Shallow and meaningless.
Looks great on paper, not so interesting in real life…
Just another pretty face.
Empty. Devoid of character.
Does this sound like someone you’d hang out with? Make a connection with? Follow to the ends of the Earth? Is this a person you’d share your money with? Invest in? Believe in? Tell your friends about?
Not one bit.
But here’s what’s interesting: I meet brands like this every day.
If you read my stuff, then you’ve likely heard me ask the question: If your brand was a person, who would it be?
I highly doubt you’d say, “My brand would be superficial arm candy, devoid of character.”
But each and every day I see VISUAL ELEMENTS of brands that business owners paid a bundle for. Or that they worked hard to develop themselves. And behind these visual elements is… well, nothing at all.
And you know what’s even more interesting?
These shallow brands front companies owned by people who are meaningful and deep. People who want to change the world. People who really bring something to the table. And their companies sell great products and services.
But the brands?
Like mannequins in department store windows.
And here’s what I’ve learned from this phenomenon: business owners and entrepreneurs have shallow, superficial brands not because they want to, but because they just don’t know better. They think of branding as a visual exercise. Their brands live on a page. Or on a screen.
If you read my blog often, you know I toot my strategy horn day and night. But this “paper doll” phenomenon (as I like to call it), is caused by something much more basic than a lack of strategy. It’s caused by quitting when you’re just getting started.
Brands become paper dolls because business owners see branding as something with a beginning, a middle and an end.
They work hard, interface with a designer, choose a logo, launch a website, and say, “Whew. I’m branded.” Then they put a check mark next to “create brand” on the to-do list and move on to other things.
Believe me, I like a check mark as much as the next gal. I really do. (I actually highlight my to-do list in different colors, depending upon the day I completed the task, so I can see which days were more productive. I know, it’s borderline pathological. But I do understand the power of completion.)
But if you want to be great at branding –if you want your company to make real connections with real prospects who will really buy your stuff – you NEVER get to tick branding off your to-do list. Because it’s never really finished.
Your brand ceases to be a paper doll – and becomes a living, breathing being—when you pull it off the page and incorporate it into your touch points.
Your brand takes on life when it speaks through messaging about your products and services. It comes alive when it tells a story.
Your brand becomes a meaningful contributor to society when it shows up on your blog and social media networks and shares, in a way that’s absolutely consistent with your company’s values and personality, things that are truly useful for your would-be clients.
Your brand lives when it answers the phone, sends emails, thanks customers for purchases, gives refunds, up-sells.
Your brand walks and talks when it shows up at trade shows or in affiliate networks.
Your brand gives back when it supports charity, promotes acts of service, aligns with partners that make the world a better place.
Your brand touches hearts when it takes a position on injustices in the world (or in your industry).
Your brand sets an example when it applauds your employees or your strategic partners – when it treats your tribe with respect and dignity. Your brand becomes a leader when people can get behind it.
And this is a beautiful truth that surprises so many of my clients as we go through the initial branding process:
Once you really nail the brand proposition (your company’s promise to your target customers), as well as your price position, and your brand’s purpose, vision and values, you can create a personality for your brand.
And from there, you can create your key messaging.
That’s right. ONCE.
You can create your key messaging one time – and then apply it every single time your brand shows up in the world. I’m not talking about political sound bites or meaningless rhetoric. I’m talking about REAL messaging that says what your brand stands for.
Why do you think Red Bull sponsors cliff diving contests and shoots men out of the Earth’s atmosphere? Because Red Bull is about “giving wings to people and ideas.” Don’t believe me? Check their website. The brand starts on screen, but it’s no paper doll. This brand walks, talks, jumps, flies and races around the world.
Why does Patagonia have a trailer they tow around with a sewing shop inside to repair Patagonia clothing for its customers? (Think about that. Rather than sell more clothing, they went on a cross-country mission to REPAIR clothing to promote sustainability.) Why? Because Patagonia’s mission is to: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Now this is the part when you say, “Oh, Juju… come ON. I am not Red Bull. I am not Patagonia. I am just one person. I am the tiniest of brands.”
Do you think Dietrich Mateschitz said that?
“Who’s he?” you ask. He was once the tiniest of brands, too:
Inspired by functional drinks from the Far East, Dietrich Mateschitz founded Red Bull in the mid 1980’s. He created the formula of Red Bull Energy Drink and developed the unique marketing concept of Red Bull. In 1987, on April 1, Red Bull Energy Drink was sold for the very first time in its home market Austria. This was not only the launch of a completely new product, in fact it was the birth of a totally new product category. Today Red Bull is available in more than 167 countries and around 50 billion cans of Red Bull have been consumed so far. (from redbull.com)
What about the band of surfers and climbers who created Patagonia? Do you think they were incapacitated because they were a small company? Hell, no. Just the opposite. They were driven by a giant purpose.
Patagonia grew out of a small company that made tools for climbers. Alpinism remains at the heart of a worldwide business that still makes clothes for climbing – as well as for skiing, snowboarding, surfing, fly fishing, paddling and trail running. These are all silent sports. None require a motor; none deliver the cheers of a crowd. In each sport, reward comes in the form of hard-won grace and moments of connection between us and nature.
Our values reflect those of a business started by a band of climbers and surfers, and the minimalist style they promoted. The approach we take towards product design demonstrates a bias for simplicity and utility.
OK… so how does this apply to you? How does your brand STOP acting like a paper doll, and START acting like the deep and meaningful persona it could be?
I just had a client say this to me last night in an email:
“Good news, tonight I created a 6 part program outline in about 20 minutes because I was so CLEAR on what I do, and how I offer what I offer. This is REALLY helping me realize that it’s going to be easy to write, easy to send emails, easy to create opt ins and programs, easy to do everything from here on in!”
No paper dolls, here. This client’s brand is living off the page. She’s creating programs and offerings based on her brand’s character and mission.
I bet conversation with you is deep and meaningful. Shouldn’t conversation with your brand be that way, too?
If you want to learn more about how to breathe life into a paper doll, join me at my FREE webinar, this Thursday: Branding Basics for Sales and Profit.
Share with me below how your brand can become more than just a paper doll.