As the year comes to a close, it’s an opportune time to think hard about your dream of or current journey toward building a thriving business. This is the time to map out and pledge a number of realistic goals and actionable resolutions that you can trust will push your business idea into reality.
Building a successful brand, however, is no simple task. In fact, the numbers say that the odds are quite heavily stacked against anyone with the itch to establish and grow a business. According to Tom Patterson, named 2017’s Entrepreneur of the Year thanks to his thriving men’s clothing company Tommy John, “there will always be a million reasons not to get started.”
His advice in a nutshell? Ignore them. “It’s important to take that first step forward and just do it.”
Of course, that’s much easier said than done given the saturation of nearly every industry. Once you’ve made sure to establish your guiding vision, it’s critical figure out your own unique business formula for “standing out in a crowd.” The challenge for Patterson in 2008 when he founded Tommy John was taking on a category equivalent to $8 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Taking a closer look at the company’s own path to profitability, we can quickly discern that their branding is one of their strongest assets, especially when it comes to building something that’s unique and sticky. Below are 4 tips we can learn from Patterson’s success for building a disruptive brand to propel your business forward.
Vocalize Your Edge
Patterson explains that all of Tommy John’s products are designed specifically to solve problems. For example, their innovative underwear is made to address common complaints like wedgies, waistbands that roll and leave marks, and not being able to take a whizz as quickly and easily as should be possible.
This strategy is known as “premiumization,” which according to Bloomberg has “swept through many once-mundane categories.” And you don’t really get more mundane than men’s underwear. “Premiumization is all about resetting expectations with additional choices and benefits,” reports Bloomberg. “Starbucks Corp. became a behemoth by introducing a slew of new tastes and styles to America’s coffee drinkers, whose choices had stopped at sugar, milk, or cream.” And Tommy John has similarly revolutionized men’s underwear with more options for better solutions.
The key, however, is leveraging your selling point directly in your branding so that your competitive edge becomes synonymous with your brand name. Bake it into taglines and make it top-of-mind so consumers don’t have to do too much reading or digging to figure out what it is you really stand for.
Speak Your Customer’s Language
Branding is really just a vehicle for communication, so you need to figure out what your customers want to listen to. What stories do they want to hear? How do they want them told? Answering these questions will help you begin to shape your brand voice.
“It’s incredibly important to have a unique brand voice,” says Patterson. “Men’s underwear is a very crowded space with both heritage and up-and-coming brands. That said, we believe the other brands in the category have a tendency to come off as unapproachable and non-relatable.” The best way to approach guys about the struggles they have with their underwear? Say it like it is.
“We strive to be as authentic and relatable as possible [and use]humor and relatability to tell our story,” says Patterson. Tommy John’s first commercial, for example, wittily titled “The Big Adjustment,” ended up going viral within the first few days of being live, thanks to its humorous, fun, and genuine approach to an issue every guy can relate to, and that everyone has witnessed.
Harness The Power of Influencers
Patterson also admits that his big break didn’t really come until 2009, when he was able to convince the woman behind Neiman Marcus’ underwear lines to get her husband and other male colleagues to test his product. Things took off from there.
What Patterson didn’t realize at the time, however, was that this was what we now call influencer marketing in action. And when we say influencers, we don’t mean celebrities — we mean real people with real online followings who trust their opinions. These are people who can become true brand advocates, because what good is a brand without consumers who believe in it enough to tell others about it?
According to Forbes, influencer marketing will continue to increase in popularity in 2018, and “brands are devoting an increasing percentage of their marketing budgets to it.” Why? The effectiveness of traditional forms of marketing are on the decline. On the flipside, Medium reports that 70% of millennial consumers are influenced by the recommendations of their peers in buying decisions, and 60% of consumers have been influenced by a social media post or blog review while shopping. A sound influencer marketing strategy will also help inform critical decisions in other important areas, including content development, social media, website design, and SEO.
Do What You Say
Perhaps the most important step you can take towards the success of both your branding and your business is to actually do what you say. The steps above, especially influencer marketing, will amount to nothing if your product or service doesn’t deliver. Patterson states, “consumers desire credibility from brands. They want the product [or service]to live up to the claims.” Your branding is what you use to define your business, but it’s all for nought if it doesn’t accurately represent the experience your customers have.
No matter what goals or resolutions you set for yourself, stay true to the vision you have for your brand. There will be many reasons and challenges that will attempt to sway you, so stay committed and resilient.