I was chatting with my friend Brian yesterday about his startup. He asked, "what did you think of our branding?"
I asked, "it depends, who are you trying to talk to and what do you want them to feel?"
He wasn't sure. It sounded like there were multiple target markets he was trying to reach with his product and he wasn't sure how he could build a brand that would reach all of them.
Here's the thing:
You cannot build a brand for everyone. In fact, it's smart to build a brand for one person. Since the brand is an emotion, an already vaporous concept, you make it far less tangible with the more people you try to affect. The best brands are constructed for one person. This allows you to focus entirely on making something that somebody will love. Fortunately, there is always spill-over and, because humans are so complex, chances are that we all have a piece of that one persona within us. You have to accept the fact that your brand cannot win over everyone. Even Nike and apple have their haters.
Marketing your brand, however, can be done to multiple people. I gave Brian the analogy of seasoned salt. Seasoned salt is like the brand, it's essence, flavor, and makes whatever meat it's combined with taste like seasoned salt. You can put it on fish, chicken, steak, pork, whatever, it's hasn't changed. Same thing with applying your brand to your marketing efforts. You might have a very specific message or offering for different target markets, but you make sure it's still contains the essence of the brand.
In short, you build the brand for one person, but you can market it to many.
It's astonishing the amount of business owners and sales people who want to be better. They want more customers, they want higher value customers, more of anything that will help them get to the next level. Where this gets interesting is how few of them are willing to do something different to make an impact.
They repeat the same message they have for years, fear to break the mold, but expect that things will change. They pour countless amounts of dollars into marketing, expecting that somehow the same old message will get through.
It's like running on a treadmill. No matter how fast you go, you stay in the same place. If you want to go somewhere you have to run in unconfined territory. You have to break free of what's already there.
Applying this to your brand: say something different, look different, act different, be different. Change.
Of all the things wrong in this world, telling a lie is my least favorite. Mainly for this reason: it prevents anything from improving.
If you tell a lie about a situation, you are intentionally shoving any prospect of fixing it out the door. In the startup world, this comes in many forms, "we're gonna have a billion dollar valuation," "our financials are steady," and my least favorite "we're the best."
Look, don't get me wrong, I think you should strive for a billion dollar valuation, you should strive for steady financials, and you should put your best efforts forward, but don't let these aspirations replace the truth. Like the fact that your startup is maybe worth $20,000 as it stands. Or that your financials are super shaky and your revenue streams are scattered. Lastly, don't confuse your best efforts with being the best solution available.
Why? Because if you let these lies replace the truth, you will certainly overlook what is stopping them from becoming true.
Without a doubt there are aspects of your startup that are amazing, and that you are brave enough to go out there and make something happen. But you will never get better if you cannot look your shortcomings in the face and accept that things could be better.