Branding and positioning change the whole marketplace, when done right they alter the rules of the blogging game. Branding your blog is essential if you want it to take off.
This is part of a series about branding your blog, here we will look at how strong branding requires positioning yourself against your competition, and how it all works out in your niche …
Do Brands Really Matter?
There is skepticism around brands. Some people believe they are entirely unaffected by them. If they don’t believe in brands as a concept, why would they care to craft one for their blog?
Consider these questions to see if brands matter in the marketplace:
- When kids put together their lists for Santa this year, do you think they will be asking for “a video games system”, or will they ask for “Xbox”, “PlayStation” or “Switch”?
- Did Microsoft have as much impact with their Zune product as Apple did with the iPod? Was it down to technology?
- Mac versus PC, Android or iPhone, Commodore 64 versus Atari (Spectrum in the UK), which are you?
- How did the iPhone launch impact competitors’ phone sales? Would the masses buy a Nokia or Blackberry today?
- What would you think of a search engine that did not rank Tesla highly for the term “electric car”?
How Brands Change the Game
When you create a powerful brand you not only gain recognition and mind share, you change the rules of the game in your favor.
The whole marketplace has to react to a strong brand, you cause competitors to change strategy, and the media, therefore, has to take notice.
This also means that prospects begin to change their demands. What was once a novelty becomes a minimum standard.
Back when the Genesis Framework for WordPress was first new, having clean, efficient, constantly up-to-date code was something that made it stand out. Now WordPress theme customers would be disappointed if their brand-new theme was not built that way.
You can still sell based on proof and results, just look at the SEO boost this very site got from switching to Mai Theme. When once unique features are commoditized, it just makes standing out that bit harder.
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Branding Happens Regardless
Everything you do, from writing content, and engaging on social media, to answering emails works towards forming your brand.
Do not think you can rely on tricks and shortcuts. Branding happens if you like it or not.
To make maximum impact, however, it is not enough to just achieve the minimum standard or even improve on the existing status quo.
You have to cause a real shift in the way prospects think.
Would you stand out by launching a new delivery service that promises to deliver on time? So what? They all promise that!
Your brand has to be remarkable in some way, it has to be done in a way that makes your brand stand alone as a shining example of what really matters.
Compare the lame razor market where each year they add a blade (how, um, innovative) to the disruption Dyson caused when he launched a bag-less vacuum cleaner. Customers were not clamoring for a vacuum with no bag, and a lot of us still called them “Hoovers”.
Although most consumers of a certain age still see iPod and MP3 player as synonymous, Apple’s product was not the first, and nor was it particularly revolutionary in terms of technology.
Yes, it had some great features and an innovative interface, but it was the whole strategy and messaging combined that made the difference.
As much fashion as technology, it visibly fit into how the slice of the people in the market thought of themselves, once launched it practically marketed itself. Even today you can spot an Apple user versus competitors by looking at their ears.
If you went to the market after the iPod launch with just another MP3 player, what would customers think? Did people think Microsoft’s Zune was something new and fresh? I would argue most people thought of it at best as “an attempt at an iPod killer”, ie. to describe the Zune people compared it to the iPod.
Apple did the same thing over again with the iPhone. It was not the first smartphone, not even the best in many ways that only nerds like me cared about, but the loyal Apple customer base combined with a radical user interface won over many USA customers on day one.
Once you have one breakthrough, and a growing base of happy customers, the next success becomes that bit easier. But you can not rest on that success!
Another brand that fits the prospect’s worldview is Starbucks. It isn’t just another coffee shop. The stores are decorated and planned more like a theater set than a shop. Your prospects have to think “This suits me. I fit here.”.
Starbucks created atmosphere, pricing, and product that key into a desire in the prospect for perceived consistency and a certain level of sophistication.
Now what would people say if you wanted to open just another coffee shop down the block?
Personally, I seek out independent coffee shops for actual coffee, when I purchase at Starbucks it is more a candy-flavored dessert in drink form, but that says more about me than it does Starbucks!
How do you use these ideas in your own marketing and promotion?
What is Positioning and How is it Different to Branding?
Branding and positioning go hand-in-hand but many people get the two conflated or confused, and it is not surprising because to have a powerful impact, you really need both:
Branding Definition: Branding is the process of creating a unique idea, image, and name in the consumer’s mind through consistent themes, logos, designs, experience, and messaging.
Positioning Definition: Positioning is the process of defining where your brand uniquely fits in the market compared to competitors and how your brand fulfills specific customer needs better than anyone else.
Developing Your Blogging Brand
Your blog’s brand will need to be coherent, consistent, and congruent. It will also need to connect to the people you are trying to service and attract in a powerful way.
What does that mean?
- Visuals: Consistent use of logos, colors, fonts, and design styles. All visual elements should feel like they come from the same brand. When you think of the artist Prince, what color do you visualize?
- Voice: Your brand should use a consistent tone of voice. A brand that uses a playful and informal tone on social media would be incoherent to suddenly adopt a formal, corporate tone in their sales pages.
- Message: The brand’s core message or promise should be consistent across all channels. This reinforces what the brand stands for and what customers can expect from it. My message on this website is “Build a business from what you know” and I help people build their authority AKA become the go-to in their market. Hopefully, wherever you encounter me, my messaging is consistent most of the time, ignoring the cat pictures and dad jokes.
- Experience: Your consumer’s experience with your brand should offer an experience consistent with their expectations. This means you need to set expectations and then live up to them.
- Values: A brand that touts sustainability and environmental consciousness, for example, needs to ensure its practices across the board align with this value. My wife spent a long time and a lot of money to find compostable shipping materials for her Etsy store. Most people would not bother but she felt she had to live up to her values.
A coherent brand helps consumers instantly recognize and understand what a brand stands for, allowing them to see if the brand aligns with their self-image (or who they aspire to be), making it easier for them to form a connection and loyalty to it.
In contrast, incoherent branding can confuse, disappoint, and alienate potential customers.
Blog Branding and Positioning Step by Step:
- Know your prospect – Can you define your most wanted reader? What are the key motivations and self-image of the people you are aiming for?
- Know yourself – How do your own attributes overlap with those of your audience? This is the core of your brand.
- What can you do differently? – You are looking for something disruptive, not just “better”. What are the conventions and how can you break them? This is your positioning.
- How can your point of difference benefit? – What will prospects gain by your difference? Different for the sake of it will not work, people need to see how much better your new way is for them. This is the takeaway of your positioning.
- How can you get the idea to spread? – It is no good being different but isolated, what can you do to make your brand viral? You need to package your brand and positioning simply and succinctly.
Look around for examples and learn from them. Who is unique but with an advantage? What are the conventions, and how are those conventions changing?
Blog Branding Examples
Back when I was first growing this website, the most unique blog that came along was “Successful-Blog“, the website from a dear and sadly departed friend, Liz. She changed the rules for how a blog should be by making her site not just interactive but a party.
She did not have the best blog design, especially by modern standards, but Liz built such a vibrant community that she and Terry Starbucker were able to sell out an in-person conference each year. And, yes, that conference was like nothing else then or since.
Conventions in blogging are very different to back in the days when Darren Rowse made it slowly and quietly OK to talk about earning money as a blogger, then others were allowed to take the commercialism baton and made it a virtue. We wrote a book about professional blogging and people still pushed back and said we were breaking the rules. Imagine people getting upset about monetizing websites today.
When we launched Performancing, multi-author blogs were unusual, as were blogs with a forum, now those ideas are so common as to not warrant noticing. That said Performancing survived a lot longer than some other more unfortunate sites launched at the same time and I believe it was because there were not just multiple voices but characters who enjoyed each other’s company.
The Secret Ingredient of Your Brand
The key is listening to your community.
What is considered radically innovative today will be the minimum standard tomorrow, you have to keep moving forward and keep your audience with you.
Gather your community and have them feel part of something good. Focus on giving those people the very best experience and stay true to your values and they will reward you.
Work on Your Branding Now
- What sort of people does your brand attract and why?
- Is there a word or phrase you can use to describe those people or that niche?
- How can you serve those particular people better?
- Most importantly, why should they choose you over their other options?
Table of contents for series: Better Blog Branding
- Better Blog Branding: What’s In a Name?
- Better Blog Branding: 10 Ways To Destroy Your Brand
- Better Blog Branding: Domain Exclusivity
- Better Blog Branding: Is Your Brand Breaking Promises?
- Better Blog Branding: Crafting Your Positioning Statement
- Better Blog Branding: How to Stand Out By Being First
- Better Blog Branding: Your Blogs Hidden Messages
- Better Blog Branding: Your Successful Brand
- Blog Branding and Positioning: Changing the Rules of the Blogging Game
- Naming Your Blog: How to Create Catchy Blog Names
- What Are You Saying Between the Lines?