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Let’s play a little game here.  I’m going to say a name and you are going to say the first thing that pops into your mind.  It’s OK, go ahead and say it out loud – anyone around you already knows you are crazy so it doesn’t matter.  🙂  Once we are done I will explain what we’ve learned here and how it can help you.  OK, here we go:

The Lakers: (hey now – losers and suck don’t count!).  You probably think either: celebs (Jack, Denzel, Beckham and more), Show Time Era, big stars, purple and gold or maybe Magic.  You don’t think of a mascot and it doesn’t matter if you think of a specific player – the image that is conjured up is still the same.

OK, let’s try it again.

Madonna: Forget whether you like her or not, you are likely going to think: bold, sexy, strong, outspoken.

Ready for more?

Adam Levine: High voice. Player. Sexy. Tattoos. Childlike. Partier.

Last one…

Ryan Seacrest: Metrosexual. NYE. Red Carpet. Busy. Knows Everyone. Everywhere at once.

What do every single one of these names have in common?  They have strong brand identities.  They have clearly defined brand stories.  And none of it is by accident.  It’s all been carefully crafted.

Let’s try the same thing with some stores/restaurants:

Olive Garden: Breadsticks and salad.  Affordable and consistent Italian food. Friendly.


Starbucks: A company with a conscience. Easily accessible. Free wifi. Reliable quality. Friendly staff.  Misspellings of names on cups. Loyalty rewards.


Sephora: Innovative. Bold. All things beauty under one roof.  Knowledgeable staff. Make-overs and samples. Bright. Fun.

Again, this imagery is carefully crafted.  Notice most of what defines the brand is not about the actual product.  It’s about the experience.  It’s about knowing you can walk into any location and know exactly what experience you will have.

This is what strong brand identity is.  People trust in it.  But people also people feel part of it. We connect to brands and see them as an extension of ourselves in a way that has never happened before.

Think In N’ Out Burger – say it to anyone and they will smirk and say “Secret menu” or “Animal style” – there is a sub-culture that was cleverly created and people rely on it.  Everyone is proud they are in the know and want to share their order (double, double animal style is my go-to order!)

Or think Krispy Kreme – everyone will say “Hot and Fresh” lit up means free donuts.  You know they may have some fun new donuts to try but you are conditioned to know that when the sign is lit, you can walk in and grab a freebie.  People connect to the reliability of that.

I’ve mentioned in previous articles that not only do we connect with brands as an extension of ourselves, but we are also branding ourselves in a way we’ve never done before and it’s starting at a young age.  Strong, independent and confident is what we strive for – but we are creatures of habit.  We want to be recognized, approved of and valued.  Creating a brand identity allows us to do that.  Connecting ourselves to brands allows us to adopt the characteristics, values and image of that brand.

So how do you create a brand identity that speaks to your target audience?  A brand identity that they want to adopt?

know-your-audienceFirst and foremost you need to get to know your audience, intimately.  You need to know their values, their pain points, what excites them, what gets them so fired up they step outside themselves and get involved in a cause or a group or an event.  You need to know what language they speak and who they look at as respected authority figures.

Next you need to figure out how your offering fits in to their life.  Which psychological trigger will you pull to get them to respond to your product?

Let’s take a minute to do a quick review of the psychological triggers that motivate people to buy:

Basic Needs:   This is the most obvious reason and if you sell items that fall into this category, like food, shelter and clothing, you don’t need to convince people they need the product, you just need to convince them you are the one they should buy it from.

Convenience: People will buy something to make their life easier.  They will buy to save time, increase efficiency or make a task simpler/less work.  They will also choose to buy from a specific store or site because of convenience.  To compel visitors to buy based on this factor, you need to point out all the ways your product or service makes their life better/easier and you need to make it quick and easy for them to order.

Replacement: Consumable products need to be replaced and consuming a product doesn’t just mean eating. In this context, it means any product that you use and will either finish, wear out, break, outgrow etc.  This is a good business to be in – built in repeat business is a great thing.  If your product or doesn’t service doesn’t naturally fall into this category, get creative and see what you can do to get people to replace an old item with a shiny new one – from you!

scarcityScarcity I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Fear of loss is a greater motivator than desire to gain.  Tell people they could miss out on something and they want it. Build scarcity (while still being honest and having integrity) into your marketing.

Prestige, Pride or The Joneses: People will buy for personal enrichment, personal satisfaction, ego, pride or keeping up with the Joneses. Tell someone that a product will give them increased status or esteem with colleagues and friends, and they want it.  Most people will deny this and some might even think they are telling the truth when they deny it.  This often happens at the subconscious level.  Think of all the designer handbags with logos on them.  Women carry the status of that logo.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love handbags as much as the next girl, and the luxury brands are better made and oh so beautiful, but for so many women, it’s a status symbol).  Testimonials and stories of successful people enjoying your product/service will help in this area.  Also, comparing yourself to a “status symbol” brand and explaining the correlation helps.  Another good tip, if any celebs used your product or a product very similar, you can bet a certain segment of the population will want to get their hands on it.

Substitute A.K.A. Binky/Soother/Pacifier: Simply put, if you can’t have or be the thing you want, you find something to make you feel better.  Maybe something pretty, maybe something shiny, maybe something that eases the ache in your heart.  If your product or service could possibly pacify someone that wants or needs something they can’t get, try playing with that in your marketing.

Price: If someone is going to buy something anyway, they will often buy from the place that gets them the best price.  But sometimes people will buy something that they had no intention of buying, because the price was too good to pass up.

great-valueGreat Value: Again if someone feels a deal is too good to pass up, they’ll act on it.  Impulse purchases typically because of a great sale price or because a “freebie” came with the item.  People will pay more to get something free with their purchase.   Think of how you can bundle your products or services to increase the value you offer.

Indulgence Everyone deserves a treat or splurge once in a while.  Especially at busy times of the year.  People are more likely to buy themselves a gift over the holidays than they are at other times of the year!  This one is easy to exploit, ahem I mean use in your marketing.  Let people know the joy, luxury, sinful bliss they will enjoy by buying your product or service.

There are a ton of other reasons people will buy but this list gets you started.  Do yourself a favor, go through a little exercise.  Sit down and list all the reasons you think someone would buy your product or service.  Once you have this list done, take a look at how you can use that info in your marketing.  Look at your sales copy, your social media, your brochures or sales collateral. Get a little creative and watch the response.

Next you want to take some time to test some concepts on your audience and track the response.  One of the best ways is to throw up a landing page with the branding message and identity you want to test and then use Crazy Egg or Lucky Orange to see how people interact with it.

You can also hire a company to do audience testing to gather data.

Once you’ve defined the brand identity, you start creating material that convey the brand image and shares the brand story.  You evolve overtime, while maintaining consistency so people always recognize the brand you developed.

One thing you should always remember, it is hard to build a brand, it takes time BUT you can very quickly and easily destroy a brand.  Take the time to create a brand standards guide and define the details – and then remain true to them.