Making Your Brand Resonant

Tesla CEO unveiling the coveted Model X. Photo Credit: CNBC

Tesla CEO unveiling the coveted Model X. Photo Credit: CNBC

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” – John Maeda

 

Positioning, the task of Identifying where your product or service falls in a competitive set,  is no longer sufficient for building a strong brand in a fragmented, high-velocity digital world. No matter how well you compete on price and features,  if your brand does not communicate its unique promise in an emotionally resonant way, it may never realize its full potential. Great brands like Tesla and Harley Davidson deliver both value and meaning to foster the advocacy and loyalty that drives success.

 

“OK… great, but how do I create an emotionally resonant brand?”

Back in the early aughts,  Marty Neumier’s book ZAG, outlined several exercises to help define key elements of your brand, including “the onliness statement”.  We have incorporated this particular exercise into our Minimally Viable Brand Workshop. While this exercise might seem simple, if you really work it, you will develop critical insights that guide you in effectively articulating your promise to your audience.  

 

How only-ness works

The only-ness statement is  basically a “mad lib” where you fill in the following blanks

BRAND  is the only  CATEGORY  that  DIFFERENTIATOR  for  AUDIENCE .

BRAND is the only CATEGORY that DIFFERENTIATOR for AUDIENCE.

 

For example:

HARLY DAVIDSON   is the only   Motorcycle Manufacturer   that   builds big, loud motorcycles   for   you to ride the American Dream .

HARLY DAVIDSON is the only Motorcycle Manufacturer that builds big, loud motorcycles for you to ride the American Dream.

DIGIORNO is the only FROZEN PIZZA that TASTES LIKE DELIVERY for BUSY PARENTS ON A BUDGET.

USAA is the only FINANCIAL SERVICES  COMPANY  that PROVIDES, INSURANCE, BANKING AND INVESTMENTS for ACTIVE DUTY AND RETIRED MILITARY FAMILIES EXCLUSIVELY.

 

Only-ness: the key to unlocking brand potential. 

As you go through the exercise, you will uncover hidden complexity that could be obscuring the essence of your brand.  For example, what category is TESLA? Are they a car builder, a technology company or a green energy company? In fact, they are all three, but what interplay of these elements is driving their success?  How are they simplifying and clarifying this complexity? As Elon Musk puts it nicely: “Tesla is accelerating the advent of sustainable transport.”

Tesla Solar Roof. Photo Credit: FORBES

Tesla Solar Roof. Photo Credit: FORBES

The point of differentiation can also be tricky.  It’s easy to say “faster” or “cheaper”, but those are attributes that can be easily replicated by your competitors.  Great brands combine numerous attributes that rise above a particular function or feature. Apples famous “think different” campaign reinvigorated what was then a moribund brand. What did that short phrase have to do with selling i-macs?   In my view, it spoke to frustrations with the status quo and the aspirations of a broad audience. Ultimately, thinking different led to the smartphone, Talk about a promise delivered!

And last, but assuredly not least, audience.  The better you can understand the motivations, pain points and jobs you can help your customers do, the more successful you will be.  Try to craft your statement around what motivates your audience. For inspiration, consider how Harley speaks to the freedom seeking rebel in all of us.  

The “only-ness statement” speeds the process of creating the simple, emotionally resonant messaging that will help differentiate your brand for the long term.

 

david barnum