You did everything you thought you should. Picked your colour palette, made your logo look pretty, bought the domain name, put it up and told all your friends and family about it. So why isn’t it resonating? Why is your conversion rate abysmal?
What if we could start all over again and find the root cause of the problem? What would you do differently?
In Retrospect, You Probably Designed for Yourself and Not Your Customer
I want you to sit with this statement and try and understand why that was said with such a heavy hand.
As a business owner, it’s so hard to take yourself out of the equation when creating your brand. Of course it’s hard! You have deep expertise and a personal connection to why you started your company. Maybe it was just scratching an itch that no one else had solved yet, and you found the perfect gap in the market. Jumping into designing an identity for that product seems like the obvious first place to start, and of course because design is often the most FUN part of starting a business - seeing it come to life visually.
But that’s the problem.
Design is often the first thing people think about when bringing their company to life that they forget the first and more important step in branding their business: Who your customers are, what unique problem you are solving for them, and how you are telling that story in a unique way that cuts through the noise.
Let’s take a look at one example, of the most SATURATED market in North America: Skincare.
What’s is one product that has gained the fascination of any beauty guru or skin junky alike, that has come to be one of the most popular skincare products in recent memory? Answer: Hyaluronic Acid. If you search for hyaluronic acid on Sephora, you get a WHOPPING 182 results for just the SERUM category. If that isn’t market saturation I don’t know what it. But what’s more interesting is just how CRAZY the difference in branding plays in even price point.
Why is it that Guerlain can charge a whopping $605 DOLLARS (CAD) for essentially what is the same product (or even lesser quality) as The Ordinary’s for $6.50? Of course visual design comes into play, but both Guerlain and The Ordinary know that they have 2 very different customers with very different expectations, and that there’s people who fit into every gray area in-between too.
Guerlain knows that their customers can afford luxury and expect it everywhere they go. Spending over ½ a k on a single skincare item isn’t even an afterthought. They want something elegant on their counter and keeps their customer feeling like they’ve reached a higher status. Even their brand messaging backs this up saying with frou-frou prose like “every essence leads to form of inspiration and audacity” (also, what?).
Contrast that with The Ordinary and you find a product that knows it’s customers are frugal and want a no-bullshit approach to skincare. Give me the one ingredient I want, with no frills, and make sure it just works. Their messaging is also about how their formulas are straight from lab to consumer, and their messaging dials up the science behind every ingredient, as if the chemist wrote the product descriptions themselves.
This insight into their customer is the secret sauce of the success behind these brands. No one says you can’t build a multi-million dollar company that heavy hitting companies will want to take a piece of without a logo. I mean, look at the ordinary, that barely qualifies as a logo (it’s just Helvetica folks). What makes them different is they know who their customers are and they design an experience around them - not around the aesthetic preferences of their founder.
Good branding enables a customer to feel like their money buys them into the ‘Meaning Economy’. As the author Bernadette Jiwa from Story Driven puts so well: customers are drawn to brand that share and enable them to express their values.
So how does your brand play a role in this, and how is it different than your logo?
One essential thing all businesses need to remember is that our customer is someone who needs a guide on a quest. Our products and services become that guide, helping them reach their goals or fulfill their unmet needs.
In short: your logo is just a tactic. A signpost that guides the customer towards your brand. It is not your brand. Your story is your brand. A good brand connects with a defined set of emotions for your customers, and emulates that through every touchpoint with your customer. This emotion is conveyed through visuals (i.e. your logo) but if you don’t know the emotion that’s being conveyed, that’s where the disconnect starts.
So instead of agonizing for weeks over your perfect logo, spend your energy instead on remembering your narrative - this is your strategy. Using your narrative will help you pave a clear purpose, create affinity with your customers and differentiate yourself from your competition.
You might see advice from other people as defining the “what you do, why you do it, who do you do it for?”. But I want to tell you that this formula is already backwards because it fails to put your customer first literally and figuratively.
Instead ask yourself:
- Who would benefit the most from my product/service?
- What is their biggest challenge internally, externally or philosophically?
- Why is your product/service best equipped to help them overcome these challenges?
- What 3 ways can you help them get to where they want to go or who they want to be?
- What can you say that will get them to start?
- What does that success look, feel, taste, smell, or feel like to them?
How to tell the story of your brand to your customers:
- Make your customer the focus of your story
- Empathize with their problems and understand their desires
- Show how you can guide them to realizing their goals
- Create an action plan
- Call them to action
- Show them how you can help them succeed and avoid failure