Branding 101 for Start-ups – Distinguishing yourself from competition

Jonas Drüppel, Roland Grenke and Daniel Taschik, founders of Dubsmash (a mobile app that allows you to create selfie videos synced with preselected sound clips), actually failed to deliver their flagship app twice on the iOS platform before finally launching the finished product on 19th November 2014. They soon reached the #1 Authored By Adityaspot in their home country, Germany.

Similarly, Hike Messenger (an instant messaging app developed in India) disrupted its native market when it was introduced. There are many similar examples, which serve as excellent case studies in order to understand the booming end-user utility domain.

Let us ponder for a minute – what was so different about Dubsmash & Hike that drove them to the top of the charts so fast? What gives them that much-needed word of mouth influence in an openly competitive market?

Many marketers & strategists will concur that it isn’t quite rocket science, to figure out that effective brand strategy & placement played a key role for both the quoted examples, and added that ‘push’ which made all the difference.

So, what is a brand?

Marty Neumeier, author of “The Brand Gap”, said – A brand is not a product, a logo or an identity. Instead, a brand reflects the set of feelings evoked for an organization, by anyone who speaks or thinks about it. It is more of an emotional affair, than a tangible one.

In today’s market, it has become essential for a brand to distinguish itself from the competition, which in all likelihood has developed the same product, if not better. In addition to how innovative your product is, it’s important to understand that survival and growth in the end-user domain depend largely on how people perceive your brand. More importantly, it matters how well your consumer distinguishes you from the rest, when given the freedom to choose. Why?

An average consumer gets served about 600 brands in a single day, through print media, social media and television commercials. In those same 24 hours, his routine requires him to go to work, attend to his nutrition, and think about his family – basically, he follows his Maslow-ic needs to the grave. In the exquisitely little time that he can spare, he is expected to make a choice based on the little attention that he reserves for advertisements, if any. In other words, there are just too many choices out there, but a scary shortage of time to make a choice. The only thing that can convince him to trust your product, is how your brand presents itself.

So, how do you go about it?

Social media has enjoyed a consistent track record of being one of the most prolific platforms available to marketers today. Factors that distinguish social media from conventional outreach methods, include the fact that it’s invasive, simple to use – and by & large, _free_for the end user. In a way, a good social media brand presence is the equivalent of running your own newspaper and getting it delivered to all your target consumers. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Let’s take a look at some definitive statistics.

Total Social Network

The figures above indicate that users of varying age groups are available on social media – a veritable indicator, more than anything else, that there is no longer a demographic bias over the usage of services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. But with the availability of broad-spectrum audience analysis, it is important to carefully evaluate and form the right strategy of reaching out to each segment of this pool of users. Such a strategy can exist to serve three important goals.

  1. Defining your target audience in specific terms
  2. Listening with an intent to engage
  3. Engagement (Call To Action)

Clearly, your primary objective in the above order exists to identify the people you want to target. This target group can be determined based on your product mix. For instance, a vaguely defined target audience for an F&B manufacturer s  pecializing in kid’s confectionery might result in misdirected advertisements. The ideal setup for such firms would require them to be visible in platforms designed for children and unless they’re sure about streamlining their social media efforts they are likely to waste resources on an unhelpfully holistic audience set. Apart from unwanted expenditure, this also creates a risk of diluted brand identities.

The next variable in the brand equation is your ability to listen to your target audience. In fact, social media listening skills have been widely hailed as the cornerstone of all marketing efforts in recent days. Social Media Research & Analysis firms like Salesforce (Radian6) and SprinklR have developed technology solutions that enable organizations in maintaining a carefully monitored social media outreach effort. The open nature of social media makes it possible for virtually every end-user to become a potential influencer for your product. Depending on individual product experiences, these people can either serve as promoters or detractors for your product. For mass-market brands, it is important to identify detractors at the right stage and then direct the respective manufacturing/support teams to address their grievances. For successfully identified promoters of your product, it is important to find ways to incentivize their influence in an ethical manner.

For example, a leading navigation-based cab company in India developed a plan where one use gets credited free travel miles when he/she refers the cab company’s app to a friend. The results seen in this pilot were exponentially large. That’s the benefit of promoting services in the digital age – advertising expenses are no longer strictly traditional. Instead, social media allows you to focus on the human aspects of marketing.

The third and arguably most important part of digital branding, is the elusive call-to-action. Again, as a departure from traditional pitching techniques, this can get tricky. It requires an organization to initiate a transition in the conversational tone, from informative to lucrative.

For an easier understanding, let’s address the transition by splitting it up. So far, the described methods have been largely informative and interactive. We’re listening to our audiences and solving their problems. In doing so, we are delivering that much-needed ‘wow’ factor which will eventually translate into customer delight and word-of-mouth growth. For an end-user who has never used your product, though – this level of interaction is still incomplete. Like everyone else, there has to be a way to incentivize the potential customer’s response to your ad.

This is where your firm’s website becomes useful. It has been observed that a content-rich website can serve as an excellent hub around which most social media marketing efforts can be developed. Look at it this way – the conversation/ad on social media is the tip of the hook, and the real hook is the website.

Having studied the interests of your target audiences in steps 1–2, you now have a reasonable understanding of what your customers need. On your own website, you have the opportunity of giving it to them.

Content which is entertaining and shareable, and would serve your customers as social currency, is the way to go when it comes to generating buzz for your website/service. You might be an app provider, or someone who sells physical products with extensive logistics involved. Irrespective of the nature of that transaction, it is possible to offer resources to your customers in the form of shareable articles, blog posts, videos (and in some cases even standalone music tracks) so that they keep coming back to your website for more. Once a penetrative social media effort starts building traffic for your website, you know you’re doing something right.

An important piece of the digital brand identity puzzle, is your color palette. Included below, is a representation of the effects that various color combinations have on users. As referenced earlier in “The Brand Gap”, establishing a unique identity is essential for brands in order for them to remain relevant in the minds of users. And colors help in achieving exactly that. Also, a soothing color palette which is unique to your brand will ensure that people can still figure out who’s talking if your company’s logo is hidden. And for many marketers, that is the ultimate achievement.

Branding 101 Color and Consumer

Apart from external influencing, it also makes sense to have a viable bit of product-brand integration. More than anything else, it is your existing users who can help in reaching out to more people, and in carrying the voice of your brand. And the only tool of communication available between you and your existing customers, is your product. So it’s equally important to integrate your brand identity into product design as well. As a direct example, if you pick up any Apple product in the market today and hide the logo, would it be hard for you to identify it?

Brand Identity Development is a continuous cycle, which requires you to be at the forefront of user feedback, user preferences, and possible product innovation. And let’s not forget, as long as you are running the company of your dreams, this cycle consumes you too. The brand is you, you are the brand.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Lakshmi says:

    Great Going Aditya…. Nice article

    Like

    1. adityamadan29ditya says:

      Thank you for reading through 🙂

      Like

  2. Ati says:

    Nice article

    Like

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