5 ways to make your marketing and branding more memorable

marketing and advertising
Marketing should be exploratory and dynamic to capture the interest of the new generation of customers.

  • Modern customers respond better to marketing that’s more personalized and interactive.
  • Customers tend to advocate for brands they have great relationships with via positive experiences.
  • This type of marketing helps businesses build loyal and recurring customers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As a business consultant, I often have to remind small-business owners that their marketing needs to be more interactive, versus the traditional “push” model, where you broadcast your message to as many people as possible.

New generations of customers respond better to the “participative” approach, where they get to provide input via social media and the internet.

It started a few years ago with email satisfaction surveys after an online purchase, but now includes interactive internet ads, as well as custom requests for input on the design of future products and influencers on social media. It seems that everyone these days wants an experience and a relationship, and is willing to become your best advocate via word of mouth.

Some call it a move from always “hunting” for new customers in the wild to “gardening,” or nurturing loyalty and value from the ones you already have.

In any case, the new approach is important to all businesses, and embodies some new marketing rules that you need to focus on and learn:

1. Make your marketing exploratory and dynamic

The days of big-bang long-term campaigns that never change are over. You should be constantly trying new approaches via social media and online, and asking for feedback and input from influencers and customers. Scale quickly on good feedback, and move on if you get little engagement.

A step in the right direction is to take advantage of the new tools available at very low cost, including sponsored podcasts, blogs, visibility in online communities, and Twitter influencer support. Sometimes it’s as simple as updating your website format and videos.

2. Use experiments versus designing the ideal ad

Trends and customer interests change quickly, so use small experiments to find something that works today, and use innovation to push the envelope, before your competitors can copy and overrun you. The key is to be able to measure your return, adapt quickly, and learn from your efforts.

According to the Harvard Business Review, e-commerce companies that conducted ad experiments saw 2-3% better performance per experiment run. An advertiser that ran 15 experiments in a given year saw a 30% higher ad performance.

3. Motivate customers to participate and engage

Reward customers for their advocacy and engagement with discounts and coupons, keep the interaction dynamic, and encourage their return. This requires a sense of urgency on the part of your team, and a culture of accountability and focus on the customer. Marketing must be everyone’s top priority.

For example, Dunkin’ Donuts did this through a photo contest, rewarding discounts to those who submitted a photo with the brand’s handle and hashtag. Other companies highlight live experience and happy videos, submitted by customers, on their website and promotions.

4. Partner with others to create blended offerings

A very successful marketing effort created by a restaurant near me during the pandemic offered a carryout from multiple sources – to combine flowers with food and drinks, all from different establishments, packaged creatively together. Everybody wins, and it spread quickly on social media.

People remember and endorse you as the primary brand that created the blended offering, as well as the other “endorsed” brands. The hybrid approach is also effective as an experiment if you are exploring ways to expand your own brand into new segments.

5. Market solutions as an experience or an event

Advertising more features, or even a lower price, is not as memorable to customers today as a great experience or a unique event. These may be live or immersive online experiences. Use social media to build anticipation and highlight successes, to get people talking and coming back for more.

The message here is that big blockbuster campaigns and big marketing budgets are no longer the key to results in the new customer environment, where participation and relationships are key.

Now is the time to ask your customers and partners for participative ideas, do some experiments, and scale up the ones that work. Be prepared to make frequent updates as trends change.

Marketing is no longer a one-way conversation, whether you are a startup or a legacy business. How long has it been since you changed your marketing strategy? Are your costs going up and the returns going down?
Try listening and learning, more than talking and pushing.

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How to choose the right brand strategy for your early-stage startup, according to an expert

woman working computer wfh coffee shop laptop entrepreneur startup
Having a smart branding strategy is key for an early-stage startup.

  • When it comes to selecting a brand strategy for your startup, there are plenty of options to choose from.
  • Branding expert Zaheer Dodhia says it’s key to pinpoint your audience and company values to uncover your brand identity.
  • If you want a wide audience, consider the flanker strategy; if you’re in a niche market, consider the competitor strategy.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Every startup needs a branding strategy. Your brand strategy gives you an outline and a plan to work through, making sure that your company hits all the goals along the way.

Zaheer Dodhia
Zaheer Dodhia is an entrepreneur and branding expert.

But choosing which strategy will work for your startup depends on the details.

What is a branding strategy?

In the most simple terms, a branding strategy boils down to the plan you make for actions that will grow your business. It includes your brand personality, how you interact with your customers, what you offer to consumers, and brand identity design elements including your logo and print materials.

A good branding strategy utilizes your brand as a cohesive whole so that each aspect of your brand will work with the others, creating growth synergistically.

Obviously, the exact strategy you choose will depend on your company and what has the greatest chance of success. And your strategy may change as your company grows and develops.

Key branding strategies for startups

A branding strategy for an established business will differ greatly from startup strategies.

For example, a business that is already running may choose to branch out in a line extension strategy, creating new products to capture a further audience or to fill a need that their current audience has. That could be a strategy that you choose later down the line.

For a startup, however, it’s a matter of getting the brand launched and building a core before you start branching out too much.

Here are some important startup branding strategies that could potentially work for your own new business:

  1. New brand strategy. This strategy creates a brand around a central product. It enables you to launch with your product at the center of the brand, connecting your brand with that product in the minds of your audience. This strategy also works for companies that are already established but which want to create new products and garner new audiences.
  2. Flanker brand strategy. If you’re looking to gather the widest audience possible, this is a good possibility. To establish this strategy, create product variants that appeal to different consumer groups. For example, you may create a tech product that is higher end, with a stripped-down lower-end variant to appeal to those who may want something more affordable and don’t need all the bells and whistles. The high and low end products can be launched under the same basic brand, but should be differentiated by name or designation, ie. iPhone 8 versus iPhone X.
  3. Attitude branding strategy. For a startup, it’s less about leveraging brand loyalty and more about projecting a personality. Attitude branding pushes attention to marketing a lifestyle, feeling, or emotional connection, rather than just a product or service. Nike is a great example of this; their branding promotes a healthy, athletic lifestyle, which is represented by their individual products.
  4. Competitor brand strategy. At times, a company already enjoys a share in a niche market, but wants to pull above against their competitors. If that’s the case for your startup, you may want to focus on a competitor brand strategy, which means going after an existing audience rather than seeking a new one. Ultimately, the advantage of a competitor brand strategy is that you already know there’s an audience for your product. You just need to determine how you can rise above the existing competition and secure a bigger market share.

How to choose a branding strategy

Before you make a decision on which branding strategy you’re going to adopt, it’s important to identify the core concepts, values, and promises that make your brand unique.

Take the time to pinpoint these details:

  • What is your target audience?
  • What promises does your brand make to this audience?
  • What values is your brand built on, and how do they play into the messaging?
  • How do you tell your brand story?
  • Who in your business is involved in implementing your branding strategy?

The last question, ideally, should be answered with, “Everyone!” Even hourly employees should be aware of the branding strategy and willing to whole-heartedly support it. Remember that customer service is also deeply involved in effective branding – everyone involved in the startup needs to be a team player, and remember how their actions and words reflect on the brand.

Along with these, the visual aspect of your branding, such as your logo, color palette, and website design, should all be taken into consideration.

Ultimately, the goal is to choose a branding strategy that matches your brand to better reach your customers and communicate with them on a meaningful level. Align your branding strategy with your brand personality, and you’ll create a plan that will help you to reach each and every goal.

Zaheer Dodhia is a serial entrepreneur and creator of DIY logo design tool Logo Design. He works with small businesses and startups on affordable branding solutions. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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The cofounder of clothing brand Faherty says the company had its best year yet thanks to a diversified supply chain and the art of storytelling

Alex Faherty
Alex Faherty

In 2020, clothing brand Faherty had a standout year, according to its twin cofounders Alex and Mike Faherty. 

Alex credits one thing that helped keep his company afloat during this time: having a diversified business model and supply chain. 

When the company first launched in 2013, the founders made it a priority to have a diverse business, which saw the brand sold in retailers throughout the United States. Its supply chain stretches from South American to Asia, and the company has stores in various geographic locations, such as the Soho neighborhood in Manhattan and Martha’s Vineyard. 

The eight-year-old brand’s women’s clothing business is up about 100% year-over-year, and its annual compounded growth for the company these past four years has been 64% according to documents viewed by Insider. The men’s side of the business isn’t doing too bad, either – it counts actors Neil Patrick Harris and Matthew McConaughey, in addition to country star Thomas Rhett Atkins, as fans.

The brand is sold in over 250 stores throughout the world and currently has 16 locations of its own. It’s planning to open another 15 this year, and most recently launched in the new markets including West Palm Beach, Rosemary Beach, San Jose, and on Abbot Kinney in Venice, CA.

In an interview with Insider, Alex talks about how a diversified business model and supply chain worked for his company during the virus.

Alex and Mike
Alex and his twin brother Mike

Alex made it a priority early on to build a business model that didn’t depend on one channel for revenue 

Early on, Alex said, he focused on diversifying the company’s business model, so that it did not depend too much on revenue from one medium. 

The company started off by establishing an online presence, then built a mobile beach house that traveled throughout the country. In 2014, the company expanded into wholesale by launching into retailers such as Nordstrom and Barney’s New York. By 2020, the brand was sold in 250 retailers throughout the world.

Alex said the company made sure to carefully select locations that varied geographically and in population size, to both sell and manufacture Faherty clothes. It was this diversified supply chain that helped the company survive the pandemic, he continued. 

A model wearing the Sunwaves Sherpa

The company’s supply chain spans Europe, South America, North America, and Asia. When Asia saw the first shockwave of the coronavirus in early 2020, the company was able to lean on its European, South, and North American channels. 

When the Asian markets opened back up, the company was able to shift back to its manufacturing over there, as its supply chain was taking a hit in the European and American markets in mid-March. 

Even domestically, Alex said, the team was keeping a close eye on migration patterns. 

For example, when physical retailers began to close last year, the company shifted to e-commerce. As people fled New York City, their Soho store emptied out but their locations in the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard saw an increase in sales. 

“It’s been a challenging keeping up with the calendars, keeping up with the factories,” Alex said, giving the same advice another small business told Insider about how it was able to whether the pandemic:  “It’s about being nimble and flexible, and having a diversified supply chain.” 

Faherty has been rapidly expanding into the digital marketplace 

Despite the fact Alex prepared for a diversified physical business model, he said the company is still playing a bit of catch-up when it comes to the digital market pace. “Fortunately, e-commerce really accelerated for us,” he said. “So once the shut down happened, we were able to scale our customer acquisition and introduce ourselves to a lot of new people.” 

Alex’s wife, Kerry, who is in charge of social media, is helping the company expand its presence on the digital marketplace. “I’m always thinking about how we are showing up as a brand in the world, and that means both in the physical space, the tactile space, and the digital space,” she told Insider. “When people think about Faherty, we want them to feel a sense of warmth, trust, and inclusion, and we will keep making strides to do that across all avenues.”

The company currently has over 100,000 followers on Instagram and doesn’t use any Instagram influencers. Instead, the company depends on organic interactions with customers, some of whom become unofficial brand ambassadors. Alex said the team started to increase the amount of content it was producing and went on a hiring spree during the pandemic to bring on content copywriters on the marketing side to further develop the storytelling of the brand. 

Before the pandemic, the company used to host live concerts and events, and it took that virtually, hosting “sun sessions” on Instagram which highlights different artists such as musicians and chefs each week. The company has also partnered with a few podcasts to help expand its reach.

Its expansion into the digital marketplace is only set to continue, even as vaccinations continue. 

“At the same time, you know, we have some retail stores right now that are performing incredibly well,” Alex said, adding that the pandemic’s impact on real estate provides them with an opportunity to open more stores throughout the US. 

“In the right areas, where people are still safe, they’re still shopping in physical retail,” he continued.  “We’re looking at lots of different opportunities in the next couple of years to really grow our retail cards as well. And take advantage of an attractive real estate market.”

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