What do brands like, Patagonia, Ruff Wear, PBR, Airstream and Carhartt all have in common? At some point in their existence, either from the beginning days of their brand, or later as the brand struggled to maintain market share, there was a movement within a sub-culture of individuals that gravitated towards the product, embraced it, utilized it and shared it with others, consciously or subconsciously.
I like to call this the “brand epicenter experience.” This is defined when a shift happens at the center of a sub-culture, individuals gravitate towards a product for various reasons but typically they are tied to strong beliefs/ideals held within their sub-culture. These brands become “identifiers,” coveted within the group because they work to further define and separate them from the everyday norm. This group is considered the epicenter of brand consumption.
People outside the sub-culture that want to fit in and emulate the actions of those in the epicenter, embrace and utilize the same brands/products as the sub-culture, the movement starts to spread out from the epicenter and expand. Just as an earthquake happens, so does the organic spreading of a brand. You can’t make it happen, however, by being highly specific in defining your demographic and staying only within their marketing channels you will increase your odds of an epicenter event.
For brands like Patagonia, Ruff Wear and Airstream, they knew from day one who they were, they understood the needs of their customers and they knew where and how to find them. These markets however were very small and considered outside the norm compared to more commercialized markets at the time. That didn’t matter to these brands. They weren’t worried with mass consumption of their products. They focused on manufacturing the best possible products for their specific demographic and use. They didn’t go out with the purpose of creating brand converts but what they unconsciously did was create brand apostles who worked tirelessly, spreading the message of the brand through their sub-culture and beyond.
If you wanna shake things up you gotta start at the epicenter. It’s where shift happens.
If you want to stand out in your industry, don’t look, act, talk, walk, quack or bark like anyone else in your industry. The best way to stand apart from your counterparts/competition is to be completely different. Sounds easy right? Then why do so many fail?
When beginning the process of research, development and design (RD&D) of a product, many make the mistake of looking at their counterparts in the same industry to see what they are doing, what they look like, how they position their message. Well, guess what happens when they get done with their RD&D and launch their new product? It’s no different than any other product in their industry. There’s nothing that sets it apart from all the rest.
If you have a product or packaging in development, look at other industries to see what they are doing for packaging, graphic design, POP displays, messaging, warranties, market channel distribution etc. Work to understand the overall vibe of the industry and how you can incorporate these new ideas into your own products. Make sure your RD&D team understands that the expectation is to NOT be like anyone else in your competing market. Challenge them to look outside and create something fresh and new that’s never been seen. They’ll appreciate the challenge.
Here are some of the industries/niche interests I like to follow for fresh ideas:
Photography and video
Vintage outdoor sports, motorsports and luxury goods
Outdoor and athletic wear
Do you sell hot sauce or do you sell HOT SAUCE? Both accomplish the same goal, but look how the delivery of the Chop Shop Hot Sauce (below) blows anything else in the marketplace out of the water with packaging and design. This is a perfect example of setting yourself apart from all the others in your industry by incorporating fresh design and non-traditional packaging.
Wanna know what your customers think about you in real time? Ask them. That’s right, post something like this on your Facebook page: “Hey Fans, we want your feedback. Good or bad or both. How are we doing? How do you like doing business with us and what can we change to make your experience dealing with us better? What’s the best experience you’ve had with us? What’s the worst experience you’ve had us with? Please respond below. Posting selfies are optional.”
Next, go to your “Ads Manager” and pay $50 to promote this post to your “Fans.” Sit back and watch in real time what people think about you. In the end, it helps you build a better customer experience and that’s what it’s all about. Here’s the brand takeaway: businesses that are transparent in their efforts to create a better customer experience are deemed to be more approachable and authentic in the minds of their customers.
In the world of marketing there is a saying that I believe holds true for every person in one aspect of business or another…..
“Content is King.”
I recently spoke to a group of young leaders in Missoula and one of their questions to me was, “How can we develop a strong personal brand and be seen as a leader in our industry?” My answer to them was simple…Content is King. In other words, if you want to be seen as the expert in your field, the thought leader in your group of industry peers, then one of the things you need to do on a regular basis is develop interesting and thought provoking content on various topics about your industry or business specialty. It’s one thing to re-blog and re-post interesting articles. That’s easy and anyone can do it. It’s a completely different ballgame when you’re the person creating this content.
Why not create your own content? After all, I’ve seen peoples LinkedIn profiles. Everyone has proclaimed themselves as an expert in their specific field (and many have proclaimed proficiencies in fields they’ve never been involved in but that’s another story).
So if you’re an expert in your field, why not be the person writing and sharing your own content? I see way too much re-blogging and re-posting of content by individuals who are well established, incredibly articulate and quite frankly, should be writing better content than what they are sharing. Do yourself a favor. Start a blog site, a WordPress site and start writing the very content that will not only get shared across the world, but also makes you a thought leader in your field.
Can you imagine what will happen to you and your career once you start creating content that is being re-blogged, re-posted and shared around the world? I would imagine you becoming the King or Queen of your industry.
I heard this story a long time ago and it’s always stuck with me. You see, there was once this guy that owned a hot-dog stand that wasn’t doing much business. He was approached by a radio ad sales rep about doing some radio advertising. The hot-dog stand owner scoffed and said, “Radio is expense and it doesn’t work.” The sales rep said, I’ll tell you what…I’ll run the first week of radio ads at no charge to you but what you have to do in return is advertise that you’re giving away free hot-dogs.” The guy thought about it for a minute and then said, “No way would I ever do that.” The sales rep asked why and the guy said, “Because I’d be overrun with people wanting free hot-dogs.” The sales represponded, “I thought you said radio didn’t work?
What’s the lesson here? It’s about the message, not the medium. If you’ve got a compelling story people will listen. And respond.