Getting a venture off the ground is tough. Competing against similar startups and established players along the way is even tougher.
One tool to add to your ‘brand insurance box’ (you know, the things you do that make your venture a strong brand) is also one of the simplest and most valuable branding efforts you can undertake: creating a term you can own.
Below I outline 3 reasons why owning your language will leave a quantifiable mark on your brand:
Don’t come up with a term for branding’s sake, rather evolve it naturally. The last thing you want to do is to confuse your customer with strange lingo, instead you want to inform and educate. Think of industry terms that are being used within your segment by your customers – are they all clearly saying what you’d want them to say, or are some misguiding, perhaps even outdated based on the solution your venture offers? Some you might flat-out hate or poke fun at regularly for good reason.
I, for instance, hated the term ‘brand collateral’ to describe the pieces a brand uses to communicate its brand values, visuals and language to clients, consumers and prospects. During the process of writing the book ‘How to Launch a Brand,’ I demanded a better term for the visual and verbal brand communication pieces and I coined the term ‘Brand Atmospheres.’ To me it made for a much stronger and all-encompassing description that felt logical rather than confusing. I trademarked the term, linked it to our web site, named one of four chapters in the book after it and soon prospects started talking about how ‘they needed to revisit their Brand Atmospheres.’ Long gone were brand collateral conversations.
It’s not on the scale of someone asking for a Kleenex or making a Xerox of a document, but within my niche it made me realize just how much of a differentiator it became to have marked a term that is being used in conversations by prospect clients. It strengthens the brand perception and creates an immediate relationship between prospect and provider.
Maybe you have a process, a specific way of doing things? Will you call it ‘Our unique process’ or will you actually give it a unique name that describes your thinking in a better way? I named our one day brand strategy workshop for startups ‘Resonaid,’ to further describe the function of the workshop: It serves as an aid to make your brand resonate with its customer from the get-go. It turned our process into a product that is instantly tangible as well as ownable.
The unique thing you do, whatever it may be, give it a unique name. If it’s unique it deserves it; perhaps even demands it.
People trust something you truly own (up to). It not only adds importance, it also makes it unique to you, which relates to your offering as being substantial, or substantially better than the one of your competitors. Most founders start at the brand name and end at the product name missing out on all the terms in between, which establish trust along the way of the decision making process.
Creating a lingo is like your own secret language, which won’t remain a mystery for long. It’s like writing with invisible ink, only that everyone will ask you to see it. Everyone will want to be ‘in the know’ and once they are, they will be darn proud of it. They have a sense of belonging. They don’t grab donuts at Strange Donuts in St. Louis, no, they grab dones. They call me and ask for a Resonaid workshop, not about the ‘brand creation’ workshop.
Adding intrigue to a brand is every marketers goal. Usually that involves big campaigns on even bigger budgets. By adding unique nomenclature to your branding efforts, you hit that intrigue mark on a much tighter budget.
While other startups try to become ‘the Uber of their industry’ why don’t you take the direction of becoming ‘the Kleenex of your industry’ instead? They will call you by your name. Promised.
Oh yes, the good old Positioning Statement; used for decades, it still is the single most powerful tool to define a new venture’s audience, category, benefits…and reason for believing. Powerful, because this is all part of one single sentence; a sentence that many Founders struggle with, as a recent poll of ours showed.
When I work with clients on defining, and refining their positioning statement as part of our Resonaid™ workshops, it takes between one and four hours to get this sentence right. Yes, power comes with responsibility, and questioning the reason for being, and for believing in any new venture is worth a few hours of pondering.
Search for the term Positioning Statement and you will be surprised by just how varied the approaches to a classic branding tool are. It is most astonishing that a majority of statements leave out the most essential part of it; the reason to believe.
Most statements focus on the differentiators, ours (pictured above) focuses on the ‘because’ – the part that takes time to ponder and to perfect. It is also the part that will truly differentiate your venture from others. It puts your venture to the test: Is it truly a big idea? Is it important? Can it be bigger? Should it become more important? Is this why I will work late nights and put a lot at stake?
The big question ‘Why’ has been making its rounds past the branding community for a while now, most noteworthy through Simon Sinek’s TED talk. Despite its popularity, just like is the case with the mundane idea of writing a positioning statement altogether, the ‘because’, the key part that will indeed generate you sales, is often neglected. If you found an excuse not to tackle this sentence for your venture, take these words as a gentle kick in your behind and make today the day for accomplishing it. It will change your venture for the better, guaranteed.
Ask yourself: Am I about to launch a product/service, or a brand?
How would you know?
You may not have a direct competitor yet, but you soon will. When the innovative, new and unique wears off, competitors will offer your product at a lower cost. How will you keep your customers from choosing their product instead? What will it be that will make your offering stick? Too many startups have to re-invent, re-brand and re-connect once they find traction – at a high cost.
If you have a unique offering combined with ‘the stick’ – the set of true differentiators, the emotional connectors that deliver from the inside out, consistently on message (visually and verbally) and on target – you know you have a brand. Having that foundational special ingredient is like a survival formula for your startup, it will make customers come sooner, faster and stay around even if they could save a few bucks elsewhere later on.
@i_mdoughboy tweeted the following last week about my consultancy’s process chart (see below): Guess where the value is? Here’s a hint – the graphic is eerily similar to a bullseye.
Imagine you are a gifted craftsman that has mastered a unique design that you developed over the course of years just to sell very few and at a high price as you don’t have the audience nor infrastructure. You created something truly unique that only you offer. After years of work, but only a few units sold, you see your design offered at a fraction of the cost at a large retail chain. It happens daily. Examples are too many to give, from apps to shoes to frozen yogurts, and all across B2B services. The only real life insurance you can have, besides a unique product/service to start out with, and its correlating trademarks, is to have that ‘stick’, those emotional brand differentiators that spread across product, service and your Brand Atmosphere. Those are hard to replicate.
If they like your product/service, they might come and purchase it.
If they love your brand, they will come and purchase it, return to it, and stay with it.
(Only read further if this hits home and you are an entrepreneur that is looking for their offering’s ‘stick’)
Avoiding the trap is hard to do for startups, being strapped thin on time and money, hence they often launch blindly, solely focusing on the uniqueness of their offering and not that of their brand. We saw this as a huge issue facing early stage entrepreneurs. Over the course of the last 6 months (based on our 12 years of experience running a branding and design agency, and with the help of writing a book on the subject) we were able to create an affordable ‘overnight’ remedy to avoid that trap. This is a huge reveal for us, which I am thrilled to share with you via this post: Meet our Resonaid™ Brand Foundation workshop, where I spend a full day with you, one-on-one working through a proven, proprietary process to find the path for your new brand to emotionally connect with your customers from the get-go and for the long term. I have one date left available this month and a few in April. Contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more about this customized workshop to find the brand ‘stick’ for your startup.
PS: Yes, there is a great book entitled ‘Made To Stick.’ You should pick it up, it discusses why some ideas thrive while others die. Rather appropriate in this context.