No matter what kind of business you start, a strong branding campaign combined with niche marketing takes you from another murmur in the crowd to a stand-out voice. Everyone’s an entrepreneur these days, so why should we care about you? Marketing strategy for a start-up is about more than a logo, a website, and a catchy slogan. It’s not just slapping your name on everything you create.
Entrepreneur.com lists the seven tenets of branding as simplicity, disruption (a break from the norm), original expression, big ideas, symbolism, meaning, and depth. Branding and niche marketing are two sides of the same coin. The brand is about who you are and the image you project, while the niche is the group of people attracted to who you are, who receive and relate to your image.
Why do people develop brand loyalty? It’s not the attractiveness of the logo, it’s what the logo represents to them. Yes, how it makes them feel. Think about Newman’s Own, Burt’s Bees, Ben & Jerry’s. When you hear “Newman’s Own”, you know automatically they their proceeds go to charity. You know Burt’s Bees is committed to the natural, and that Ben & Jerry’s operates with the most progressive values. Each has a consistent image—something visual with which the general public associates them on sight—but they also anchor that image in a message, a philosophy, a story that is compelling and distinctly their own. Each one takes into account both the brand and the niche.
Seth Godin’s TED talk on the reemergence of “tribes” explains what finding your niche really means. Instead of making everyone the same, the internet has created what Godin calls “silos of interest”.
“You don’t need everyone… you just need, I don’t know, a thousand true fans — a thousand people who care enough that they will get you the next round and the next round and the next round. And that means that the idea you create, the product you create, the movement you create isn’t for everyone, it’s not a mass thing. That’s not what this is about. What it’s about instead is finding the true believers.”
A niche is a group of people with the same subset of interests, so if it helps, imagine your brand is a person, too. How does this person speak and dress? What is its personality like? What makes it attractive to others? What qualities do you want people to associate with it when they hear its name? Then make that person start a club—a tribe—that your target niche can’t resist joining. Think about Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” ads. They don’t compare how the product words—they define who you are.
Plan your website design, the text on that website, the tone of your slogan, your advertisements—everything—around the brand’s voice and what appeals to that niche. Be as specific as you can about who you are, why you are here, and who should buy your product or use your service.
There’s no such thing as “the everyman” anymore. It may be tempting to appeal to the greatest common denominator to widen your base, but that will just dilute your message when you’re starting out. It’s a sign that you don’t have the confidence to stand by your brand. Besides, once your brand is off the ground, your niche will grow organically if you pay attention. As Godin says, “Bob Marley did not invent Rastafarians. He just stepped up and said, ‘Follow me.’”
When it’s all etched in stone, don’t forget to trademark it. This is where you want to be broad. The company name, the logo, the slogan and tagline should all be covered under a copyright. If you’re doing something right, someone will want to start their own club and steal your members.
Finally, staying consistent is crucial if you want your following to stay with you and grow in the right direction. Remember, if you don’t know who you are, no one else will, either. And if your customers don’t get you, they won’t care much about what you have to offer.