Whenever Valentine’s Day rolls around, the single crowd is always encouraged to practice self-love. Although this is positioned almost as a “consolation prize” in lieu of participating in the traditional customs of the holiday, it’s still an important practice. In fact, self-love is essential for people in relationships, too. And, funny enough, it’s also important for brands.
In essence, self-love is all about knowing yourself, and loving whatever it is that makes you uniquely you. That’s a long process for people, and it takes some doing when it comes to brands, as well. But discovering and celebrating the things that make you different creates a vibrance and authenticity that can’t be matched. Nobody else can be you.
The same goes for brands. When a brand expresses its genuine self and embraces its uniqueness, quirks, and elements of difference, it becomes much easier to stand out from the rest of its industry or category. Effortless, even… after the requisite “introspective” phase, of course.
You CAN’T fake it ’til you make it.
It should be noted that whatever weirdness or unique trait you bring into focus should already exist within. Don’t go inventing a quality that isn’t there just to stand out. It will fall flat. Your audience will know it to be false. People are more intuitive than we give credit for. And beyond that, you want your brand to attract its true tribe — people who identify with what you’re actually all about.
It’s just the same as with individuals: when you know who you are and own it, you attract the best kinds of friends: people who resonate with you and really understand you. The secret to attracting a loyal following is having a strong grasp of your brand’s innate personality and conveying it well. Audiences are drawn to brands that they “click” with, but it only works if the attracting elements of the brand’s character are deeply genuine. Sincerity is key.
What does it take to “find yourself” as a brand?
As with people, it can be hard to recognize things about yourself that an outsider sees immediately. Yes, self-reflection can go a long way, but it isn’t all that easy, and it takes time. This principle appears to be doubly true for businesses. That’s why it helps to have outside help, whether from a trusted friend or a research-driven branding agency.
For our clients, we perform a Dial-In and Discover Phase. We do a deep dive into what is already present in your business, what traits clearly exist no matter who you think you ought to be. We engage in creative questioning, sessions meant to bring out the truth, values and emotion that have taken root in your organization already.
It’s interesting to see how often businesses have rich cultural themes, distinguishing traits, and different ways of doing things that aren’t being utilized or expressed on the surface. But if you want to make your brand real, that’s “the good stuff.”
A few brands killing it in the self-love department:
Once your unique brand quirks are uncovered, it’s all about owning and celebrating them. Let’s review a few brands that are doing it right.
They aren’t the sexiest of shoes, but they’ve managed to become ubiquitous nonetheless. Usually, footwear is all about fashion. But not these rubber clogs, no sir. Crocs know what they’re all about, and they aren’t shy when it comes to owning it. Their “Ugly Can Be Beautiful” campaign says it all. “We may not be pretty, but we’re comfy and durable and versatile as hell!”
The campaign was produced by TDA Advertising & Design. The creative director, TDA’s Jonathan Schoenberg, shared his inspiration for the concept: “While test-wearing the product, people would frequently say to me, ‘Those are so ugly. Where can I find them?’” — and seeing that reaction so many times, Schoenberg knew exactly what to lead with.
Crocs certainly have a few things going for them: functional, waterproof, comfortable and easy to clean. Sure, looks aren’t part of the equation, and they don’t have to be. The Crocs brand led with their true personality: easy-to-wear and not putting on airs. And you know what? It worked.
Most cell service brands play it pretty close to center. They tend to go for mass appeal, not speaking to any specific audience. But that strategy doesn’t build a loyal brand tribe. That’s where Virgin shines: they have a personality all their own, unique in the cell-service world.
The Virgin empire’s start in the music industry certainly lends itself to a sort of out-there, artistic approach to branding. And their contract-free services appeal particularly to young people. So, what do you get? A fresh, vibrant, youthful brand featuring commercials with surreal premises and zany, colorful aesthetics. For Virgin Mobile, it makes perfect sense.
Fluent is a company that decided to take a totally different approach to customer acquisition. While other companies were using indirect means of collecting information across large groups of people, hoping to understand them at a distance — Fluent chose to, well, “just ask them.”
Fluent’s powerful surveying technology enables them to get a genuine, accurate read on what consumers are thinking. So, striking out from the typical, high-tech tracking tactics of the industry made them a horse of a different color. And when we helped them craft their brand, that’s exactly what we led with. Their “Or You Can Just Ask Them” platform immediately expresses how straightforward and human their approach is. A refreshingly different spin on the customer acquisition industry.