Unless you were born a celebrity, the battle to get noticed online increases daily. New relevant & valuable blog posts are written. New freelancers take the stage. New courses are released. And the newest brand takes the spotlight. The war to stand out amongst a sea of talent, becomes increasingly difficult each day.
Okay, okay… that might have been a bit dramatic. But I’m assuming the above statement resonated with a few of you out there. This fear of my brand getting lost in the internet abyss is a reality, and it often prevents me from moving forward. You put in the hard work, do everything “by the book,” but struggle to make headway in attracting your ideal audience online.
Don’t be a Waldo
I’ll let you in on a secret… the solution is your branding. I don’t necessarily mean your brand identity, the visual side of branding, but your holistic brand experience. There is this great analogy, that speaks to this situation so well — in the form of a children’s book.
Remember Waldo? He is that classic character from the picture books that kept you occupied for hours. Dressed in his trendy striped shirt and cane, Waldo was definitely dressed to impress. The irony? He got lost in the crowd and was such a challenge to find because he blended in. Who knew the Waldo books were so deep?
There are so many brands who, like Waldo, may appear flashy… yet they slip away into the crowd. Don’t be like Waldo, fitting in, and allowing the noise around you to obstruct your brand. If you are struggling with the “how” to stand out, I’ve got you covered in a few tips below!
Do you ever encounter a person, TV show, or brand that is just a bit different than the others? It is somehow very refreshing and exciting at the same time. You genuinely enjoy being around that person, and embrace their unique perspective, quirks and presence. As cliché as it sounds, be YOU, and your brand will instantly resonate with your crowd.
One of my favorite brands that does this so well is Warby Parker. Not only is their business concept unique, offering free samples of eyewear to try on at home, but their branding sets them apart as well. They have a very specific vision, tone and brand that is unique to them. Warby Parker has shaped a seemingly boring industry, eyewear, into an exciting brand that I even follow on Instagram. Guys — I don’t even need glasses, that is how standout their brand is! They’ve embraced what makes them unique, and articulated that to their audience. If you are familiar with their brand, you can probably sum up their brand as quality, innovative and curated. They don’t sell every type of eyewear. They don’t try to be the online eyewear brand for everyone. They target a very specific audience, who would get excited to interact with the Warby Parker brand.
Take Action: Take notes for your own business! How can you articulate your brand message to your audience? Is it through visuals, in-person events or social media? Write down a few attributes that makes your brand unique, and how you can convey that to your audience. Think creatively and out of the box, as Warby Parker did with their try on kits!
Know who you are (and aren’t)
One of the most significant parts of my client branding process is simply understanding my client’s brand. It is such a privilege to be an advocate for their business, and provide the visuals that help them stand out, and I don’t take it lightly. Understanding your core values, message and brand vision are essential for your business. Not only does this help you recognize what types of services or products to produce, it also allows you to develop long-term goals for you business. The sooner you clarify what your brand is all about, the sooner you can attract your ideal clients/customers, and strategically plan a long-term trajectory for your business.
The deeper I understand my brand, the more clarity I gain. Apple, though they are a typical overused brand example, are proof to this point. They understand who they are, and possibly more importantly who they aren’t. The Apple products are not for everyone. They don’t provide cheaper and lower-end products, because that just doesn’t fit their vision. Because of this truth, you know that when you purchase an Apple product you are getting high-value and the best quality.
Take Action: Jot down a few attributes that are unique to your brand. What are your core values? In another column, write down a few qualities that don’t fit with your brand. This helps you hone in on your vision. Don’t be afraid to edge out some of your audience by including them on your “not my brand” column. Through understanding your vision, you will naturally exclude other businesses from your roster. In turn, you will gain more clients/customers that are your ideal market.
Share your story (visually and written)
Once you understand what makes you different, and who you are, it is time to share that with the world! There are countless ways to present your brand, and which strategy you take entirely depends on your specific brand. Again, don’t be like Waldo. In order for your brand to stand out, you have to get out there and allow people to know who you are. Whether it is through a quality brand identity, content marketing on blog posts, webinars or in-person networking, make an effort to get yourself out there. Otherwise, you will remain stagnant and not move forward. Even if you are rolling in the dough, without getting yourself out there much, chances are you could benefit from marketing yourself better to your ideal audience.
Several brands do this well, but my latest favorite, Everlane, stands out among the crowd. In an oversaturated market, fashion, they have quickly gained traction through telling their story in a compelling way. When you boil it down, they sell a minimal inventory of the essential items in your closet. Basic tees, tanks and pants are their best sellers. Nothing flashy. Though, when you take a look at their stunning website, high-end photography on Instagram, or read their compelling story about their transparent manufacturing, you will be ready to click purchase on a tee you didn’t know you needed. Everlane shares their story in such a beautiful way, and it is what sets them apart from the crowd. How else could they get by with selling the minimal inventory that they have? Their brand is so strong, that when you peruse their site you will be convinced these are the best tees to own (and I can vouch that they are!).
Take Action: How can you convey your brand in a written and visually compelling way? Would photography, illustrations or video best suit your brand? Maybe your business is ready to invest in telling your story, so you can take it to the next level.
Possibly the scariest part of committing to owning your brand, and understanding your vision, is the myth that you are stuck with that trajectory forever. Don’t get me wrong, it is preferable to understand your brand so you can set long term goals, however I also encourage you to constantly evolve your brand. Recognize that our brains sometimes only function linearly, but once the ball is rolling on our brand, our eyes will be opened to new exponential opportunities and creative business ideas.
Through challenging yourself, your business will grow, narrow its focus, and provide a bit of excitement for your audience. I always love seeing other businesses take new leaps, and start something scary. It is so exciting to get a peek at where they are going, and to feel involved in that process. Not only will evolving benefit your business, it also allows you to give grace to yourself. If something isn’t working for your brand, take a step back and evaluate. It is okay to stretch, grow and evolve, but most importantly allow grace for yourself in that transition. Avoid that negative mindset of not following through with your original intentions, and instead get excited about the growth that is about to take place!
Take Action: Set aside time (every few months, year, or whatever works for you), to assess your brand. I’m almost a year into my business, along with a couple fellow designer friends, and we are planning a weekend retreat workshop to really dive into our business! I’m excited to look at it with fresh eyes, and gain input from valued friends. Set aside time to reevaluate, and get renewed about your business.
I genuinely hope that you found these tips helpful and refreshing for your brand! Standing out amongst a crowd of stellar brands is no easy feat, but if you stay true to your brand, invest time in telling your compelling story visually and written, and consistently evolve, you will create a brand built for success!