Here’s a good presentation about alcoholic beverage brands and design. From Kevin Shaw, the founder of a design studio named Stranger & Stranger.
Avoid the “monologue”
Inspired by recent experiences at an international trade fair, I’d like to talk about the “monologue”. It’s so easy to fall into this trap and I admit I’ve done it, too. You and your team have put so much effort into preparing a beautiful stand design, sourcing the furniture, aligning with the trade fair organiser regarding logistical details, inviting people to visit you….and now you’re excited to get started, to talk to potential clients.
A person approaches your stand, you welcome the person and start talking about your company: how you do it, what it is you exactly do, you maybe even say why you do it. You list clients you work with, highlight your marvellous colleagues from the design, product development, engineering team who can’t wait to serve this person, just send us enquiries and we will help you out.
What is missing, though, is asking questions. These should come first. You need to find out who you are talking to. What is it that this person really cares about, given the type of business he or she is in. And don’t just ask questions, leave space to the person to ask you questions. It’s so hard to do but essential in order to adapt your story, to make it relevant to the person you’ve welcomed at your stand.
Good luck with your next trade fair!
The role of tension
The two most important currencies in today’s marketing world are attention and trust. People trust you with their time, with their recommendation and maybe, just maybe, with their money.
If you want a chance to have the kind of impact you seek to make, you need to build some tension, the kind of tension that compels people to take action, e.g. subscribing to your newsletter or buying your product.
There are two main ways to create it: either framing your message around what is to be avoided (fear) or around what is to be achieved (desire or aspiration). Look at ads and analyse what its main focus is about, you’ll start noticing its everywhere.
Look at the group
Once you’ve defined your audience, who the person you seek to impact via your brand story, your product and/or service, is, it helps to pay attention to the group the individual is part of. After all, we humans are social animals.
How does the group influence the buying decision behavior of the individual?
What are the accepted norms within the group?
What is “proper” behavior which others within the group reward in what kind of way?
What is the meaning that individuals find within the group?
What gives them a sense of connection?
Analyse the terrain, the habitat of the individual, when it comes to being part of a group. It might give you insights into important dynamics when it comes to choosing or not choosing your brand.
Why don’t they?
If you choose to lean further into the empathy aspect of marketing, the following question deserves your attention: Why don’t they choose us? They being the audience you’ve defined you seek to serve, and us being you, your product/service.
You wish they did but for some reason, maybe even multiple ones, at least for now, they don’t. What could these be? Are you able to come up with five convincing ones, apart from “the price is too high?”
People can be grouped by many things: age, nationality, gender, which party gets their vote….
What interests us as marketers is the worldview of the people we seek to serve, the audience we made our product/service for.
What do they fear?
What do they believe in?
What is their perception like?
What do they hope for?
What are their go to brands for different needs?
What is it they aspire to be/become?
What kind of decisions do they tend to make?
What are the internal narratives they keep telling themselves?
When doing marketing, it helps to first imagine the worldview of your audience, the lense they see the world through. Once you have that, you can frame your brand story in such a way to create hooks. These serve as signals to your audience who, when you’re just starting out, will mistrust and judge you.
A thought experiment
There exists an experiment which you can do in order to find out if you’re selling yourself short, which particularly might be happening if you are a freelancer.
Here it goes: Imagine if you had to charge 10x more than what you’re charging right now, for your product, for your service, whatever it is that you’re offering?
Just doing better or working harder is not a valid answer. Think about the product/service and determine the changes you’d make. Feel free to bounce your ideas off of me by dropping me a message.
Getting to know a market
Empathy is hard. It’s just hard to imagine how it’s like to be someone else.
If you’re truly curious about the people you seek to serve with your business, though, here’s an exercise for practicing empathy and gaining insight into a market.
Pick something that is not from your “world”. With this I mean something you know little to nothing about, preferably you don’t even like it at all. For example, if you dislike heavy metal music, visit websites to research it, the kind of language they use, the kind of images, the colors, everything. Dig deep to understand that world, go visit a concert if you can. Talk to heavy metal geeks, ask questions.
Extrapolate from what you’ve learnt and go broader. Imagine how it would be like to be part of that group, what you’d be like, what type of content you’d consume, how you came to love heavy metal music.
Play with this and do it with different worlds: a nutty snack, adventure travel, first person shooter gaming, fishing…
Wants and needs
Once you’ve defined your audience and brand positioning, it’s helpful to understand the difference between desires and needs. When you’ve reached a decent level of wealth, it’s easy to mix the two. (Primal) needs are things you absolutely have to have. Think of the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: air, water, food, shelter, clothing (the basic kind, not those fancy party dresses)…
All the rest are desires, not real needs.
If you can frame offer in a way that will address a primal need of your customer, your marketing will have more impact. If you say “people want fast, luxurious cars”, then that is all you can frame your brand story around. If you dig a bit deeper, though, you could e.g. realise that “people want fast, luxurious cars because it gives them status and a sense of power”.
Have a look at the following elements of value.
Compare these elements with your offer. What are the primary elements where you add value? How do you communicate and make this clear to your audience?
A recipe for brand positioning
When I ask people to describe their brand positioning what most come back with are descriptions of why they are better than the competition. This is not in service of their customers but in service to themselves. Here is an alternative way of defining your brand positioning which is based on Seth Godin’s work.
Make a list of all your audience’s desirables. The following are random examples which might or might be relevant to your own brand:
Pick two of them and put them on a graph with two axes. Define where you’d like to sit within this graph and add a few of your competitors, too. Try your best to find a place where there is a lot of free room. What you’d want to avoid is joining a red ocean full of organisations that are shouting for customers’ attention.
Put obsessive effort into becoming really good in providing high satisfaction regarding the two desirables you have picked. Frame your brand story around that and put processes in place that serve the outcome your audience seeks.