You stare at a wrinkly grey wall from one inch away. You can see every porous cavity, every abrasion, every molecule, but you cannot see the whole thing.
Is it cement? Is it brick? You don't know. Why? Because you cannot see the whole thing in context, you can only see tiny details.
You move back five feet and realize you were staring at an elephant. What's the point?
Details are important in branding, but failing to provide context is a recipe for confusing customers. You need to give them a bigger picture first instead of bombarding them with details like price, features, etc.
A buddy of mine and I have started looking for apartments to rent. Scammers have been rampant, so we're extra cautious.
One realtor had sent my friend an application, his license number, and lease agreements. My buddy sent them to me asking, "is this legit?"
I could see where he was suspicious. The design of the application was shotty and it made his ears perk up. It was a lot of small things like misaligned typography, no consistency in colors, no logo for the company, no footer. Not only from a design perspective, but things like not have a dedicated domain for this company and instead using a Gmail address made this entire experience feel scammy.
Despite the fact that he did indeed have a license number, his brand and legitimacy were being put to death by a thousand tiny cuts. Small wounds that bled his company of its worth and value.
Point being, the small interactions are where you get a chance to prove yourself as something legit and unique. Never underestimate them.
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.