Why just focusing on your Marketing Strategy is only a temporary measure...
You will have to forgive me.
If you are not a parent or a big kid at heart chances are the reference to Disney's Encanto (and the song that is now, once again, swirling around your head) to the title of this blog may seem a bit odd.
But interestingly Encanto and branding, has some similarities.
* FYI there will be some spoilers in here - don't say I didn't warn you *
Encanto Cliff Notes
For those with neither the time or inclination to watch the latest Disney film (what's wrong with you?!) The story is set in Columbia focusing on the Madrigal family; who were presented with the gift of magic after their matriarch Abuela lost her husband. The protagonist Mirabel is the only one in the family that doesn't receive a gift, and has been fighting to find her place in the family ever since.
The moral of the story: it is you who is the gift, not your magical abilities.
Go on then, relate this to branding...
Okay I can hear the scepticism in your voice and there is an eyebrow being raised at how a magical Columbian family has anything to do with branding.
But first one thing you should know is about Bruno - usually his name is not up for discussion but in this instance we have to.
Bruno is the "black sheep" of the Madrigal family. He can see the future, which, for many people it's not exactly...positive.
Bruno ends up disappearing, living in the walls of the Casita (house) and desperately trying to repair the cracks that appear in the walls (which is a metaphor for the cracks in family relationships).
This is exactly what you end up doing when you focus on Marketing before your brand.
Where is branding?!
Encanto wasn't the actual prompt that made me write this blog (although its sound track is still going around in my head - bloody Lin-Manuel and his catchy tunes) it was actually a call for experts on a group that I was in.
Experts in pretty much every industry BUT branding.
Branding/brand/brand identity is still one of those "dark arts" that people whisper in hushed voices. So much so that there isn't even a category in the drop down form for "Select Industry" (another bone of contention but I will leave that for another day).
BUT it is a unique, and very important industry in its own right.
And the reason for its lack of integrity is the fact that there seems to be no direct link to the outcome; you don't implement a brand identity and instantly get thousands of people buying your product or service. So, you could be forgiven to think that it does very little but make your business look visually appealing.
But when done correctly it has a massive impact on the outcome, just it doesn't do it with the fanfare of Marketing and Advertising.
And small businesses should know this. But more than likely the thing that is hammered home to you is Marketing.
Getting to the heart
Remember how I told you that Encanto's main plot point is that being yourself is the gift?
And this is very true for your business. I believe that your USP is you: how you offer customer service, how you talk to people, what values you have. But, if you have never worked on really understanding who your business is you will be making assumptions. Much like the characters in Encanto:
Luisa (the strong one) believes that everything rests on her shoulders, so when her gift of strength starts waning she feels like a nobody without it.
Isabella (the golden child) has to keep up this perfect image and longs to just feel like herself once in a while.
Meanwhile Abeula is trying to keep the illusion alive that everything is fine.
But by not taking the time to truly understand your business, and how you want to run it, the cracks begin to appear.
The inconsistencies in your messaging because you aren't really sure what tone of voice or values your have.
Failed product and service launches because you didn't take the time to understand whether your clients actually needed it.
And I know because I've been there.
I've second guessed my content, wondering if people are going to be offended, because I was unsure if that was really what I stood for.
I've launched services that have literally nosed dived, because I didn't take the time to understand what my clients needed.
And instead of really getting to the heart of my business I would instead use marketing to fill in the cracks (see what I did there).
But it's only a temporary fix (as you see in the film). At some point the wheels fall off (or in the Casita's case, the wooden shutters), and it's either you work out who your business really is, or it ends.
Yes, it can be that abrupt.
Mary (not their real name) was stuck.
Her business, hit by the pandemic, had seen her product sales slowly decrease over the last few months. Her messaging was getting more frantic: more discounts, more posts advertising her products. But nothing was making people budge. By the end of last year she was ready to quit.
The business was losing money.
One of my very first questions to her as we chatted one day was: "why?"
Why did she start the business in the first place? What drove her to think that instead of trying to get others to change, she would take on the challenge and do it herself.
This is at the heart of her business. And she had forgotten.
Now, I'm not blaming Mary for forgetting it because we all do, especially in the last 2 years when times have been incredibly tough for small businesses.
She just started focusing on the cracks.
So we went back to the heart. We stripped away all the things that were not working and by focusing on what made her business unique she was able to create a system that was easier to manage, less stressful, and ultimately start making money.
Her content is now focused on what her clients want. And now her ideas and strategies all align with that core business reason.
And that's what branding does.
Firstly, if you are now intrigued by Encanto (or just want to watch it again) go do it - I will probably have it on in my house for the 50 billionth time (no joke).
Secondly, if you haven't already: you need to start talking about branding.