Ever feel like you’re seeing the same content over and over again online? Today, according to Statista, 96% of businesses use social media, and the digital market is more saturated and competitive than ever before. It’s no longer a question of should your business be on Instagram, but rather, how do you make your brand stand out from all the rest? In this new digital world, you may wonder whether there are any effective ways to make your brand stand out from the pack. There are—and they involve getting back to the fundamentals.
The key to crafting a compelling brand story is to ask yourself, “What is the ‘why’ behind what my company is doing?” To quote Simon Sinek, the “why” is the driving force that provides solidity and continuity for your company—like the foundation of a house. While product offerings and marketing tactics may change, this foundation remains the same. Brands that can identify their “why” and use it as the central theme of their messaging are better equipped to cut through the noise.
My company, Later, keeps our brand in mind with everything we do. Whenever you see a piece of Later creative, you’ll know it’s ours right away. How? Because even though we vary our message enough to fit each medium, we are diligent in remaining consistent—and therefore recognizable—across all channels. Whether it’s an ad, social media post, content on a landing page, or our product itself, the message always embodies our brand and furthers the conversation around it.
Visual marketing is what we teach others, so we’re committed to always proving that it’s at the core of our brand identity. By weaving a visual thread throughout all of our messaging, we’ve developed a loyal following. People can see for themselves that we follow through on our own intentions—and that builds trust and creates curiosity.
So how do you turn your “why” into revenue? Running a modern internet company, I’ve thrown thousands of ideas against the wall to see what sticks in terms of telling the kind of brand story consumers will respond to.
In this blog, I’ll cover which techniques work well to tell your brand story and which ones are best left on the cutting room floor.
1. Create One-Of-A-Kind Offline Experiences
When it comes to epic brand experiences, REVOLVE is leading the charge. The e-commerce brand travels around with ultra-popular models and influencers and throws insane parties at glamorous locales like the Hamptons.
Sounds great for boosting exposure, right? It is, but the influencer scene is about more than brand awareness for REVOLVE. By inviting influencers to highly curated experiences, such as the invite-only REVOLVE Social Club, the brand inspires a following not only in its brand but also in the lifestyle associated with it. When the e-commerce brand opened its elite club to the public for a festival-style pop-up this spring, followers were eager to participate in the same lifestyle—and purchase the same items—as their favorite influencers.
The brand also dominates the Coachella music festival, which has become a competitive event for companies fighting to give away the best swag and sponsor the biggest acts. From flying New York-based celebrities like A$AP Ferg and Danielle Bernstein to the event via private jet to co-hosting a brunch with Nicole Richie, REVOLVE clearly takes the prize for brands using the hottest influencers to bolster its lifestyle brand.
Nordstrom recently launched its newest retail store, Nordstrom Local, which offers hand-pressed juices, personal styling—and no physical merchandise. Instead, its personal stylists handpick items from across the chain for specific shoppers. These tactics communicate the brand’s “why”—to offer convenient shopping services to guests—and provide new opportunities for consumers to connect with the brand on a more personal level.
While not every brand has the budget to fly influencers in private jets, there are easier ways to connect with real-life people and solidify their connection to your brand. Hosting meetups for VIP customers is one way to replicate this, but even providing customers with curated to-do lists in various cities can help them feel connected to your brand in a way that a trip to your e-commerce site will not.
2. Involve Your Audience In Your Mission
Whether you’re selling sneakers or software, involving customers in your brand’s long-term mission will drive brand loyalty. When customers feel passionate about your brand story, they’ll be more likely to stick with you for the long run.
Take tentree, the environmental apparel company that plants 10 trees for every item purchased. Its mission is to “become the most environmentally progressive brand on the planet,” and Instagram plays a key role in relaying its core values and sharing its brand story. The company works with a team of brand ambassadors and relies heavily on user-generated content to showcase a lifestyle dedicated to the outdoors and social impact. To date, tentree has amassed 2.3 million followers and has planted more than 17,590,000 trees.
Through this model, tentree has created a virtuous cycle: its photos inspire users to purchase apparel, which results in more trees being planted—and more photos of users wearing its clothes, which the brand can then use to further populate its Instagram page. By selling a movement, not a product, tentree has built a successful business that depends on the strength of its visual storytelling to stay profitable.
Engaging customers in your story can be easy with the tools at hand. Consider creating brand-specific hashtags to encourage user-generated content, and offer incentives for people to participate in your campaigns. Adding a collaborative element to your brand’s visual storytelling can help users feel like a part of your mission, rather than just witness to it.
3. Be Privacy-Conscious With Your Branding
It’s a Catch-22: Brands are no longer concerned about shocking their customers with granular targeting, but they don’t want to anger them by violating their privacy. This creates an opportunity to stand out from the pack by establishing your brand as one that is conscious of your customers’ privacy. Consumers who are targeted when browsing for makeup or cleaning supplies may not care whether the details of those searches start popping up all over their browser, but they’re not as laid-back when it comes to medical details or major life events.
Spotify’s year-end campaign is a great example of data used well. Their 2017 Wrapped feature provided members with fully customized playlists based on their listening habits. Not only does the campaign make members feel valued by Spotify, but it also helps reiterate users’ dedication to the platform by highlighting just how many minutes they spent streaming music last year. Reactions to the feature have been largely positive, with users sharing their personalized results across social media channels and news outlets applauding Spotify for its ingenuity.
By contrast, Netflix tried to recreate this success with a tongue-in-cheek tweet about users’ viewing habits. While some maybe saw this as a harmless joke, many others called out Netflix for shaming its subscribers and violating their privacy.
You can still use your customer’s data to target them—just make sure you treat it as discreetly as your own company data. If you want to highlight user data as part of your brand story, be sure to offer customers something in return. Remember, there’s a difference between giving users new insights on their own behavior and exposing that behavior to a large audience. By being sensitive and smart with users’ personal information, you can rise above your peers in the eyes of privacy-conscious consumers.
In short, using digital marketing to stand out requires more than simply copying the content strategies of your competitors. If your brand can find its “why” and convey it in a compelling way across all channels, you’ll be able to establish a strong presence in a crowded online landscape.
How do you tell your brand’s story? Have you used any of the strategies I mentioned? I’d love to hear about what you’ve done in the comments.