Have you got up to deliver your elevator pitch, and gone dry-mouthed?
Remember that time she asked you what you do, and you started explaining your process, and she went ‘oh, ok. that’s cool.’ Or what about that time an influencer at a trade show was streaming live to Facebook, and he swung you round to ask ‘What you said back there was cool. What do you do again?’
If you’re like me, then we rarely feel prepared.
And on top of that, our online footprint makes up all kinds of social pages. Do you scratch your head every time you set up a new profile, knowing what you want to say, but not how to put it into words? I know I do. Every time. So let’s nail this. How?
Brands have a lot to learn from superheroes.
Why? Because at their core, they’re the same concept. Every superhero has
- a unique skillset
- for solving a particular problem
- for a special niche of people (usually)
- because of a distinct reason.
And it all comes together as a clearly defined package, or identity, or brand.
Superheros are the opposite of general, or blah.
They’re the perfect examples of dramatic, brand positioning. The clearer and more distinct a hero’s abilities are, the more they stand out in readers’ minds.
And standing out is critical for coming back and reading more.
Sometimes heroes are deliberately crafted to excel in one area, but be weak in other areas. Embracing that duality creates the tension that makes for amazing stories, and often opens up the potential for collaboration. #avengers
Heroes who can do it all are boring.
Heroes with super-defined skillsets that play well with others are exciting.
A superhero – and a brand – that makes this conscious, is on the fast track towards remarkable.
So how can you position your brand like a superhero?
Let’s have fun unpacking this idea, and then break down a template that you can use to clarify your brand, the way a superhero would.
Just like you, I thrived on superheroes as a kid. For me, I grew up in Australia, a short bike ride across a creek and a eucalyptus grove to the local library. And there they had a superhero section, filled with Golden Age comics, and a smattering of the glossy, grittier, modern editions.
I can’t tell you how many times I pored over Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the Phantom. They painted huge swathes of humanity and heroism into my young mind. Being a creative kid, I created my own heroes, invented their backstories, and muddled around with their crazy costumes.
A decade later, I joined a company that handles marketing and websites for small businesses. To do our job well, we have to sit back with each client and have them walk us through their ‘brand narrative’, a set of questions that uncovers their niche audience, what they do, how they do it.
In the early days of comics, superheroes were like big brands; many of them had godlike powers, were practically invincible, and able to do everything.
Many of those heroes faded out, like the Specter. Some got lucky because they created enough obstructions that downplayed the extent of the powers – like Superman’s Kryptonite, and squaring him against supervillians instead of Nazis. Throughout the 1900’s, brands became comfortable operating the same way. They scaled up from small businesses into megalithic corporations, but success came from being the first, speaking the loudest, and having the most clout.
Introducing: The Internet
Then came the rise of the internet, and small businesses everywhere fractured the hegemony, disrupting the normal, challenging the need for massive budgets by bootstrapping success.
Big businesses are easy targets, in some ways, because they move slowly. They get set in their ways.
Small businesses can have an advantage:
The teams are smaller, they can iterate faster, scale the learning curve more quickly, and pivot into new opportunities.
Today, that’s the key to success.
A small business, whether an agency or a home service, should not try to do everything. It’s hard to remember a list of 20 possible services. It’s easy to remember 3 superpowers. It’s even easier to remember one. Small brands can play to the following attributes:
- Being aware of your strength
- Fighting for a customer’s need
- Having a clear vision
- Showcasing a distinct skillset.
So if your brand was a new superhero, what would you say?
I imagined getting up at a business meeting to deliver my elevator pitch. I need a two-sentence summary of who I was, what I did, and why I did it. Here’s a stab at summarizing a couple of heroes:
- I’m Batman, and I fight crime in Gotham with detection and gadgets, because everyone, every child, should be free of fear.
- I’m Superman, and I protect Earth with superpowers drawn from the sun because I love this world.
- I’m Spiderman, and I defend the ‘burbs of New York with spider webs and abilities because I can, it’s cool, and I love my town.
They might be off a little, but it’s a shot. But you see how they all function in a similar way?
What if you could distill your brand into the same simple structure?
It’s all about being remarkable to a particular group, and having a clear ‘because’. Can you see how you could do this?
Here’s why branding should work the same way.
Simon Synek is one of my favorite marketing gurus, and one the methods he’s pioneered is ‘discovering your why’. Jump to the 0:32 minute mark, and tell me that doesn’t sound like a superhero origin story.
Every organization always functions on the same three levels. What we do, how we do it, and why we do it.
For most businesses, finding the ‘why’ is the missing piece.
The same is true about every superhero, and every brand. In fact, if you don’t clearly understand those three pieces about them, you likely won’t remember them. And if you don’t know who they’re doing it for, then you won’t really care. Superman saves the world. Batman saves Gotham. Daredevil saves a neighborhood.
So here’s the template for branding yourself like a superhero:
I’m [name], and I do [this] for [this audience] because [reason]. Here’s the company I work for, if it was a superhero:
- I’m Enable, and I power small businesses who don’t have a strategy for their marketing, who know they need to be using digital tools but don’t have the time or training, because everyone should have a chance to win their audience and their market.
- I’m Dominic, and I help startups and small businesses who struggle to communicate clearly with their marketing, because stories are sticky, we’ve forgotten how powerful they can be, and yours should be told.
Might not be 100%, but it’s a starting point.
Let’s break it down a little:
What do you do:
Do get clear, don’t get deep and technical. Avoid business jargon. What would you tell your daughter’s 5th grade show and tell? Does it make you sound dramatic?
Who do you do it for:
Be clear about your audience. Try to narrow it down. Like throwing a pebble in a pond, the ripples have to start from somewhere. Being known for helping a particular group is easier to remember than being too broad.
Why do you do it:
And here’s the kicker. This is your reason for doing it, what you believe about the world. No need to invent a new belief or reason, there are plenty going around that you can ‘piggyback’ on. Defining your ‘why’ will help you resonate with others who believe like you. They will likely be the kinds of people you want to work with anyway.
Now once you’ve done that, imagine what you could do with it?
- You could lead your LinkedIn profile with it.
- It could go on your business cards, and brochures.
- The header of your website.
- It’s how you introduce yourself at a business presentation, or a meet and greet.
- You can put it in the description box of your Facebook fan page, your Google+ page, and other social accounts.
- Put it at the end of your email campaigns.
- Use it at the end of each blog post.
It’s simple enough to be memorable.
And among the billions of brands today, being memorable is a superpower.
In fact, memorize it. Have your whole team memorize it. Donald Miller from StoryBrand carries a wad of dollars around during the day. At random, he asks an office worker what the brand vision of the company is, the ‘superhero pitch’. If they get it, he peels of a bill as a reward. Is your team on the same page?
Have a stab at writing your superhero pitch.
Share yours in the comments! Does it work for you? Where do you run into trouble?
Dominic is Enable’s design and brand specialist. He thoroughly enjoys helping businesses find meaning in their brands and define their distinction. Coffee, cooking and binge-researching are his hobbies. When not building websites, he is delving into projects to find the boundaries of his imagination. He hasn’t found them yet.