The 4Cs of the Modern Brand

The Growth Report - #11

Today's topics include

📈 Growth Marketing:
The 4Cs of the Modern Brand

🧠 Personal Growth:
Reality Has a Surprising Amount of Detail

⛑️ Reflections from the trenches:
When to focus on quantity over quality


📈 Growth Marketing

The 4Cs of the Modern Brand

No matter if you are selling to businesses or directly to consumers, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your branding.

For many marketers, this is a painful topic since it's hard to measure and the results mostly become visible only in the mid- to long-term. But especially in the past couple of weeks, it became obvious which companies have taken the time to invest in their brands and built a loyal community of customers around them.

Branding is a competitive advantage and it's at least worth exploring how you can strengthen yours. I always look at the brand of a company like a person. Is this somebody I would like to meet or hang out with? And if you don't specify what you stand for and what your opinion is, this makes it very hard for your customers to get to know and trust you.

While certain societal and macroeconomic trends have been well underway for years, the current crisis has accelerated their importance substantially.

Ana Andjelic, one of Forbes' upcoming CMOs and PhD in Sociology, beautifully summarizes it this way:

Radical individualism is out, social connection is in. Brand focus is not on the end customer, but on the communities, they belong to. Just as personas made individual consumers visible, the new brand methodology makes visible consumer communities and their co-dependencies and influences. The new focus of engagement plans is not just on the brand actions, but on their secondary effects. The pre-pandemic consumer-centric brand strategy is now a society-centric strategy.

Against this new backdrop, there are 4Cs that emerged for the modern brand:

  1. Community

  2. Content

  3. Curation

  4. Collaboration

Let's quickly dive into each of those:

Community

Just like what content went through ten years ago, communities are rapidly moving from a "nice to have" to a "must-have". It doesn't matter what category your brand is in. If you want to build one yourself, you have to find a way to put forward your social mission and values, which are the glue for any community to form.

Ana goes on:

The key here is for brands to stop thinking about their community just as top-of-the-funnel tactic, and consider it as a long-term, bottom-of-the-funnel strategy (bonding, advocacy, loyalty). Next step is to define and focus on the most valuable customer communities. Community management overall has to be more personal. For example, high-standard of customer service in physical retail stores can translate in the equally high standard customer service via WhatsApp, Zoom, and chat.

Content

For most companies content has become a major part of their marketing and branding strategy already, but there are some changes underway in terms of formats and channels.

Across categories, brands have been pivoting to live stream en masse. Spurred by Instagram Live, every brand these days is in the business of enriching our lives - through recipes, daily meditations, virtual exercises, design hacks to fix our living quarters, life coaching, movie lists, poetry reading, puppy photos, and DIY crafts.

While situational, these calls to action open up agile content opportunities post-crisis. There’s also a welcome content shift towards live programming and away from polished campaign imagery.

Ana weighs in once again:

Brands will hopefully embrace this lo-fi approach, and put forward scrappy, live, and real content focused on communal watching and socializing. Community-oriented content tends to do better at the moment (versus the polished influencer one), as the currently predominant memes and aesthetic language demonstrate.

While it may feel overwhelming at times, this lifestyle content pivot is a good thing: it moves the brands away from product marketing and forces them to explore, define, and capitalize on their cultural and social role.

Curation

In an endless sea of blog posts, product announcements and daily news, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate what's relevant and worthy of our time and what's not. So your brand, and your company can act as the filter or curator of all things noteworthy for your customers.

It doesn't all need to be your own content, curate the articles, opinion pieces, products, newsletters and books that fit your brand and you know your customers are going to enjoy.

You can certainly also dig in your product or content archives and resurface old but contextually relevant pieces of content that way. Or if you have an existing community, do a roundup of stuff that they are sharing. It's likely that other members are going to find value there as well.

Think of yourself as the curator, just like that one friend who sends you timely and relevant links, because she knows you well. Be that friend.

Collaborations

Of course, partnerships have been part of companies' marketing playbooks for decades. But especially in these times, show that you are part of an ecosystem. Partner with companies that reflect your values and have relevance for your audience as well. Collaborate on webinars, new product development, and charitable causes.

Not only are you going to profit from getting introduced to each other's customers, but you also show that you are not a lone wolf fighting only for yourself. Just like in real life, go out and make friends and find ways of working together.

The network effect and positive externalities on your brand will be invaluable over time. Especially if you collaborate consistently, you are going to be seen as the opinion leader and influencer in your niche who brings people and companies together.

Conclusion

Ana closes her 4Cs of Modern Brands rant with the following words:

This crisis is not a short-term acute emergency. It is a call to action for companies to pivot and hit a hard reset on the way they do business. The jobs to be done for a brand, going forward, are communal and social, and the business success is defined through how much a company supports other companies, how much it improves the lives of their customers, how much good it does to its community, and what kind of society it reflects. Coronavirus won’t kill brands. Complacency will.

And again, you can apply community, content, curation and collaborations to your brand no matter the product category. For B2B companies it might not be as obvious, but the same principles apply.

And if you are still not convinced, one thing is for sure: If your competitor does a good job on the above and you don't, you lose in the long-run. Big time. And vice versa.

Check out the full article


🧠 Personal Growth

Reality Has a Surprising Amount of Detail

This article is inspired by a recent article in Taylor Pearson's newsletter

A little exercise for you:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do you understand how a can opener works? Got a number? Good.

Now, take out a piece of paper and try to draw a diagram of a can opener. If you can’t draw well, write out an explanation, piece by piece. Seriously, take out a piece of paper and do it. (Doing it in your head doesn't count, as we will see...)

A can opener is not that complicated and you’ve probably used one hundreds, if not thousands, of times in your life.

And if you are thinking "of course I know how a can opener works" then, seriously, try to draw the diagram or write out an explanation.

After you’ve done it, re-rate your understanding on a scale of 1-10.

Spoiler alert: I and lots of other people have tried it and the initial overconfidence quickly makes way for the humble realization that our detailed understanding of everyday items is far less developed as we might think.

In a 2002 study by Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil, they observed:

"Most people feel they understand the world with far greater detail, coherence, and depth than they really do. … [They] wrongly attribute far too much fidelity and detail to their mental representations because the sparse renderings do have some efficacy and do provide a rush of insight."

This phenomenon doesn’t only apply to kitchen appliances, but basically everything everywhere.

At the population level, saying "reality has a surprising amount of detail" implies that no one understands how anything works but everyone thinks they understand how everything works.

Taylor Pearson found that the political arena is especially prone to this:

After subjects tried to explain how proposed political programs they supported would actually work, their confidence in them dropped. Subjects realized that their explanations were not very good and that they didn’t really understand the programs. This decreased their certainty that they would work. The subjects then expressed more moderate opinions and became less willing to make political donations in support of the programs.

Over the past couple of weeks we could observe this phenomenon first hand. "The Experts" outside of the scientific community (including the media) believe they are capable of predicting the effects of how specific policy decisions influence the (world) economy and society at large. Only caveat: The macro economy is 10000x more complex than a can opener and yet this same illusion of understanding persists.

So while we are all entitled to voicing our own opinion, I think it's useful to keep in mind that the actual reality of anything in our world has a surprising amount of detail when you break the systems down into its individual components. And we need to be especially careful if we are outside of our personal circle of competence (i.e. when we don't know what we don't know), to not draw (and publish) oversimplified conclusions based on superficial knowledge of the problem at hand.


⛑️ Reflections from the trenches

In this section, I share my weekly thoughts and reflections that come up during our journey of building our company GrowthBay.

When to focus on quantity over quality

Beginning of March I was on a content-creation frenzy for a couple of weeks. I wrote this weekly newsletter, I recorded six podcast episodes within three weeks, I created a crisis hub for Swiss startups, I posted daily on LinkedIn and wrote the first draft for an eBook. And boy it was fun and created a lot of energy and momentum.

But then all of a sudden a flurry of doubt hit me: "Where am I going with this?", "What's the purpose?", "Is my content good enough?", "Am I actually delivering value?", "Is anybody even reading/viewing/listening to this?".

So I stopped making new content altogether and started pondering these questions. For weeks. What followed were positioning exercises, tool research, keyword research, KPI dashboards, and content calendars. Content output? Zero.

No doubt, it's useful to have an approximate initial direction of where you're going and who your audience is. But based on my reflections above, trying to draw a detailed map of a place you've never been to, is not only useless, but also leads to decision-paralysis and kills any momentum at the root.

Or how a AJ put it on his Twitter account:

So what's the alternative?

Luckily, I stumbled over the parable of the pottery class, which goes as follows:

There was once a pottery teacher called Brian. One month, he decided to split his class into two groups. Group A had to make a pot every day for 30 days (so 30 pots in total). Group B had to work on a single pot for the whole 30 days. At the end of the month, Brian judged the quality of the pots. Without exception, every one of the top 10 pots came from Group A, the guys that made one pot per day. None came from the group that focused on perfecting their single pot.

In his article, Ali Abdaal says: "My advice is to always focus on quantity over quality, at least for when you are starting out with something new...". Want to get better at photography? Take 10,000 photos. Learning how to cook? Try 100 recipes. Video editing? Make 100 videos. At the end of that (and with a few YouTube tutorials sprinkled in for good measure), it’s hard to not be significantly better.

Or in the words of Russell Brunson's from Expert Secrets:

"Publishing daily is important because you will quickly see what topics and ideas people respond to and to which they don’t. Soon you’ll become better and better at creating and posting the things that people care about most. As you do that, your audience will grow, you will become more confident, and your message will become clear. Over time, that consistency will give you absolute certainty, and you will become your message."

Aiming for quantity has another benefit - it stops the fear of “what if this isn’t good enough?” from paralyzing us. We accept that as beginners, we’re going to suck and that’s okay.

So long story short: I get off my perfectionist stride and back to creating content.


That's it for this week.

Keep quarantining 🏡

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See you next week,

Sandro