“You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be something great for someone.” – Arielle Jackson
What do you declare? This is possibly the most important question we ask clients in our brand development, strategy, and positioning work. And, to be sure, it’s not an easy one to answer.
Your Brand Declaration is your mission, vision, and elevator pitch. It’s inclusive of who you are, what you do (best), and why it matters – broken down into three key areas:
- Contribution (Provision) – What do you offer? What do you sell? What do you contribute?
- Audience (Key Market) – Who is your perfect customer? Note: It is not everyone.
- Distinction (Unique Characteristics) – How are you unique? More importantly, what do you do best?
A strong declaration must speak to each of these three components. Without a clear articulation of what you provide, who it’s for, and why it’s great, the sound footing your brand needs, at its core, will be caught up in ambiguity. So, let’s break things down a bit further.
Contribution: What you sell is more than you think.
When the first (ever) car was introduced to the market, it was advertised as the “horseless carriage”. Selling a “car” at that time wouldn’t have made sense to the market. The sell here wasn’t simply the product itself, but the benefit to the consumer. “With the brand new fully loaded horseless carriage, you too can get around faster and without injury to your tailbone from riding Old Rusty down the trail!” – I’m sold!
What you sell is more than the product your customers hold in their hand. Whatever you sell, you’re making something possible. You’re filling a need or a want. You’re making a dent in the universe.
When you think about the “contribution” as part of the Brand Declaration, yes, you want to include the tangible product or service – but, more importantly, you want to think about what you make possible and what benefit/experience you’re giving your audience.
When you stop and think about it, you’re probably selling a lot more than you think.
Audience: Everyone is not your customer.
“You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be something great for someone.”
Arielle Jackson nails it and it’s worth repeating. In fact, write this down and pin it up somewhere in your office where everyone can see. It’s one of the most important concepts to understand about your brand’s position.
If you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up being a very weak something or nothing at all. The tricky part in embracing this is that yes, you are going to have to say “no” to some potential customers in an effort to be laser-focused on your ideal audience. One of the biggest problems I see is a reluctance to move on from those who simply aren’t buying. Don’t waste your time convincing the wrong people when the right ones are staring you in the face, ready to hand over their money.
If they’re not interested, move on. Maybe they don’t like your organic cookies and prefer Toll House. Maybe one of their siblings runs a nonprofit that they’re already supporting and they’re not interested in signing up for your 5k. Whatever it is, if they’re not interested, it’s best to simply move on. Even if you get them to “come around”, the aversion you fought through is likely a red flag identifying them as high maintenance or non-loyal customers you don’t really want.
While you may not be right for one sect, you’re undoubtedly right for another. Focus on your brand evangelists – the customers that love what you do so much that they don’t need convincing – and build from there.
Distinction: You are not unique. But you can be the best.
One of the biggest myths in business is believing that you’re offering/selling/creating something that is entirely unique. 99% of the time this simply is not true and in today’s world, there’s very, very little that hasn’t been done, attempted, or thought about before.
That doesn’t mean you can’t do it best. In Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like An Artist, he reminds us that “everything is a remix” – meaning that every new something is a new take on something that already existed (ideally, a better one). Your customers, fans, and followers will only understand what’s new and best about your product by comparing it to what they already know and have experienced.
In understanding your distinction – take ownership of what you do best. Ask this question: What is it only I/we can do?
Southwest is the only major airline that allows two free checked bags. Maybe you’re the only bakery in town that offers home delivery (and who wouldn’t want that?). Whatever it is, while what your brand offers may not be entirely unique, it can be unexpected and it can certainly be the best in the eyes of your customers.
How to apply this to your business
Defining your Declaration is the core of brand positioning. Positioning that is directly paired with and informs the products and services you sell. In short, if you’re not (very) clear on who and what your brand is, you’re audience won’t be clear either. That’ll impact sales, support, and overall likability.
Remember: your Declaration is your mission, vision, and elevator pitch. It’s inclusive of who you are, what you do (best), and why it matters – broken down into three key areas:
- Contribution (Provision) – What do you offer/sell.
- Audience (Key Market) – Who is your perfect customer?
- Distinction (Unique Characteristics) – What do you do best? What is it only you can do?
Understand what you offer, who it’s for, and what makes it the best, and you’ll equip your audience with a clear “what”, “how”, and “why”. What do you declare?