What is your brand?
Is your brand about equality (IBM), overcoming obstacles (Adidas), forward thinking and speed (FedEx), dominance in quality and style (Mercedes Benz), or nourishment (McDonald’s)?
There exists a plethora of information both online and off about building your brand. Most businesses, after completing the main development of their product or service, turn toward identifying their offering in a unique way.
But what happens when your brand ends up sounding like every other brand in your category?
And what happens when consumers no longer identify themselves by your brand? What do you do when you’re just another bottle of water sitting on a shelf and they chose your competitor simply because it was on sale?
My job is to help clients identify their differentiators so I can write the most effective copy in order to create engagement and increase sales. This is becoming more difficult when either a) the client doesn’t understand their differentiators aren’t really differentiators and b) they haven’t given any thought as to how to disrupt their own brand.
Brands are focused on getting more people engaged with them. They are forever trying to manage the expectations of their target audience.
If they exceed expectations by delighting the consumer, it’s good. But if they fail to meet their consumer’s expectations, it can be bad. In fact, stories abound of brands failing to live up to those expectations in the form of social media updates. The customer can now tell the whole world exactlywhat they think of a particular business.
Another Way to Disrupt Your Brand
There is another way to stand out from your competition.
It doesn’t have anything to do with creating more choices or coming out with a new feature that your competition will be quick to adopt.
I call it “The Ninja Surprise.”
It’s fairly self-descriptive. It means surprising your buyer by offering something that resonates with him in an unexpected way.
I’ll give you an example.
MailChimp has been my preferred email service provider for years. Even when I’ve looked at other ESPs (some being rather large and complex in their options), I’ve returned to MailChimp, even more firm in choosing them as my favorite “go to” source for email marketing.
I discovered MailChimp in 2010 and had a unique experience that caused me to suddenly adore them. I can’t guarantee this adoration will last forever (who knows if they’ll be bought by another company or go out of business). But MailChimp did something that made me sit up and take notice.
When I first started to use them, I was dealing with a stale email list. If you work with email marketing, you know what I’m talking about. Email addresses that were old, many of them no longer in use.
I had a list of hundreds of emails. I had no idea which addresses were current and which weren’t. When I switched to MailChimp, I imported our large list and sent out the first newsletter.
The bounce rate was high. Really high. And MailChimp, being the smart company they are and not wanting to get blocked by servers, immediately suspended my account because the list looked suspicious. Anytime you have a high bounce rate, there is a good possibility the list was bought from a list broker who didn’t check the validity of the addresses. MailChimp and other ESPs strongly discourage buying such lists.
So I looked like a spammer to MailChimp. Fantastic.
As soon as I received the email that told me MailChimp suspended my account, I immediately went to their site and started an online chat with a representative.
I explained I had an old list and it was my first email campaign with them. I knew many addresses were old but had no idea the ones that were – but now that I knew, I’d be removing them from my list.
I apologized profusely and offered to sacrifice my Mac laptop on the altar of a Best Buy counter if they’d only give me another chance.
Thankfully I didn’t have to sacrifice anything. The representative was extremely kind and understanding and they reinstated my account immediately.
I was so relieved and grateful that I immediately went out on social media and bragged on them. I mean, I told everyone how nice MailChimp was for not kicking me to the curb and how they gave me a second chance.
And did I mention that I was a “free account” user?
But MailChimp wasn’t done with impressing me. A week later, I received this fun postcard:
The back read:
Bam! Ninja surprise!
Hello Mary Rose,
Just a note, and some stickers to say THANKS for your kind words!! If you ever need anything, please let us know! ~ MailChimp
Now if you notice, it was a very simple sentiment on the back of the postcard. It wasn’t signed by anyone. And in very tiny letters right below the address section was this: From your human support team.
Do you think this disrupted their brand for me?
Oh, yeah. Big time.
I highly doubt they realized I’m really into ninjas and martial arts in general. Or that I love colorful stickers because it speaks to the kid in me. Or that as a marketer I thought this was one of the coolest customer touches ever.
I’ll break it down even more.
Some businesses might “snail mail” a kind thank-you note for something so seemingly small as bragging on them online. Or even easier – a nice email that contained a discount.
But MailChimp did something even better. They obviously put some thought into producing something different for their communication purposes. They created a fun piece of engagement. And they even continued their theme of “chimp” by featuring chimp ninja stickers.
It resonated with me in a way that I was not expecting.
That is why I love MailChimp.
Go Beyond the Expected
There are so many ways to be creative.
To disrupt your brand.
To do something that makes your buyer go, “Huh…” in a good way.
To start, think about all the things that ordinarily happen. Think of the usual or the expected. Then brainstorm for ways you can sidestep it and go for “The Ninja Surprise.”
It could be unexpectedly visiting a customer, bearing a gift basket. Or packing something unique in their order box.
Whatever it is, put some thought into it. Take whatever your branding message is and wrap it around something daring and remarkable. Look for a creative way to delight the person and give them something they weren’t expecting.
I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about differentiation. To me, the secret is knowing your own personality and putting the human touch on what you deliver.
Because there’s no one like you.
And if you put in the effort, no one will ever be able to duplicate you.
About the author: Mary Rose Maguire
Copywriter. Content marketing specialist, B2B web copy, content marketing collateral, and email marketing. Tireless advocate for testing response. David Ogilvy is my invisible mentor, along with John Caples and Claude C. Hopkins. You can find me on Google+