How to Cultivate Brand Identity: Show not Tell

Published Sep, 27 2013
Business & Branding

show not tellEvery time we meet a new client, we try to find out what sets that client apart from the competition. We hear a lot about how different that company is. How human they are; how compassionate.

My seventh grade English teacher had a mantra. To communicate effectively, you must “Show, not tell.” She repeated this often.

Actually, she repeated “show not tell” to the point of contradiction. But I’m grown now, and I remember her words. And in business, those words need apply.

Use Your Voice

Do a little research. Identify your target customer, and think up a voice that communicates who you are in a way that appeals to that customer. Then use that voice to consistently show how compassionate you are: by promoting your cause of choice, by being sympathetic to a troubled customer, or by mentioning a situation in which you went beyond the call of duty.

If you want to seem compassionate, be compassionate. Cultivate a generous reputation by responding to customers quickly and with care. Sponsor service groups. Promote a cause in whatever way that you can.

Social media is your friend here. Step up onto that platform and create an image of action.

Actuate Your Values

I love hearing about our clients’ values. It gives me a feeling of kinship with the brand and confidence in the management. But customers know that even their worst consumer experiences have involved a company with “values.”

Bungie makes it right.Buffer recently featured an article about “legendary” customer service wins. First on the list was Bungie Studios, a video game developer, which sent a hospitalized boy a custom helmet and toys for the holidays. He couldn’t play Halo at home, so they “made it right” for the customer with a compassionate gesture. And it was huge.

You can animate your honesty and integrity by showing people how you handle the problems that arise in the day-to-day. Acknowledge mistakes—and their resolutions—and create transparency with tools like Facebook or your blog.

How about family values? I’m not talking politics. Do you stress the “community feel” of your business? Host a customer appreciation event, and treat your customers like you love them. And per our usual recommendation, market that stuff! Your customers will love you back. If it’s the right kind of love, that means repeat business with referrals on top.

Consider Humor

This is where you show how likable you are by making people smile. But really consider your method. Funny stuff is great. A witty voice makes your brand much more personable than does playing it safe, but, of course, missteps abound.

Silly jokes and bad puns? Most of those pass. Some slight self-deprecation is amusing, for sure. Just keep it light and make it positive, and you’re on your way. People love to be entertained.

On the other hand, racist, sexist, xenophobic ads get attention, but they come with a dirty image. Chances are that being a bully is not your goal, so don’t straddle that line. If you think that your moral compass has led you astray, abort mission!

What I’m trying to say is, talk is cheap, y’all. Don’t tell us how caring your people are, how benevolent your company is, or how competent your customer service is. Define your brand identity by showing it.

Second image courtesy of Buffer.