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Category: Digital · 6 min read

Thriving in the Digital Age, Part 3: Be Different and Consistent

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on July 18, 2019

author profile photo

on July 18, 2019

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Now that we’ve laid out the digital landscape we’re in today and the importance of a strong brand, let’s talk about how to practically create and improve your own brand. There are two main ways to do this before you actually execute your brand: differentiating yourself and staying consistent.

Because, in a world full of brands and businesses, you need to stand out to be noticed. That means being unique and offering something different. But you also need to focus and be consistent in your brand messaging. Let’s talk about both in more detail.  

 

Be Different: Break Out of the Sea of Sameness 

We all want to stand out. We want to be noticed and have our message shine brighter than our competition. But how do you do that? It takes a defined brand and a key differentiator.  

First, think about this: what do you do different than the guy down the street? Maybe you offer different products or services. Maybe it’s your high-touch and follow-up campaign. Maybe you really excel at analysis and are high in empathy. That’s the point. Find that thing that is uniquely you and make it a core focus of what you do and what you say. That’s your differentiator. 

When brands clearly differentiate themselves and find their place in the competitive landscape, they can thrive. If they don’t, they are quickly shoved aside and phased out over time.  

To give you another example right in our own industry, I did a quick search on retirement planning. It really is a virtual sea of sameness out there. There’s usually a picture of a real-life, happy couple smiling and enjoying themselves. You know, living the good life. Very few companies are taking the time to do, say, or be different. When everything looks the same, the customer is left confused and unconnected.  

Use this as an opportunity for your business to be different. Make your marketing dollars go further by standing out with something that matters, like using unique imagery, tactful wording that focuses on the consumer and not on you, and a clear call to action for the consumer to do something. 

When brands clearly differentiate themselves and find their place in the competitive landscape, they can thrive. If they don’t, they are quickly shoved aside and phased out over time.

Define Your Position 

Building a strong brand all starts with defining your position in the market. This is an easy way to make sure you have a good plumb-line for growth going forward. In fact, you probably already have some good ideas about what you stand for. This position isn’t customer-facing, but rather the framework for everything else you do. It doesn’t seem like much, but it will become the point on your very sharp pencil. 

So, what’s that look like? Here is a real-world example of an actual brand position. Iconic brand, Barnes & Noble, has made a niche for itself as the go-to-hangout and retailer for any type of reading material you’re searching for. Here’s their position statement: “Barnes & Noble is America’s largest variety of books, newspapers, and magazines in a cozy and inviting space.” Statements like this really help you stay focused in your day-to-day business. 

See what I mean? Simple and to the point. In times of growth, change, and business, this becomes your north star. Everything you are doing should line up with your position statement.  

And just to show you that I really do practice what I preach, our organization just recently refined our own brand position to help drive our future growth. Here’s our statement now: “To successful agencies, we are the agency builder that drives sustained growth through innovative support, while never competing against you.” And we reference it often with every new initiative we undertake. 

 

Find Your Voice  

Once you have a handle on your brand, it’s time to figure out your voice and the kind of tone your brand and marketing materials will have. Identify a few key characteristics that you want your “voice” to be like, such as authentic, personal, or friendly. As you create marketing materials and advertisements, make sure that it sounds like your brand voice. 

To put some guidelines around what your brand voice should be, try a “this, not that” exercise. For example: We’re authoritative, but not too serious. We’re funny, but not sarcastic. We’re friendly, but not sappy. At the end of the day, you are in charge of your brand voice, so make sure it’s authentic to you and your brand.  

Here are two brands that have found their voice and are standing out because of it: 

  1. The strong, new brand, Dollar Shave Club, burst onto the scene with a no-nonsense product offering. They have a pragmatic and witty brand voice that disrupts the share of market held by well-established brands in the industry. 
  2. Old Spice’s remarkable shift in brand health by simply repositioning a brand that has been around forever set themselves apart. Their humorous and irreverent brand voice boldly says, “If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist.” 

 

Know Your Audience 

Probably the most important part about being different is being different with meaning. That starts with a deep understanding of our customers, and it means being relevant and not just different for different’s sake.  

There are a lot of ways to go about this. The best is to really get to know your current customers. Understand their motivations, fears, dreams, obstacles, and circumstances. Ask them questions that get to the heart of this. Customer surveys are another good way to do this. They are super simple to set up on sites like Survey Monkey, and you can email your existing database easily. I can’t stress enough how important this one is in shaping your brand and setting you apart from your competition. 

 

Stay Focused: Consistency is Key  

Consistent. Consistent. Consistent. 

Picture the Nike logo in your mind. What’s the first thing to come to mind? More specifically, if I asked you their tagline, is there anyone who couldn’t tell me? Exactly. That’s FOCUS! “Just Do It” has been their mantra for years. It’s a call for the average joe to be elite in the everyday. There’s no doubt these guys have a big advertising agency and piles of money to get their message out, but they simply don’t mess around. 

A lot of the time, consistency and focus can feel a lot like repetition. It may seem like you’re repeating your same brand message, but that’s a good thing. That’s what you should be doing. 

Think of some other famous brand slogans. There’s Apple’s “Think Different”. There’s “I’m Lovin’ It”. There’s “Breakfast of Champions”. These slogans have been around for years, and it’s because the brands behind them have repeated them over and over again consistently. 

Staying true to your brand voice and being consistent helps solidify your look and name in the mind of your prospects and clients, and helps them instantly recognize your brand. So, keep your message and design the same to build your brand recognition. Always communicate in your brand voice, with a clear message that sets you apart. Consistency also helps make your marketing dollars go farther and can provide a better return on investment.

Ultimately, people do business with brands that they trust. To establish yourself as a credible brand, you need to consistently be reliable and rewarding to your prospects and clients. Consistency breeds credibility and reliability.  

Eventually, you’ll start to feel like a broken record, but trust me, keep repeating that message with consistency and clarity. You’ve got to realize that 90% of the time, your target audience isn’t going to respond the first time they see one of your ads or messages. But by the seventh, tenth, or fifteenth time, across a variety of channels, they may start to be interested. You will grow tired of your messaging long before your audience does, so keep going. Stay focused and consistent.  

Staying true to your brand voice and being consistent helps solidify your look and name in the mind of your prospects and clients, and helps them instantly recognize your brand.

In order to be a strong and successful brand, you have to stand out by being different and consistent. This definitely doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth working hard on until you achieve it.  

For more ways to grow your business digitally, check out our Digital Builder services.  

  

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Written By

Mark Williams

President and CEO

Mark Williams is the President/CEO of Brokers International. Over his more than 25 years of financial services experience, Mark has been both a producing independent agent in the field and a home office leader consulting to agencies and field marketing organizations. Currently, Mark is focused on the future of the insurance industry, from the disruptions of InsurTech and robo-advisors to the changing demographics and needs of customers. He also is an avid mentor, helping financial professionals navigate the industry.

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