Do people actually know what your brand stands for? Or is it too complicated...?

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One of my favourite topics is branding right - it's so creative and exciting and fun... and it can be a total nightmare that screws up your entire business.But fear not, I'm breaking down how to simplify your branding, because complex brand ideas make life harder.In this episode, I spotlight some unforgettable branding mishaps and their costly consequences. And they were done by the biggest brands. I also spotlight some entrepreneurs like Simran Kaur (Girls that Invest), Kendall Flutey (Banqer) and Brooke Roberts (Sharesies) who are absolutely nailing their branding in Aotearoa and it's taking their brands global. Let's walk step by step how to create clarity in your brand's core messaging, ensuring it's crystal clear and most importantly, that it resonates with your audience. So, if you want to avoid a $1.4 billion dollar mistake, join me, Brianne West, as we explore the intricacies of brand communication.Snapple Story: https://hbr.org/2002/01/how-snapple-got-its-juice-back


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Kia ora and welcome to Now That's What I Call Business. This is where our chats are bubbly and full of substance and yes, I'm talking about a drinks company. But what I'm hoping is that this pod will leave you fizzing with ideas. Yeah, I also like puns. My name is Brianne West and I am the founder and former CEO of Ethique and most importantly, the founder and CEO of a very exciting new company called Incrediballs, which of course doesn't launch until next year, but I'm talking about it now anyway. What is it? Well, it's the revolutionary drinks company. We are currently building our brand. It is hard. So today's podcast episode is all about how to simplify your brand so people know what it is the hell you are doing. As someone, often wrongly attributed to Einstein, famously said, if you can't explain it to a five-year-old, you don't understand it yourself. So let's uncork this episode and pour out some wisdom on simplicity in business branding. Do you remember the game of telephone we used to play as kids? You would whisper something into your friend's ear, they would whisper it into the person beside them, so on and so forth. By the time it reached the last person, the message was often hilariously distorted and hilarity ensued. This game is kind of like branding. If your message isn't super simple and clear, by the time it reaches your audience, i.e. the last person in the circle, it probably isn't what you intended it to be. Sometimes the best thing you can do to test your communications is ask someone who only knows the surface level of your brand what they think about it. It might be illuminating. It might be slightly upsetting. It certainly has been historically when I've done that.

This isn't about dumbing down complicated ideas but it's about making it clear and understandable. If a company can't convey its value proposition in a super straightforward manner, then it itself, as in the company and the people behind it, might not fully grasp what actually makes it unique or valuable to its consumers. Let's briefly break down the role of branding in connecting with your customers, right? So visual branding, that's the thing people think about when we talk about branding. It's your logo, it's your colors, it's your social media templates. It's like the face of your business. It's the first thing people see and it's what they remember. And a strong brand is instantly recognizable. So, you know, like the Golden Arches of McDonald's or the Nike tech or swoosh, whatever you call it. A consistent brand builds trust. So when a consumer knows what to expect and those expectations are met time and time again, trust is established. This trust translates to loyalty and word of mouth recommendations. Brands evoke emotions, or good brands do anyway. So Harley Davidson isn't selling motorbikes. They're selling freedom and rebellion and midlife crises. Disney isn't selling new movies or theme park tickets. They are selling magic and memories, the happiest place in the world. I do love Disney, I know, I do. Even Coca-Cola, who obviously I have positioned as the Incrediballs villain, talks about opening happiness, which kind of just goes to show that even when technically there are no good things or no benefits about your brand, you can still find something emotionally compelling to talk about. I'm going to be talking about Coca-Cola a lot in this episode. I think it resonates quite nicely with Incrediballs, but also they're an example of honestly marketing genius. But at its core, branding communicates value.

But value isn't savings. Value is why your customers buy a product or service in the first place. A well-defined brand effectively communicates its value proposition in a way that resonates with who it wants to talk to, its target audience. Do you know what your value proposition is? Well, if not, and I imagine a few of you don't, which is fine, it's harder than you think, there is a module to walk you through this over on Business With Better. Business With Better, if you don't know, is my free education platform for mission-driven entrepreneurs. BusinessWithBetter.co. In a crowded marketplace, which pretty much every market now is, you need to stand out and branding differentiates one product from another. It's why someone will choose Coke over Pepsi, despite the fact that Pepsi is without question much more delicious and yes I will die on that hill. Sure product is totally important but it's actually not all there is and it's so much more but it's not all there is. It's about what your brand represents and that is why Etiquette has been as successful as it is and I hope to God why Incrediballs will be too. So today I'm talking about why simplicity is the cornerstone of effective branding and how even the most mission-driven businesses need to harness the power of a clear, concise brand message. But why do I say even? Because for us, it's harder. Unlike the example I used before, Coca-Cola, we often have so many things to talk about, it's really hard to break it down and simplify it. It takes discipline, yet creativity.

So for years, I marketed Ethique as this plastic-free option, getting rid of plastic bottles. I never loved it because we did so much other good stuff, right? We wanted to be the ethical business choice. And that's where slogans like, better for you, better for the planet came from. And actually, my very first business partner came up with that back in 2016, I think. I might even have a T-shirt on with it still. To me, mission-driven brands have so much to say, it's hard to break it down to something simple and it's crucial. So what makes a good brand? Number one is emotional connection. At the end of the day, businesses are serving people and humans are emotional, most humans. Brands that can tap into these emotions create deeper and more meaningful connections. So I will just continue using Coke here as my example. Coke digs real deep into this fun happiness thing. They don't just sell a drink, they sell moments of happiness, connection, togetherness, refreshment. You've seen the bottles with the drips running down. Even when you're not thirsty, it makes you thirsty. Their taglines over the years have been things like open happiness or taste the feeling, and they directly appeal to your emotions. They're not really about the product. In fact, they're not about the product. Great example. Storytelling. One of the most powerful tools for creating an emotional connection is storytelling. You've probably heard this a million times. Brands that have a really compelling story or narrative, so that doesn't have to be your founding story, they draw customers into their world.

So Coca-Cola holiday commercials, for example, have become like a staple around Christmas. They evoke feelings of warmth and joy and family. The image of the Coca-Cola Santa Claus, because of course that's where the typical Santa Claus as you currently are probably picturing him came from. Or there's the Coca-Cola truck driving through the snowy landscape. That brings up warm emotions for most people. It tells a story of holiday cheer and togetherness and la, la, la. It's a wonderful story. But these two are a different example. One of my favorites and of course a mission-driven brand. And yeah, I'm talking about Patagonia. They have absolutely masterfully woven their brand around a narrative of environmental activism, ethical sourcing, and sustainable practices. So they start with their founder story, Yvon Chouinard. I hope I'm saying that right. He's an avid climber and has been his whole life, so he began by making his own climbing tools. His book, Let My People Go Surfing, is a great read. But his love for the outdoors and his firsthand experiences with that changing environment is the foundation for Patagonia's commitment to sustainability. But they don't just sell outdoor gear. They sell a commitment to the planet. So their mission statement is clear. We're in business to save our home planet. End of story, right? I love that mission statement. There's very few good ones out there like that. And this isn't just a tagline. This is a story they tell through documentaries and campaigns and initiatives. They're transparent and authentic and they talk about their achievements, but they also talk about their challenges. And that storytelling continues through things like the campaigns with a cause.

They're most famous for their Don't Buy This Jacket campaign, which was on Black Friday, Black Friday being the just consumerism central. And they urged people to think before they bought something. A company said to people, please don't buy this jacket unless you really need it, and to consider the environmental cost of consumerism because they live that mission statement. This went off with an absolute bang in the New York Times. It's like this kind of counterintuitive messaging is a super powerful form of storytelling that aligns with those brand values. So you believe them, you trust them. And stories are all well and good, but actions solidify them, right? And Patagonia commits 1% of its total sales to environmental causes. They've even taken legal action in defense of national monuments. In essence, everything they do is a part of that larger brand story. That's how you do a mission-driven marketing.

Another key aspect is consistency. You need to deliver a consistent message and experience. Otherwise, you're kind of constantly just changing stuff and it's all cobbled together and no one develops any familiarity with it. Remember, just as we trust people who are consistent in their words and actions, we trust brands that are consistent in their messaging and their actions that back that messaging up. That reassures customers and builds brand loyalty. That's things like logo design to using the same social media templates, which is totally hard. Go and have a look at the Business for Better page. Totally great example of what not to do. Coca-Cola, right? They look the same in every country. They tailor the taste to every individual market, but they look the same by and large. Next is relevance. A good brand is a relevant brand to its target audience. And that's kind of obvious, right? But God, the number of times you see this isn't done well. A brand that doesn't know who its audience is is like a sailor shouting into the fog, into oblivion. It has no idea who it's supposed to be talking to. Your audience is not women aged 18 to 35. That is a demographic, and I have talked about that ad nauseum. If you want to go and build your target audience, again, head to Business for Better and go through the free module. But in short, an 18-year-old woman and a 35-year-old woman have totally different problems, wants, needs. They're at different life stages, and your messaging will not work across that broader target in most cases. That is a demographic, not an audience. It is essential you know who your target audience is, what they value, what problems they're trying to solve. Otherwise, what are you even saying?

Relevance also means keeping updated with things that change. Netflix is a great example here. They transitioned from a DVD rental service to a streaming giant. They have a very interesting story. A lot of people expected them to fail, and look at them now. Another key aspect is differentiation, standing out from the competition. This is my number one ick, I think, with businesses. I'm probably going to have another number one ick next week. But why are you different? Founders and entrepreneurs themselves often can't articulate it, and that is bonkers. Your UVP, your unique value proposition, is something that sets your business apart from the rest, and every business has one. You just might not know what it is yet, or you may not have created it yet. This isn't just about having a different product, but about offering a different perspective, or experience, or value. So while there are loads of soft drinks in the market, right? Pepsi positions itself as the choice for the younger generation. Interesting though, I didn't know that until I did market research for Incrediballs.

Yeah, so is it working? I don't know. They would know. But you could perhaps learn something from that in itself. You need to avoid the sea of sameness. So many ocean puns. In a crowded market it's really easy for brands to look and sound like everyone else, and then you may as well be the same as everyone else. Brands that dare to be different, that challenge the status quo, are the ones that get noticed. Tesla is a great example because they certainly didn't invent electric cars. They may have invented one of the better electric cars, but they are not world famous for their product. Probably a slightly unhinged CEO helps. Anyway. So why do we want to simplify our brand? Because humans are simple. By and large. I don't mean we're stupid. I mean our brains are wired to prefer things that are easy to process. It's not that we're lazy. It's just that there's a lot of shit going on. How many tabs do you have open on your computer right now? Yeah, well, that's what I thought. And that is the inside of your brain. So we like the path of least resistance, we find clear messages easier and therefore more compelling. That sounds really obvious, but making it simple is the tricky bit, and that is where so many brands fall down. There is a horrifying statistic that we are bombarded with eight marketing messages before we finish breakfast. How exhausting. But also, how many of them did you actually notice and remember? In this absolute sea of noise, brands that cut through with a clear and simple message will stand out. I'm going to use another ocean pun.

Those clear messages are like a lighthouse on a rock in the middle of a stormy ocean in a cyclone. Leave me alone, I'm feeling poetic. It's been a long day. But the biggest thing about a simple message is that it's easy to remember and thus easy to share. I watched a pitch a few weeks ago about producing energy through fusion. Now I know how fusion works because it's a weirdly nerdy passion of mine, but I don't imagine that many people in the audience did because it's kind of niche. The presenter absolutely nailed it, even though he was a nuclear physicist, so he knew everything about everything, by simplifying it down into one sentence that I can't remember verbatim, but essentially talking about recreating the sun on earth. Oversimplified, totally effective. So when other people go and talk about this fusion company, people know exactly what to tell one another. They're creating clean energy with no waste, no emissions, it's just like the sun, right? That's an easy thing to get across to people and get people excited about it. I mean, sure, no one has yet made fusion work financially, but I am remaining optimistic. Now, look, if I'm honest, simplifying brands for Incrediballs is actually something I'm still working on. I quite literally just did an interview with a staff reporter today and it made me realize how far I have to go to explain this to someone who has no preconceived notions. It's tough.

Even naming the actual product itself is tricky because we want it to be clear what it is, but without being boring. Because I'm allergic to boring. So we're tossing around the idea of flavor tabs, but I don't like the medicinal angle. Flavor bombs, but I don't love that for a variety of other reasons anyway. It's a work in progress. An effervescent tablet does not do it for me either. In the capitalistic hellscape we live in, where brands everywhere are screaming at you, simplicity is what draws consumers in. Again, it's not about dumbing down your message, but refining it to its purest form. Clear, memorable, shareable. In the world of branding, less is usually more. But why is that harder for us, mission-driven businesses? We're using business as a way to do good, right? So we usually have way more to say. So to use Ethique as an example, we do so many things from fair trade to sustainably sourced to biodegradable ingredients, home compostable packaging, donation scheme, and so on and so forth. How the hell do we get that all across in one easy to say sentence? Same deal with Incrediballs, because I'm pretty much taking all of those same values over because they're my personal values. And it's actually something Ethique's never really got right, although I'm sure that it will in the future. And I hope to Christ that I nail it with Incrediballs soon.

Thankfully, I have an amazing team. Not only as mission-led businesses do we have lots to say, but they tend to be really complex. So sustainability, for example, is grey as fuck. And the whole greenwashing issue has come about because trying to explain that nuance isn't something people can do on a box. Sure, okay, yes, it's also come about because some companies are full of shit, but that's another podcast. So we have lots to say, and then those things themselves are complicated. And then, because we are so passionate about our product and the fact that it is changing the world, we want to try and talk about everything. Not a good plan. I fell into this often in the beginning because I got so excited about it all. And when a brand tries to communicate every aspect of its mission, the core message gets diluted. It's like dropping an Incrediball into a glass of water that's too big. The flavor just gets lost. Sorry, I had to. It's cognitive overload for your audience and they can't take it all in. So therefore, they take none of it all in. That's why in a TikTok video, you have one message. I know that some will say you should use a listicle and have five things.

Totally disagree. Make it simple, short, straight to the point. This is kind of a little bit about my pet peeve of businesses trying to be everything to everyone, which does not work. A business should know who it's not for as much as who it is for. But we try and convey all these values from home compostable packaging to donations, for example, because they attract different people. But then you're talking to five million different audiences with five million different messages and you're all over the show. I'm not saying you CANNOT talk about these other things. You should. But they are not your core, clear message. You must lead with one primary message or story that encapsulates your brand's essence. It's like thinking of a book title. Which, by the way, is fricking hard. Yes, I'm working on a book. It's tiring. Anyway. But it's also good to leave people wanting more because you can then engage in a conversation, get them to ask questions, invite them to be part of your mission and that is how to build community and we all know how I feel about community building if we listen to episode eight. Now there are some brands that have done this really well and I'm going to let the founders tell you themselves.

First, we have Brook from Sharesies. Sharesies is a place where you can start investing essentially or be an investor. So we really care about creating financial empowerment for everyone by giving someone with $5 and $5 million the same money opportunities. Then we have Kendall from Banker. Banker simply teaches kids about money. So we prepare the next generation so that they can navigate our financial world and everything that we have to do within the financial world really successfully in a way that aligns with their financial well-being. And then we have Simran from Girls That Invest. Girls That Invest is a media company that specializes in helping women and minorities understand financial literacy, understand stock market. It's just de-jargoning a very confusing landscape. All three of these women are standout entrepreneurs in Aotearoa. I am delighted to have had chats with them and they have managed to encapsulate what they do in a short, snappy sentence or two. You know exactly what their brands stand for. Do you have questions about how they do it maybe? Sure. But you sure as hell know why they do it and their overall purpose. So let's talk about a couple of brands that didn't do this very well, mostly because this is quite entertaining. So Pepsi owned a orange juice brand called Tropicana. And in 2009, they redesigned the packaging. It was known for the picture of an orange with a straw sticking out, which is super simple to understand. You know, fresh orange juice, you'd stick a straw in an orange and suck. Instead, the new packaging replaced that easy peasy image with a lot of complicated messaging and sales dropped by 20% over the next two months. That shows that confusing messaging even puts off existing customers.

Another example is another drink, which I hope isn't a bad almond, called Snapple. Now Snapple have built its brand by being an independent grassroots company founded more exclusive but not in an elitist way, grocery chain. They were acquired by Quaker Oats for a breathtaking $1.7 billion in 1993. They outbid Coca-Cola, who just keep coming up in this episode. They made the brand mainstream, they changed messages, they confused their die-hard customers who liked the independent brand, and just four years later, they sold it for $300 million. Imagine losing $1.4 billion in just a few years just because you marketed it wrong. It's actually a really fascinating story, so I will pop a link in the show notes for you to have a read. So finally, it's all well and good saying all this, but how the hell do you do it? How do you refine your call messaging to be clear and simple and make it consistent because it's real hard. Let's go step by step. First, do you actually know your unique value proposition? I bet a lot of you don't. There is a module for that on Business for Better. Start there, then work through the others like your brand personality, your target audience, your values. There is a lot there to help you build your brand.

But do you see what I'm getting at here? Step one is knowing yourself, knowing your brand, self-awareness of what you want your brand to be. You must have a really deep understanding. I love something that one of my team members does quite often. She writes scenarios like a first date and how that brand would react on that date, what they would wear, what they would talk about, what they would choose to eat, and so on, just like you would imagine a person would. That is understanding your brand to a degree that most people don't bother. But if you don't know why you are valuable to your customers, how does your customer? Then have a chat to your customers. Get them to explain to you what they know about your brand. Does it match what you want them to know? This is always entertaining. Survey those customers and find out, out of all the values that your brand holds, what they actually care about the most. That will start to give you the hierarchy of your messaging that's underneath your call messaging.

I always find this bit quite depressing because people don't care about things as much as I want them to. I remember something like 8% of people cared about the fact that Atik had a charitable donations plan. Such as I. Anyway, work on this with your team if you have one, with friends and family, or like I am, with Incrediballs, with your wider community. I cannot tell you actually how helpful so many of you have been in the comments on TikTok and Instagram whilst I work through various parts of the Incrediballs brand with my team. Then, once you have it, once you have that clear message that you think sums up everything you want, test it. Because you don't want to be that brand that loses $1.4 billion. Although, if you have a brand that's worth $1.7 billion, what are you doing listening to this podcast in the first place? Test it on your customers, people who've never heard of you, strangers in the street. Is it clear? Yes.

Let's go back to the very beginning, test it on a five-year-old, not your own if you have one as they're probably too familiar with you. Borrow a friend's five-year-old. And then finally, if the five-year-old understands it, if all signs are green, keep it consistent. Because if it's not complex and convoluted, it should be immediately obvious if people get it. But then you just need to keep reinforcing it with the marketing and the messaging around it. Now, as a reminder, I am not saying you only say your call message. I am saying everything you do, say, or your visuals, they all ladder up to it. And one of the best examples of branding I actually think is Liquid Death. They sell canned water. Water, right? But it's a rebellious, unconventional brand that almost seems to live to annoy people, which makes me think they're hilarious. It then uses their feedback in future marketing materials. Genius. Anyway, their punk rock meets hydration, and they use things like death to plastic and murder your thirst to build a $300 million brand that sells water. Worth a follow. So key takeaways. Remember, clear core message needs to be at the heart of every brand. It needs to evoke emotions. If you can't explain it simply, you're not there yet, but don't be discouraged. It's hard. It took me years.

This is why I make my mentees and my group mentoring practices at the beginning of every session. The improvement has been phenomenal, but it takes practice. Don't try and explain everything as much as you may want to. I get that you want to. I get it. But don't. Make it simple. Be consistent. And finally, if you do get it wrong, don't panic. Go through the process again. Engage your customers. Dig deep into it. It can be a lot of fun. As always, these are shorter episodes because we all have world-changing missions to get back to. Please keep sending over your feedback, subscribe, rate the podcast, and let me know what burning questions you want tackled next. Whether you found today's chat educational, inspiring, or hopefully entertaining, I'm here to bring you more every week. I'm Brianne West, and remember, it's not just about getting it right for five-year-olds. It's about crystal clear communication for everyone. This is now That's What I Call Business, where we're not just talking business, we're changing This is now That's What I Call Business, where we're not just talking business, we're changing the world.

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