Brand Salience: Developing Your Brand Identity

a rose gold pen rests atop an ope notebook

Brand salience is the propensity of a brand to come to mind during a purchasing situation. It goes far beyond mere memory recall. It concerns the identity of your brand and the all the elements that differentiate it from competitors. Who are you, what do you stand for?

If you achieve true brand salience you’ve completed the first step in the journey towards brand equity. Our pillars of brand salience are as follows: Authenticity, Personality and Brand Differentiation. Cultivating a clear brand voice is key to strong brand messaging as is figuring out what makes your brand distinctive. We’ll cover these in more detail in the following sections.

Authenticity: A powerful, consistent expression of your company’s identity.

Your brand voice is a powerful, consistent expression of your company’s ethos and identity online. It’s not an immutable fixture, but something to be constantly monitored and updated as the company progresses. Your voice should be evocative and on-message. A well-developed brand voice cultivates engagement and builds brand affinity.

“Defining your Unique Selling Point (USP) is a key way of differentiating your brand from a sea of competitors.”

Brand voice generally refers to your communication style and tone of voice etc. but can also extend to include the psychology of colour, typography and visuals. What do the words you use and their presentation say about you and your brand? What do you want them to say?

Personality: Ask yourself, what personality traits do I want my brand to embody?

Choose three words or expressions that you feel sum up your brand. For example, funny, disruptive and clever. You might find it helpful to draw up a brand voice chart. Think of the customer demographic you’re trying to appeal to. What story are you trying to tell? Is a funny or irreverent tone suitable for a big bank or an insurance company? The answer may surprise you, and that is that it depends.

“Your brand voice is a powerful, consistent expression of your company’s ethos and identity online.”

Build consumer archetypes. What do they look like? Are they a millennial with a disposable income and a penchant for avocado toast or a Starbucks denizen? What are their triggers and pain points? What problems can you solve through your content? Think about the emotions you want to elicit in people when they think of your brand.

Brand Differentiation: What’s your USP?

Every single piece of content that your brand puts out should be consistent with your developed brand personality. Before you write a single blog post, tweet, post, or indeed video or live stream content, this must be locked down.

Web 2.0 and the proliferation of the digital brand persona has given rise to a phenomenon called content shock. People are so overloaded with content that they are finding it difficult to discern what is of value and what is not.

“Build consumer archetypes. What do they look like? Are they a millennial with a disposable income and a penchant for avocado toast or a Starbucks denizen?”

Defining your Unique Selling Point (USP) is a key way of differentiating your brand from a sea of competitors. What makes you different? Figure out your niche, your distinct calling card and your brand will always be in mind during important purchasing decisions. Remember, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, though sometimes you might choose to.

Like what you read? Carry on the conversation in the comment section below or catch up with Sarah on Twitter.

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Storytelling: How to Craft Captivating Content

A large story book open in a mythical landscape

Storytelling is an escape of the mind. It offers us the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of another. It’s a vehicle through which influence can be asserted, mountains climbed and dragons slain. Tales of adversity and triumph stay with us, shaping our expectations of the world. We are David facing off against the Philistine giant Goliath in the heat of afternoon sun. Armed with little more than a shepherd’s staff, a sling shot and a little bag of stones, we step into the battle arena and confront our foe. Facing our Goliath requires courage and unwavering trust in ourselves.

“A master storyteller knows how to hook readers with emotive content.”

We take our little slingshot and wait as the giant lumbers towards us, his mighty sword glistening with the blood of a thousand Israelites. A bead of sweat trickles down our brow, and yet we wait. Just as Goliath swings his sword, we take a stone from our pouch, load up our slingshot and aim. Fire! Thud! Our slingshot has found a chink in the giant’s armour. We grab the giant’s mighty sword, pirouette and bring it crashing down upon his head. Goliath is no more.

David and Goliath as the Archetypal ‘Overcoming the Monster’ Hero’s Journey

David’s triumph against the mighty Goliath resonates because people choose to believe that ultimately, we can overcome our limitations. We champion the underdog because we can see ourselves in him. We will him to succeed against all the odds, because through him, we too can succeed.

Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating book ‘David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants’ expands upon this, taking it to new heights, heights which suggest we’ve all profoundly misunderstood the situation.

For Gladwell, the balance of power needs to be re-examined. David didn’t meet Goliath on the expected terms, laden with heavy armour and a wieldy sword. David redefined the terms of the fight, choosing instead to play to his own strengths. In doing so, another tool in a storyteller’s arsenal is invoked.

David’s perceived limitations causes the Philistines to dismiss him. His chances of winning are deemed dim at best. David is cast as the underdog- short in stature but brave of heart. Goliath is his adversary, an obstacle that needs to be overcome. The juxtaposition between our unlikely hero and his fearsome opponent strikes fear into the heart of the reader. What if David doesn’t defeat his foe? What happens if he fails? And so, opposition and danger are seamlessly woven into our tale.

Master Storytelling: Weaponize the Power of Emotion

The woes of the Israelites become real to us, contextualised by our newfound connection to David, our protagonist. The reader becomes invested in the plot and in David’s well-being. Now that the story setting, source of conflict and plot have been established, it’s crucial our story arcs and builds to a climax. By protecting his people from the lumbering giant Goliath and his Philistine brethren, our protagonist, David carries out a morally significant action.

“Storytelling is an escape of the mind. It offers us the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of another. It’s a vehicle through which influence can be asserted, mountains climbed and dragons slain”

Upon witnessing the slaying of their kin, the other Philistines turn tail and run for the hills, vowing to never attack the Israelites again. Justice is done and the balance of good and evil has once again been restored. David’s unlikely triumph provides the reader with a sense of cathartic relief. Commonly cited in Aristotle’s Poetics, catharsis is understood to be a release or purging of negative emotions.

Master storytellers weaponize emotion. Think about how you feel when justice prevails or when Sea-biscuit overcame his injury to win the Grand National after his owners are told he’d never race again. Catharsis makes content memorable. The feelings and emotions familiar story plots evoke, release powerful brain chemicals like cortisol and dopamine. The story of David and Goliath is the archetypal ‘overcoming the monster’ hero’s journey, and it’s one that resonates with people.

Good Storytelling is Good the World Over

If you want to create captivating content your primary goal should be to evoke emotion. A great storyteller knows how to hook readers with emotive content. Bring your readers on a journey with you: place obstacles in front of your characters-contrived or otherwise, obstacles help further character development-give your protagonist or antagonist a fatal flaw, and always give your readers a sense of closure. Catharsis is a powerful weapon and negating to utilise it can destroy an otherwise beautifully crafted story.

“We champion the underdog because we can see ourselves in him. We will him to succeed against all the odds, because through him, we too can succeed.”

Good storytelling is good storytelling the world over. It doesn’t matter of you’re creating a business proposal, writing a LinkedIn blog or a job description. Make each and ever word count by creating an emotional hook that will make your content memorable. Ditch the PowerPoint presentations (sorry Microsoft!), create a captivating headline, add a keyword-friendly subhead if you like, use eye-catching images, infographics or videos where relevant and don’t ever be afraid to let your personality shine through. We can all learn a lot from the story of David and his Goliath.

The Psychology behind Emotional Branding

By Sarah O’Brien

Emotional branding taps into peoples’ dreams, emotions and desires. It fuels aspirational attainment; the need for the next big thing, the thing that will make your life better, make you better. The pursuit and purchase of commodities, like the new iPhone, lipstick, or car, drives us. The very thought of possessing these items evokes strong emotions, delivering a rush of dopamine straight to the brain.

Marketeers that understand and engage with these aspirations, egos and emotions understand the psychology behind emotional branding. They utilise connection and emotion to leverage certain brands and products.

‘The Shopping Momentum Effect’

The ‘Shopping Momentum Effect’ is a perfect example of emotional branding at work. A well-documented psychological phenomenon, this effect drives people into a frenzied purchasing cascade.

“Content marketing offers your customers tangible, actionable advice that feels authentic. It provides real value which in turn cultivates trust.”

Think of Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing campaigns, and what about Christmas? The messaging is clear: buy now, buy lots and your life will be better for it. Retailers understand the concept of the ‘Shopping Momentum Effect’ and take full advantage of it, and it’s not necessarily confined to one day either.

Your next door neighbour orders a brand-new sofa. Hers was old and she’d had her eye on a new corner group for ages. When the new sofa arrives, your neighbour is temporarily delighted but soon feels her coffee table looks scruffy and worn in juxtaposition. So, what does your neighbour do? She places an order for a new coffee table and so the purchasing impetus continues.

“If you understand the psychology behind emotional branding, you understand your customers ensuring long-term brand success.”

How the Brands We Love Use Psychology to Cement Their Status

Coca-Cola, the world’s No.1 beverage company spends more money on advertising than any of their competitors. Every year, they consistently increase their ad budget in a bid to stay on top of their game, and it’s working. Coca Cola and its subsidiaries, are the most popular soft drinks everywhere in the world (excluding countries with trade embargoes) with the exception of Scotland, which holds its locally brewed drink, Irn Bru, in high-esteem.

But how exactly did The Coca Cola Company use psychology to cement their status as the world’s No.1 drinks company? A brand that knows how to pull consumer heartstrings is a brand that becomes a household name. Coca Cola first used emotional branding as a marketing tool during World War 2.

“The brands we love use psychology to cement their status. They’ve mastered the art of the marketing spin. They create emotive campaigns, give their brand a personality, and anchor it in the consumer’s subconscious.”

In 1941, Robert Woodruff decreed ‘every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the company’. This cemented Coca-Cola’s status as a patriotic, all-American company even though prior to the war the product was being bottled on both sides of conflict.

Since then, the Coca-Cola brand has been inextricably linked with American culture. It has been instrumental in creating cultural artefacts and memorable campaigns, most notably their Christmas campaigns which have become an institution in their own right.

When people think of Coca Cola, they think of Santa’s red velvet coat and bushy, white beard. They think of brightly-lit, red trucks ploughing through a thick carpet of snow. They think of glass Coca Cola bottles and polar bears.

Coca Cola created Santa, or at least the modern-day iteration of him. Don’t believe us? Check out this video all about 1920’s Santa Claus and the marketing campaign that put him on the map. But why did they bother? The brands we love use psychology to cement their status. They’ve mastered the art of the marketing spin. They create emotive campaigns, give their brand a personality, and anchor it in the consumer’s subconscious.

“Give your brand a little personality and behold as your customers turn into life-long brand advocates.”

Emotional branding at its core is about creating a connection between brands and consumers. It’s about recognition, reward and building brand loyalty. Why do Coca Cola’s consumers not drink Pepsi and vice a versa? Each brand has cultivated a following and built up brand loyalty. By associating your brand with images and slogans that evoke emotions, you are ensuring your customers can distinguish your brand amongst a sea of competitors.

Leveraging Emotional Branding for you and your Company?

Social media and content marketing are key players in the emotional branding mind-game. Give your brand a little personality and behold as your customers turn into life-long brand advocates. Colour psychology, anchoring and positioning are all instrumental in making sure your brand is memorable enough to become a household name.

“Marketeers that understand and engage with these aspirations, egos and emotions understand the psychology behind emotional branding.”

Why does Coca Cola use red branding? Why do Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all use blue? These are questions you must ask yourself when determining how to leverage consumer emotions. Do it right and you will reap the awards for years to come. If you don’t know where to start, start with content.

Content marketing offers your customers tangible, actionable advice that feels authentic. It provides real value which in turn cultivates trust. If you understand the psychology behind emotional branding, you understand your customers ensuring long-term brand success.

Like what you read? Let’s carry on the conversation in the comment section!

OP-ED: Ireland’s Drug Liberalization Reform

By Sarah O’Brien

Ireland is in the throes of a legislative drug reform aimed at helping rather than incarcerating drug users, writes Sarah O’Brien.

A new National Drug Strategy, launched last week, could see the Misuse of Drugs Act amended to exclude jail time for those caught with small quantities of drugs like heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

Backed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health, Simon Harris and Minister of State for Drugs, Catherine Byrne, the contentious proposal to decriminalise personal use of some of Class A drugs, has received mixed reactions from the media and wider public.

So, what does decriminalisation actually mean?

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, decriminalisation entails “the removal of all criminal penalties’ from acts relating to drug demand: acts of acquisition, possession, and consumption”.

Under current Irish legislation, persons found to be in possession of a controlled substance for personal use could face sentences of up to seven years. A class C fine of €2,500 can also be imposed at the Judge’s behest. Continue reading

Millennial Musings: Can We Talk About Decriminalization?

By Sarah O’Brien

Last week, Irish Times journalist Seán Dunne wrote an impassioned, bombastic opinion piece delineating the dangers of decriminalizing small quantities of certain class A drugs, including Heroin and Cocaine. Amongst which, was the possibility that millennials may engage in recreational drug use and end up in a drug-induced festival catatonia. His commentary was peppered with disingenuous concern for his Starbucks-loving brethren, and professed a desire to see millennials living their “best life”.

Millennials, or Generation Y as we’re also known, is a catch-all categorization encompassing those born between 1981 and 1997. We’re the generation for whom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Crash Bandicoot and the Fugees reigned supreme (In case there’s still any confusion, you’ll also recognize us as the cohort everyone makes soy latte and avocado toast quips about!) Continue reading

Dublin Airport Lights Social Media on Fire

By Sarah O’Brien

Sarah O’Brien argues that while sites such as Twitter and Facebook are great sources of breaking news stories, it’s very easy for false or misleading content to be uploaded and shared.

Social media and Web 2.0 is well on its mobile way to defining this generation. New statistics reveal that Irish people have the highest smartphone internet usage rates in the western world, and are we really that surprised?

As wonderful as the advancements of modern technologies are, social media has its downsides, one obvious one being that it can serve to manipulate information, whether intentionally or not.

Take the recent fire that broke out in Dublin airport last Wednesday morning. Most major media outlets used this photograph when reporting on the story. Does anything look odd about this picture? Continue reading

Report Reveals Startling Inequality in Irish Broadcasting

By Sarah O’Brien

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has unveiled a report showcasing a massive gender imbalance in flagship current affairs programming.

Research undertaken over a three-week period in the latter half of 2014, reveals that 72 percent of those appearing on RTE, Newstalk and Today FM’s main news programmes are male.

The worst offender in terms of female representation was Newstalk at a paltry 18%, with RTE being the best at 37%. Today FM followed closely behind the state broadcaster with 30% female participation.

The ‘Hearing Women’s Voices’ research, carried out by NWCI and DCU, has highlighted a shocking disparity between the numbers of male and female guests.

The report, which was launched today at the Department of Justice and Equality in St. Stephen’s Green, saw Minister Alex White, NWCI Director Orla O’Connor and an expert panel speak at the event. Continue reading