Professor, speaker, author, and brand strategist Nick Westergaard has a lot to say about branding. So much, in fact, that when his first draft of Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small included a lengthy chapter on the subject, he opted to cut that part out and use it as the basis for a second book. That second book is now available, and offers valuable tools for brands to help them establish themselves in an increasingly noisy marketplace.
I invited Nick back to Marketing Smarts to talk about his latest book, Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Tools and channels can help you tell your brand story, but the noisy landscape also makes it harder for your brand to stand out (02:22): "We have all of these great social and digital tools, [and] content is bigger than ever. The downside of that is it does create an unprecedented level of noise, and all of the different branded messages that we're hit with day in and day out. Standing out is the tricky part. That's especially why we need to approaches to branding, too, because looking at the textbook—doing everything that everyone else is already doing, all of the best-practices—isn't always a recipe for standing out."
Your brand has to stand for more than your product or service: it has to have meaning (03:13): "[Brand Now] is broken down into the seven 'Brand Now' dynamics, which are key principles in how we build a standout brand today. The first one that I talk about is meaning. Stand out brands stand for something. They are about more than the category they sit in or whatever they're filing for their tax return or SEC filing. Whatever that industry bucket is, this really meets the more human need that they serve in the hearts and minds of their customers.
"It's why we know that Zappos isn't just in the shoe business, they are in the service business. We know that BarkBox isn't just selling toys online, they're selling the delight that dog parents get from being appreciative to the four-legged members of their family. BarkBox is a fun example.... I'm glad I remembered to [say] 'dog parents,' because you know that they [BarkBox] have a lot of meaning and are really thinking about this because they have a name beyond just 'customers' for the people that they serve. They call them 'dog parents' as opposed to even 'pet owners.' That word choice stands out and tells me a lot more about what BarkBox does."
B2C brands don't have a monopoly on meaning: B2B brands have meaning, too (10:19): "['We're B2B'] is sometimes an easy out, especially when we're talking about standing out, especially when we're talking about how noisy it is and that people are just doing the same thing as everyone else. It is harder than ever to stand out. We have to take a good, hard look at what we're doing, why we're doing it, and what we can emphasize more to stand out even more, as well.
"Sometimes, I would [say] that, because we know with the very specific need that we're meeting, a B2C company like BarkBox or Dollar Shave Club...who is their customer? It's anybody that has a dog or anybody that shaves.... Those groups aren't homogeneous—that's a big, vast group. Whereas if we understand that we are meeting a specific software need and it's related to security and it's related to accounting firms that are roughly this size, it becomes more clear who we're talking to and how we're appealing to them, as well. So there are a lot of ways that we can use these seven principles and even give them greater context when it comes to thinking about B2B brands, as well."
You don't have to run a formal survey or focus group to understand your brand's audience, you just have to talk to them (19:50): "Sometimes, we look at what we say, what we do, day in, day out, and it is easy to lose perspective.... I also think that's why it's important to remember your community and make sure you're spending time with them. Spiceworks...has something that I just love for the name of it alone, but I also love what it does. They have a program that they run internally called 'Brand Camp'...where they educate both new and current employees on a continuing conversation on who the brand is and what it stands for.
"They also externally make a point of meeting with their customers regularly.... They would plot these tours where they would just go from city to city and have a beer with customers. That's a great approach, because sometimes we get a little heady with these affairs, we want to focus group and have something very formal, and I think when we have a laid back conversation with our customer, we uncover things that we might not otherwise."
To learn more or to get your copy of Brand Now, check out BrandNowBook.com, and be sure to follow Nick on Twitter @NickWestergaard. You can also listen to Nick's podcast On Brand, a podcast about branding from Brand Driven Digital.
Nick and I talked about much more, including the importance of experience, effective naming, and advice for new brands, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Nick Westergaard, chief brand strategist at the agency Brand Driven Digital. Nick is the author of Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small and Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World. Follow Nick on Twitter at @NickWestergaard.