The New Rules of Branding

So what could possibly tempt yours truly, to write about something like “The New Rules of Branding” – besides the fact I’m a branding guy, of course? I’ll tell ya: it’s this graphic.

Photo showing all the brands the top 10 food corporations in the world own

Every year or so, an updated version of this graphic winds its way through the interwebz. And man, do people get mad! They freak out about the mega-corporations, and how no company should have all that money. But I don’t get mad when I see this graphic, because I recognize it for what it is: the story of the old ways of branding done right!

We often talk about just how long it takes brands to really become successful, so let’s take a peek at what years these evil mega-corporations were founded:

Unilever: 1929
Nestle: 1905
Coca-Cola: 1892
Pepsico (Pepsi): 1898
Kellogg’s: 1906
General Mills: 1856
Mars: 1911
Mondelēz International (formerly snack and food brands of Kraft Foods): 1903
Associated British Foods plc: 1935
Danone: 1919

Whoa! Seven of the corporations are over 100 years-old and the punk kid is 81? Even I wasn’t expecting that!

When these corporations and brands began, the “over-communicated society” Ries and Trout talked about in “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” wasn’t so over-communicated. These corporations didn’t have to worry as much about branding because there weren’t nearly as many competitors out there. They just needed to find a way to get their products in front of people. And since there were so few competitors, the job of doing so to become first in the mind was a lot easier than it is today.

And they’ve been growing ever since.

Two of our branding bibles: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind and The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

Today, we have that over-communicated society. And because of that, it’s never been more important to develop a brand. And here’s the kicker: developing a gutsy brand gets more crucial to business, and entrepreneurial, success as society gets even more over-communicated.

Strategy: In With the Old

Jack Trout and Al Ries first came up with the idea of positioning in 1969, which is the same year man went to the moon. Coincidence? I think not! *ahem* He and Al Ries perfected the idea, making it so positioning / brand strategy was largely about differentiation. Of course, that meant you had to know your competition. And it still does. The thing is, today, there’s a whole lot more competition.

Strategy is absolutely necessary, because that’s how you get noticed. But let’s be perfectly Sinatra about this: today, it’s only part of the equation.

Getting All Scientific and Stuff

First, I’m no scientist. Not even a little. Whenever someone mentions Pluto, I tell them I’m a Looney Tunes guy. Whenever someone brings up geology, I think of AC/DC. And whenever someone talks about the brain, I wonder what we’re gonna do tomorrow night.

Fortunately, I like research.

Emotion or Logic?

According to Decision-making: Emotional vs Logical, “Together, emotions and logic pair to become a decision-making powerhouse. To capture both in consumers, brands must first create an emotional connection between consumer and product (“Just like mom used to make!”) before then highlighting the logical reasons to make that decision (‘Now with all-natural ingredients!’).”

To put it another way, if I were to buy a woman a drink, and her emotional reaction was that short dudes creep her out, I may end up with a liberal dose of libations on my face. Later on she may justify that by thinking, “I didn’t feel like talking,” or, “What? I don’t like whiskey.” She made the decision emotionally, but now she’s justifying it to herself logically.

But if I were to buy another woman a drink, her emotional response may be he’s not creepy – at least I hope it would be – so she’d accept and we’d chat. If it were a good chat, she may think about it later and say, “He’s short, but funny and passionate are good things.” She’s already decided I’m not the devil, but now she has to rationalize it to herself.

More on How Our Decisions Are Made:
The Myth of Rational Decision-making
Decisions are Emotional, not Logical: The Neuroscience Behind Decision-making
The Limbic System

Community: We Kinda Need it

For years, marketers have known the importance of emotion in advertising, but it’s largely been manipulative. “Buy one, get one half off!” “Drink beer and get bikini models!” Or, as is the case of every insurance company ever, “BUY THIS OR YOU’LL DIE!!!”

BUY THIS OR YOU'LL DIE!!! Note: Dave doesn't sell insurance

But with new scientific – yeah, I typed that – understanding, we’re learning that humans are wired to be social, and simply want to be part of a safe community. And, without scientific understanding, we’re pretty sure humans aren’t big fans of being manipulated.

According to Matthew Lieberman, in this interview with Scientific American, “At businesses worldwide, pay for performance is just about the only incentive used to motivate employees. However, praise and an environment free from social threats are also powerful motivators. Because social pain and pleasure haven’t been a part of our theory of ‘who we are’ we tend not to use these social motivators as much as we could.”

Before I keep typing – and possibly ice my fingers – Here are the “simple definitions” of community, from Merriam-Webster:

1. a group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood)
2. a group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.
3. a group of nations

At this point, we know five things:

How old brands got so huge
Emotions play a huge role in decision-making
The definitions of “community”
We’re wired to be part of communities
I don’t like having whiskey thrown in my face

The “Why.” You Knew it Was Comin’

I type a lot about Simon Sinek’s golden circle, and the importance of the “why.” Sinek defines the “why” as being a cause, a purpose, or a belief – and he goes on to say, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” And, with what we know about emotions being key to decision-making, and all the examples he presents to prove his point, I have to think he’s right.

Mayniax Branding - Simon Sinek's Book: Start With Why

Now, here’s where we start to tie things together.

If we look at the second definition for “community,” we see it can mean a group of people who have the same interests. A lot of people are into the same causes. A lot of people have similar purpose. And a lot of people have similar beliefs about the world – our belief, for instance, is that the world is broken and only entrepreneurs can fix it.

In short, your “why” builds your community.

Richard Branson says, “The brands that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit.” Now, I’m not clairvoyant – I can’t even predict what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow – but with everything we know, I think he’s right. People will rally around causes, but they don’t really rally around money.

And ya know what my favorite part of the “why” is, especially when we’re talking entrepreneurs? The fact that it’s genuine. It’s authentic. This isn’t about marketing manipulation – it’s about telling the world who you are and what you believe. And that’s how your people – be they teammates or clients – will find you.

Let Me Tell Ya a Little Story…

Okay, I don’t really have a story, but I do know the importance of a story when it comes to your brand.

Branding is all about being top of mind. And the way you get to be at that oh-so-coveted spot is by getting remembered. Stories help make that happen.

“Facts get recorded. Stories get remembered.” -Lewis Schiff, Inc. Business Owner’s Council

That quote is from an Inc article entitled, “Your Story Is Your Marketing Strategy.” In it, the author implores you to “…think beyond the bullet points of your product.”

In “Why Our Brains Crave Storytelling in Marketing,” a more scientific case is made for storytelling, based on how our brains actually work. And, spoiler alert, it also mentions how stories help us remember things.

My recommendation is to have a true story that backs up your “why,” which builds your community. See? I’m not just another guy with a face for radio. Or maybe I am and I’m just really good at research.

One more fantastic, and awesomely in-depth, story article:
The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing, Chapter Three, by Neil Patel

Get Focused

I wrote a post on focus called Focus: A Brand Strategy Assignment. In it, I detailed the importance of, and how to get, focused. So hey, check it out!

Focus on Building Locally

So far, dear entrepreneur, I’ve backed everything up with extensive research while drinking copious amounts of caffeine. But now, I’m gonna fire off an opinion, based on the state of the world today: start out by building locally.

Mayniax Branding - Our classic "focus" pic!

The fact is, most of us have me-too brands – there are already players in your field. For instance, Mayniax Branding certainly isn’t the first branding team out there. And unless you have the next wheel and a huge marketing budget, it’s gonna be tough to get your idea out into the world.

Instead, start locally and allow your brand to grow organically – because we like buzzwords – outside your local area. It’ll help you focus, which is kind of a big deal. Plus, it’s going to be a lot harder, and a lot more expensive, to get your message out to the whole world than it is your local area.

Grassroots / Local Articles:
Grassroots is the Heart of the Brand
50 Stealable Grassroots Marketing Campaigns

So, What Are the New Rules of Branding?

1. Build a strategy to get noticed
2. Build a “why” to create community
3. Tell a true story to get you remembered
4. Focus to also get remembered
5. Start locally

And avoid having whiskey poured on your face.

Stay gutsy, gang!

The world is broken, and we believe only entrepreneurs can fix it. But they’ll never get that chance if no one cares about their brands. So, with a little bit o’ nuttiness, a little bit o’ research, and a lotta bit o’ guts, it’s our job to make people care.

Wanna set up a happy fun time chat with Ann Arbor’s favorite branding team? Then click here, fill out the form, and we’ll get back to ya!