Evolutionary Branding: Think Like A Farmer To Grow Your Brand From A Tribe Into An Empire
“Evolutionary Branding” is a term I coined to describe the process of slowly improving an organization’s brand identity as they can afford it. You start with the low-hanging fruit and, as the business grows, you add the polish and nuance that make your brand iconic. I like the term “evolutionary branding” because I look at the evolution of a brand like the evolution of mankind from hunter-gatherers into farmers.
People often ask me, “Why does a branding company build so many websites?” My answer is, it was agriculture, not war, that built the great empires of Egypt and Rome, and technology is the new agriculture. It is well-known in economics that the defining change in the arc of mankind was when we went from being hunter-gatherers to farmers.
My background is in working with big brands. All this talk these days about building “tribes” perplexes me a little. My firm specializes in helping small businesses, startups and nonprofits think like brands. And the first thing we tell a new client is to think like a farmer, not a warrior.
Humankind “evolved from gathering wild grains to planting them, choosing seeds from plants with the most desirable characteristics.” And this is exactly how we approach branding, and why we call it “evolutionary branding.” Our clients typically don’t have a marketing department when they engage us. They don’t have the millions of dollars big corporations spend on branding. So, like farmers, we choose the most desirable facets of an organization and focus on those, selectively improving them. “Evolution, not Revolution,” as the saying goes.
Personally, I do not like to compete. I prefer winning before going on the playing field. I think this is why I went into branding. Successful branding builds empires. At its peak, Rome did not compete. Rome dominated. Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple do not compete. They dominate. Their battles are won long before they launch new products. These brands know that farming is way more cost-effective and bountiful than hunting, gathering and fighting.
But the big advantage of farming is scalability.
The reason you don’t often see venison in the supermarket is that hunting relies on a few highly skilled individuals. And tribal organizations with superstar CEOs and charismatic salespeople have the same problem. “Superstars” are expensive to retain and their careers are short-lived. They quickly max out their reach, go down in flames with one ill-conceived Twitter post or, worse, when they get really good, they leave and start their own company.
And why wouldn’t they?
If your company’s revenue depends on the skill of one highly talented individual, why would they not jettison the flotsam and keep all the money for themselves?
Whereas branding, like farming, is future-proof if done right. Branding is tied directly to a product or service, and once the brand elements are in place, they can be printed in a manual (called the “brand guidelines”) with clear instructions that can be followed by a team of highly trained people who do the day-to-day tasks and, as demand grows, more and more people can be trained long after the founder is gone.
But this requires an organization to think like a farmer. You must think operationally. You need to read the weather, choose the right seeds, monitor the PH of the soil, fertilize, apply the right pesticide when needed and wait for the crop to bear fruit. Like I tell my 8-year-old son: “Patience is a superpower.”
Branding, like farming (in fact, the very word “brand” comes from the way farmers marked their livestock), is a science that has been optimized since man first climbed down from the trees and is continually being optimized to this day.
Here are the three rules of evolutionary branding.
1. Know your competition.
There are online tools like Ahrefs, Alexa and SpyFu that let you monitor your competitors’ traffic and see what ads they are running and what keywords they use. It’s important to remember that it’s not about who you think your competitors are, it’s about who your customers think your competitors are. So, while you are at it, call a few of your most loyal clients and ask who they looked at before choosing you.
2. Define what you do differently and better than your competition.
This is the hard part and the most critical part of branding. Once you know who your competitors are and what they do well and what they do poorly, articulate what it is that you do differently and, most importantly, what you do better. The reality is, often that answer is “nothing.” If that’s the case, you might want to see if there are opportunities uncovered by your research and evolve your business model.
3. As your budget allows and your organization grows, shout this out to the world to attract business.
Once you know what you do differently and better than your competition, the hard part is done. Start simple and simply say it on your website. If it’s short enough, make it the headline. Then, as revenue grows (and it will) take out some PPC ads, social ads, answer questions on Quora and promote posts and articles with Outbrain. The worst thing about the internet is also the best thing about the internet. Anything you post lasts forever!
Evolve your brand from a tribe into an empire by planting the seeds of your brand. Spread your brand culture through articles, events and partnerships that bring business to you. Then, like a farmer, nurture your audience and rake in the profits.
Read More at: www.forbes.com