It’s not complicated.
It’s not even technical. In fact, forget about technology altogether. Technology is a costly and resource-dependent distraction that keeps your brand from truly connecting and making a difference.
The latest operating system, the latest tech stack, the latest slip of code? Neither here nor there when it comes to communications.
Technology moving at the speed of light is very alluring, very intoxicating. It’s bright and shiny and new. But it’s just a delivery system. A medium that often distracts the message.
Technology comes and goes. The latest is not the greatest. It’s just the latest. It’s constantly changing. Trying to keep up is a fool’s game.
Focus on the humanity instead. Focus on the human fundamentals that never change. Specifically the 150 million-year-old limbic system that governs our physical and emotional drives, our motivations, memories and decision making.
When an external stimulus is received, electrochemical signals get sent to the central nervous system. This stimulus is a swirl from our senses that combines sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and then cross-references information already stored in our brains to determine the appropriate behavioral response.
Over time this associative memory is what creates a brand. Your brand is nothing but a network of memories and associations.
Like every network, simple beats complex every time. Human brains are always looking to conserve energy by taking shortcuts.
Psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman split mental processing that governs all human behavior and decision-making into two systems.
System One is quick, intuitive, automatic, effortless and governs the vast majority of our decisions and behavior. It’s the most powerful and deterministic system but we don’t give it credence because we don’t think about it (which is the entire point).
System Two is slower, more deliberative, more effortful and responsible for only a tiny fraction of our behavior. It’s the system that uses the most energy and foreground thinking so we think it’s the most important. It’s not.
A brand works as a shortcut to people’s functional and emotional goals. You want your brand to have pride of place in System One thinking where decisions are automatically made.
To do this you need to deliver consistently distinctive stimuli that can earn people’s attention, build brand memories and create an expectation that a brand will meet its goals.
Forget how technology works. Start thinking about how the brain works.
Your brand’s growth is driven by acquiring new buyers.
To communicate successfully your focus needs to be on reaching people who don’t know your brand. You need to put your brand into the minds of as many people as possible.
Regardless of how technology changes, your ability to target people beyond your existing audience is the only way to grow your brand.
Advertising broadly on television, radio and outdoor is the easiest and most cost-effective way to reach hundreds of thousands of people.
You’re going to need to earn people’s attention.
You don’t do this by hustling or selling. You do this by rewarding people’s attention with delight, whimsy, something odd and unexpected.
You need to cut through all the crap and clutter. People are now slammed with 11,000 messages a day. Of which they can at best remember three.
All your typical communications are never noticed let alone acted on.
Creativity is the strongest driver of sales and profitability, over and above media or targeting.
Creativity is not Canva or Photoshop or Figma. Creativity is not the design platform or software or pencil or keyboard. Creativity is not the tools.
Creativity is not a drop shadow or a colored filter or a cunning pun. Creativity is not the effect.
Creativity is the quality of the idea that will capture and hold people’s attention. And sway their perceptions.
Great ideas are non-obvious, non-trivial, non-common. They spark a new memory in the brain, a new connection in the mind that strengthens and reinforces your brand.
When multiple and similar communications are presented, the one that differs most is more likely to stand out and be remembered. (Quick test: Imagine nine squares in front of you, replace one of the squares with a butterfly, ask yourself what stands out the most?)
Non-obvious ideas arrest attention and cut through.
The core task for all your brand communications is to build and refresh memory structures that improve the chance of your brand being recalled first in decision-making and buying situations.
Why? Because this is the only way to increase the chance of your brand being bought. Forget market share, ignore media share. Concentrate on mind share.
Whichever brand has the greatest instantaneous share of people’s minds whenever they’re looking to buy within a category wins. It’s not that complicated. (Being indistinctive guarantees your brand is forgotten.)
Distinctive brand assets help create the memory structures that are the frame of reference in the brain that help brands come to mind first and get chosen.
Having a strong set of distinctive brand assets results in your brand being true to itself and easily recalled.
To strengthen and reinforce brand memories, your communications need to be consistently distinctive.
Consistency is one of the most commonly ignored principles of great communication. Avoid the temptation to change everything at the drop of a hat. If you meet a social media guru on the road, kill them.
Consistency is far more profitable than inconsistency. Build on brand recognition.
How many times has Coca-Cola changed their distinctive script logo since 1892? Exactly never! Chanel since 1925? Nike since 1971? Apple since 1977? Never! Never! Never!
Consistency builds trust.
Communications that evoke strong emotional responses work better for your brand.
Emotional communications gain better longer-lasting attention, deeper processing across different parts of the brain, better memory-encoding and retrieval.
When people talk about emotion in communications they think stock photos or stock footage of model families inanely smiling about lord knows what.
There’s more to emotions than pictures, tone and mood. Start with emotive and evocative writing. Emote with your headlines. Make people laugh and cry.
Generate strong emotional and behavioral reactions.
There’s more to motivation than a call to action.
Look for what your brand helps people achieve. (Hint: It’s not the call to action button. That’s just the technology. That’s just the medium, not the message.)
Look for the implicit goal that’s motivating people and show how your brand helps them achieve that goal.
Show how your brand helps them transform to attain that goal.