Most multichannel merchants need to examine their brand stories more deeply — especially the stories tucked away within their product lines. This is an area of neglect for many companies.
It’s not that these marketers don’t have vibrant brand stories or even that they are not using their brand stories across all their channels. Rather, the problem tends to be that their innovative product lines are rich with meaningful opportunities that are left underleveraged.
Why go through all the hard work and expense to create crave-worthy, competition-envying products for your customers and then not let them do double-duty for your company as brand spokesproducts?
In the April column, we discussed the BrandAbout process for getting a sense of how the brand and all its components are evolving — and what to do if they’re not. Let’s take a BrandAbout look a few examples in our industry of those who do this well.
MAKE A METAPHOR
As an engaging customer-centric brand, Spanx deserves kudos on many levels. Entrepreneur Sara Blakely has done an incredible job of reinventing an entire industry (shapewear) and making women (and now men) look better in all their clothes.
The company’s on-brand product names are cheeky, from the Bra-llelujah! to the new Skinny Britches, and they add a lot of fun to the functionality. But what I liked most was the way the marketers and merchants at Spanx positioned the rollout of Haute Contour, the brand’s new upscale line of undergarments, as “The Dessert of Shapewear.”
This simple but powerful and memorable metaphor helps to position this product apart from Spanx’s everyday lines. It also gives its customers a quick way to justify the luxurious price tag, and a subtle encouragement to treat themselves to dessert.
Can your brand leverage a metaphor to create a unique selling proposition for one of its categories?
REMIND ME AGAIN!
Great brands continually reinforce their competitive positioning. In celebration of its 90th year, Eddie Bauer has done a brilliant job of reminding its customers that it is “The Original Outdoor Outfitter”.
On the Website, an interactive company timeline reinforces this message by starting with the man behind the brand, Eddie Bauer, and his first product innovations.
The front cover of the catalog brags about the new Adventure Ecuador Spring Collection, a product line inspired by one of Bauer’s first expeditions. The merchant returned to Ecuador for product inspiration and photo opportunities.
According to the company, “The women of Zuleta, Ecuador, have become famous for their intricate embroidery and the success of their community workshop. We drew inspiration from their ‘Zuletano’ style in creating one of our favorite Spring tunics.”
Adventure-seeking customers will also love reading the selections submitted by other like-minded customers under the tab “Amazing People. Amazing Stories.” For instance, you can read about how an Eddie Bauer coat saved a life. This intentional experiential positioning helps create an emotional bond for Eddie Bauer products.
Does your brand share its behind-the-scenes product inspiration with your customers? How can you continue to remind your customers about the deep knowledge and passion that undergirds all of your products?
NEVER FAIL TO SURPRISE
Levenger is one of those brands that never take shortcuts. This cataloger of “tools for serious readers” continues to find unique ways to gratify its customers’ literary interests.
One product that goes the extra brand-building mile is the David McCullough’s Typewriter Bookends. If you’re a history buff, then you know that David McCullough is a two-time Pulitzer-Prize winning author.
But you might not have known that all of McCullough’s books were created on the typewriter that the bookends are modeled after.
According to Levenger’s copy: “Our sturdy replica is faithful to the real one, down to the smudged SHIFT LOCK key. Along with it, you’ll receive an original work by the author, his short but sweet ode to his typewriter. A portion of it is reproduced on the bottom of the sculpture.”
When has a pair of bookends ever had such a layered delight factor? Here’s a product that not only tells a story-within-a-story, it also magnificently reinforces Levenger’s core mission.
Does your brand have products that have stories-within-stories potential? In what ways are you positioning them as spokesproducts?
PLAY TO YOUR CUSTOMERS’ FAVORITES
Most brands captivate their customers with what’s new, and often that’s an excellent place to start. Why not take it a step further?
Cabela’s did a great job highlighting customer favorites in a recent catalog. Pages 4 and 5 promoted the outdoor gear retailer’s new products, while pages 6 and 7 showcased an entire spread of customer-top-rated camping gear.
The subhead reads: “Tested by customers just like you, these items earned our highest scores for quality, reliability and convenience.” If you’ve ever camped with faulty gear, you know that the right equipment matters and can turn even a rain-soaked experience into a great memory.
Brands often forget to let their customers tell their own stories about the products they are passionate about. Cabela’s smartly lets customers (in Tweet-size sound bytes) tell one another why its products outperform the competitions’.
You are probably already collecting product reviews — why not brandstorm more ways to leverage these mini-advertisements from your customers? Put the bragging rights back into the hands of customers and see what kinds of spokesproducts they’ll help you uncover!
So, what’s your story about your spokesproducts? Are you content with how your brand is leveraging all of its product content?
If not, take time to fully explore the pages between your product creations — the preface to those products, the meaty chapters and the customer conclusions about those products. You’re sure to discover rich layers of meaningful content that will lead to a happy ending!
Andrea Syverson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of the consultancy IER Partners, and author of BrandAbout: A Seriously Playful Playbook for Passionate Brand-Builders and Merchants.