountain is not always as obvious as you might at first think.

Sit with this and go back to 'first principles' to find the source of your business success.

Next, I’ll go into how you can combine your branding strategy with your marketing tactics to develop a joined-up end-to-end system that supports your goal of building a Durable Business.

I appreciate you being here, still. There's a lot to unwrap...

Answering those 5 important questions is important. They determine what your brand stands for.

Oreos recently made this Ad which clearly shows what they stand for. In doing so they forced people to make a decision about whether they felt aligned with the cookie maker’s values.

It’s part of their #ProudParent partnership with PFLAG National to create a more loving world at OREOProudParent.comIt’s important that you do the same.

That is… To polarise your audience and get them to choose sides. To choose whether they are for you or against you.

That may make you feel uncomfortable.

It’s natural to want as many people as possible to love you but if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing.

Why should people love you for being wishy-washy?

They’re more likely to say MEAH and pass on by until they find someone or something that they find so attractive they want to stick around.

That’s the power of those 5 questions. And that’s how Oreos have embodied them in one Ad.

Your values are your North Star.

“Explorers depend on the North Star when there are no other landmarks in sight. The same relationship exists between you and your right life, the ultimate realization of your potential for happiness. I believe that a knowledge of that perfect life sits inside you just as the North Star sits in its unaltering spot.” -- Martha Beck


Your values guide every decision you make in business.  They are the red lines that you will never deviate from. And they are what keep your business on course.

They are the core principles that show up consistently in your storytelling every time you post or make a video. They show up in how your website looks and the offers you make.

Your branding strategy shows up in every piece of your marketing and you need to consistently be pushing those values out there.

They act like a magnet that attracts the people you want to work with and repel the rest. They encourage people to see the value in what you do and help you maximize your ROI.

Telling memorable stories is one of my core values.

Why?

Back in 2009, by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn, showed that the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured.

In the Significant Object Study, they auctioned off thrift-store objects on eBay. Each of the 200 objects had an individual short story attached. 

These had been purpose-written by over 200 contributing writers. One of them was William Gibson who wrote the story for the ‘Hawk Ashtray’ which was bought for $2.99… And later sold with this story attached for $101.

The average buying price for all the objects was $1.25. Total investment $129. The total selling price for all 200 objects was $8,000.00. 

(Proceeds were distributed to the contributors, and to nonprofit creative writing organizations.)

That is a powerful demonstration of how the story your purpose-driven brand tells can invest it with an emotional value far beyond your imagination.

Nike hired San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to be the face of its 30th anniversary “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just Do It.” campaign.

He was the athlete who started the movement to kneel during the United States National Anthem to protest racial injustice.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,"

Nike knew that their campaign would be controversial but they did it anyway knowing they would be criticized for it... And they were. 

The Ad campaign sparked a boycott and had people burning their ‘Nikes’ across the country but ultimately made the company $6 billion dollars.

The moral of these stories is that they are powerful when they are about your values. It is these that set your brand apart and vest in it a significant value that improves in your bottom line.
And you do this without you having to talk about what you do or how much it costs.


Whether you are in eCommerce or you are a B2B expert (coach, author, or consultant), stories build an emotional bridge over which your customers can cross to become part of the community you build around your brand.

They will defend you against criticism and buy from you even though your product or service is more expensive because they feel connected with you. 

So let’s dive into the 5 key elements of any story

We’ve now established a powerful logic for building a purpose-driven brand by telling memorable stories that create a push-me/pull-you effect on your audience.

First, your story needs a hero.

That hero is not you, your company or your product or service. You don’t see Nike talking about the shoes they make.

In that Ad that Oreos made, there was no mention of the cookies. No product placement. Nothing. They were and are standing for a cause.

William Gibson makes no mention of the “Hawk” ashtray in his story until the fourth of his fifth paragraph.

The hero in your story is your ideal customer. The tension they live with is the contrast between the life they lead and the life they want to lead.  

Second, your hero needs a goal.

You must clearly define the goal and define how we will know when we have reached it. 

Your hero has a tangible goal. A bigger house. A smarter car. For instance. They also have an emotional goal. To feel more confident. To feel happier. For instance. And they have a social goal. To be regarded as a success by their friends and family. To be seen as a leader.

These things are important to them. They make up the vision of the better life they want to lead.

Think of any Hollywood movie.

The hero always has a well-defined reason for WHY they are prepared to go through so many challenges on their journey to salvation.

Third, your hero is on a journey.

There is the outward journey. 

It could be a road trip (Thelma and Louise).
It could be a voyage of discovery (The Piano)
Or it could a sci-fi thriller (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker).

We have all been on different ‘physical’ journeys and know we are not the same when we arrive as when we set off.

This inner journey is equally important to bring out in your stories. The pain and discomfort we felt after stepping out of our comfort zones. These inner journeys are moved along by the challenges our hero faces. 

Fourth, your hero is faced with many challenges.

These are the key elements in any story because challenges bring conflicts with them. And conflicts create tension. These are the anvil on which transformation and growth are forged.

Your job is to define your ideal client's #1 challenge. The one they are willing to pay dearly to overcome. This challenge shows up in their lives in lots of different ways in lots of different scenarios.

Choose one instance for each post. Suck them in by expressing how they feel about it so they can identify with your story and they will begin to believe they too can overcome the dragon that is the obstacle that blocks their path.

And fifth, your story has to have a resolution.

The grand finale is when you pull it all together and deliver the lessons learned and possibly, a call to action. 

These five story elements sit within a story framework.

A simple one you could use for any post, video or LIVE has 5 elements.

The setup: The everyday life your hero is living right now.
Rising action: The series of events leading to the climax.
The Climax: Where we turn the story around and discover the solution.
Falling action: How life changes after the solution is discovered.  
The Resolution: The results and the lessons learned.

You could write that story in 8 sentences.

Like this…

As a fast-growing startup, we work on many things at once. Emails and personal to-do lists were great when we were smaller. 
As we grew, collaborations became messy. Where’s that file? What’s the progress on this project? Who’s working on this?
Then, we discovered Trello.
Now, we have everything in one place. Comments. Files. Todo Lists. And More.
Team collaboration has never been better.


Short.
To the point.

And a powerful recommendation for someone’s product.

Now you have a go…

Hit reply and send me a story based on the structure I have just given you. I promise to come back to you with my thoughts as soon as I can.

Next, I’ll bring it all together

Branding and Marketing are not the same things.

Branding is about your values and the foundation of your communication strategy while marketing is about the way (tactics) you make Connections.

Your values are your North Star.

Explorers depend on the North Star when there are no other landmarks in sight. The same relationship exists between you and your right life, the ultimate realization of your potential for happiness. I believe that a knowledge of that perfect life sits inside you just as the North Star sits in its unaltering spot.” -- Martha Beck

Your values guide every decision you make in business.  They are the red lines that you will never deviate from. Your values keep your business on course.

They are the core principles that show up consistently in every story you post and every time you make a video. They show up in how your website looks and the offers you make.

Your branding strategy shows up in every piece of your marketing and what you need to consistently push out there. 

Your brand needs to be attached to a product that is relevant to the needs and desires of your customers. That is, it needs to be a purpose-driven brand that Connects on a functional, emotional and/or social level.

Don't forget to express your hero's goal in three ways..

  • The functional goal is the most pressing job that your people need to get done. This is their external desire.
  • The emotional goal is about the vision of the better life they want to lead. This is their internal desire.
  • The social need is about their identity or how they would like others to see them. This is their philosophical desire.

And ask yourself these 5 questions...

  • What are your core values? Values act like magnets. They attract people who feel aligned with them and repel the rest. 
  • Why are you in business? For me, it’s about the strategy of preeminence… about treating my peeps as customers long before money changes hands.
  • What is your unique unfair advantage? Through your upbringing, education, experiences and beliefs system, you are unique. No one else has quite the same mix of attributes. 
  • How do you want people to feel when they think of you? A well told story drives emotions. Emotions evoke feelings. When your audience starts to feel they start to become involved. They move from being observers into participants.
  • What is your ultimate outcome? Being deliberate about what you want your business to produce is crucial to you making the right strategic decisions. If your ultimate outcome is to produce happy customers then everything.

Purpose-Driven Brands are built in people’s minds using the power of story...To motivate and inspire your folks to join your Community and deepen the Connection they have with you and your brand.

Oreos told a story about their values in one Ad and polarised their market in the process.

Nike hired San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to be the face of its 30th anniversary “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just Do It.” campaign.

Here are the 5 key elements of any memorable story.

#1: Hero - The hero is not you, your company, or your product or service. You don’t see Nike talking about the shoes they make. Your story should be your ideal customer and the life he leads and the life he wants to lead if only he could overcome the challenge he/she faces.

#2: Goal - That goal needs to be clearly defined and specific so we know when they have reached it. It’s about the vision of what life will be like for them and for those that they love.

#3: Journey - There is the outward journey. We have all been on different ‘physical’ journeys and know that we are not the same after the experience as when we set off. This inner journey is equally important to bring out in your stories.

#4: Tension - The tension is created by the conflict / challenges our hero faces. The tension drives emotion which transforms them from being mere spectators to participants. It sucks them in. They recognise themselves as the hero. They become part of the story. 

#5: Resolution - The grand finale when you pull it all together and deliver the lessons learned and possibly, a call to action. 

They sit in this 5 step story framework...

The set up: The everyday life your hero is living right now.
Rising action: The series of events leading to the climax.
The Climax: Where we turn the story around and discover the solution.
Falling action: How life changes after the solution is discovered.  
The Resolution: The results and the lessons learned.

You can write a story in just a few sentences. Hemingway did so in 6 words.

For sale, Baby shoes, never worn.” 

Stories have been around since the dawn of time. They are one of two things that set homo sapiens apart from all other animals on planet Earth.

The other is our ability to imagine things that do not exist.

Elon Musk dreamed of creating a multiple-use rocket that would reduce the cost of each launch to a mere few tens of millions of dollars. Until he succeeded no one believed him yet he was able to inspire a team of dedicated engineers to do just that by focusing on first principles.

That's the subject of another post to be published separately.

So stand by for that...

In the meantime, if you want to put what you have read into practice and get feedback whilst you are doing it, may I suggest that you consider joining the Story Marketing Tribe.

Click here to discover more. 

NOTE: This was originally a five-part email series over five days, which I sent to all my email subscribers. This published version has been lightly edited for the web.

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