What soap do you buy?
I bet you have a preference. Whether it’s Dove or Dial or Axe Body Wash, you have a definite preference. And even if you’re willing to bend here or there, if, for example, Old Spice is out of stock this week, or you can’t afford your $30 bottle from Sabon right now because your credit card bill is a little steep, you still have your preference.
But when you get down to it, soap is soap. It’s a commodity. You get just as clean from one as you do the other. What you’re really supporting is your relationship with the brand more than the product itself.
One of the founders of modern advertising, David Ogilvy, said:
“There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey, or cigarettes or beer. They are all about the same. And so are the cake mixes and the detergents, and the margarines… The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.”
Building that brand is a key part of the inbound methodology – and one that is frequently neglected.
What’s Your Story?
Your brand isn’t your logo or your slogan; it’s your story. Odds are that lots of companies do what you do. And lots of them do it about as well as you. And I figure you’re probably priced competitively. If all that is the case, what lets you stand out in a crowded marketplace?
Your story. Not what you do. Not how you do it. But why. It’s about what your business means to you and to your potential clients.
That’s actually a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s true as far as it goes; you find your angle, and you stick to it. Because it’s the thing your customers will love about you.
Let’s go with something really concrete.
Few items are as much of a commodity as razor blades. Any razor blade is about as good as another, and for years companies have been jockeying for market position by adding more blades and building new kinds of necks and whatnot. But a blade is a blade, and they aren’t exactly expensive to produce.
Enter Dollar Shave Club.
The benefit of Dollar Shave Club is super easy to communicate: the blades are cheap as free and delivered to your door once a month, so you don’t have to even worry about it. But that’s not a hard business model to replicate. So where Dollar Shave Club really stands out is in its brand.
Humor. Confidence. Frankness. Absurdism. It’s a potent cocktail of no-fills badassery and hilarity that immediately won over consumers and pretty much singlehandedly established the mail-order razor business. It’s a unique brand that nobody else can match. The virality of the ad back in 2012 notwithstanding, simply putting that ad on their homepage firmly tells you what kind of business this is, and what it values: saving you money, putting people to work, and transparency with a touch of humor.
The marketing pretty much writes itself.
So What Does All of This have to Do With inbound?
Pretty much everything.
As we’ve said before, what inbound marketing is basically all about is building up a relationship between you and your ideal clients, and that comes down, more than anything, to knowing your brand and telling your story. The Dollar Shave Club commercial above is a particularly dramatic example, but that kind of branding – their attitude, their values, their priorities – can carry across in web copy, blogging, email marketing, and more.
Once you know what your brand is, that’s something you continually reinforce in all of your communications – and a powerful, unique brand strengthens inbound marketing by improving client investment in your company.
In other words, a great brand story gives you more to say and makes your communications more welcome to begin with. It forges a connection. It sets your cake mix or razor blade apart from every other one in the world, and gives your clients something to identify with.
Be bold with your branding, and you’ll find your inbound efforts bear more fruit.