1984. The whole world watches a group of faceless people with blank expressions march in an orderly line. They join their comrades taking a seat in front of an enormous screen. Everyone is dressed in blue overalls.
The atmosphere is bleak and colorless. Desperation and existential dread are floating in the air. Everyone’s looking at the huge talking head on the screen – the oppressive source of all this insanity. He is relentless in imposing his will on everyone else.
Everything seems lost when a glimmer of hope appears on the horizon. An athletic young woman – colorful, vibrant and full of life, is running towards the screen. Men in security uniforms and masks, no doubt agents of the regime, are running after her. They’re too slow. Too far behind the times.
With a few dramatic rotations, the woman hurls a jackhammer, destroying the screen and freeing people’s minds. “1984 will not be like 1984” , the message appears.
This is not a scene from a dystopian drama. It was the 1984 Apple Computers commercial that blew people’s minds and showed us how to sell an idea by communicating a brand vision.
One of the best ads ever made doesn’t show the product. There’s not a computer in sight. No mention of megahertz and features. Not even benefits of owning an Apple computer. And yet, nearly 40 years later, we’re still talking about it. That’s the power of communicating a brand vision.
The good news is you don’t need award-winning advertising to spread your brand vision. All you need is a little creativity.
Let’s see how you can share your vision so your customers fall in love with your brand.
Why brand vision matters.
Your brand vision encapsulates your brand’s core. It’s the change you want to be in the world. It’s a destination you want to reach with your business.
Your vision is your north star. When you’re in doubt or feel lost, it’s always there to guide you.
Brand vision matters because it rallies the troops. It unites your employees under one flag – the idea of the world they’re helping to create.
When Apple lost their way in the 90s, it wasn’t the return of Steve Jobs that turned things around. It was the return to his original vision for the company. That vision made people work harder and smarter than ever before and painted the way for what Apple is today.
Brand vision also unites your customers into a tribe. They’re no longer “people who buy a product”. They’re people who share values and a cause. People, who are building their identity one product at a time.
More and more, today’s consumers are concerned with “what does this product mean to me”. And they’re willing to pay premium for this added meaning. Brands that understand the idea and get on top of it will win, especially in these times of turmoil. Businesses that don’t are doomed.
Customers want to tell the world who they are and they use brands to do it. Communicating your vision is one way of helping them tell their story.
On a deeper level, we’re all telling a story through the products we use – even those who scoff at brands. In my early twenties, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a branded item. To me, that seemed to be a waste of money. However, I was still making a statement – “I’m not someone who believes in name brands”.
The story I was telling was one of “rebelling against the mainstream”. And since wearing “rebel brands” would still make me a part of a group – I avoided those, too. So the story became that of the “lone wolf”.
Huff and puff all you want, this is how we function in society. Everything we do tells the story of who we are. You can try to fight it or you can use it and communicate a powerful vision that resonates with your customers and employees.
How to communicate your brand vision so customers fall in love with your business.
Simply stating your brand vision isn’t enough to convince your customers your business is worth a damn. We’re constantly bombarded with all sorts of ads that want to assure us spending $10 on a silly-looking hat is going to somehow change our lives.
Naturally, we’ve grown a little weary of being “told” things. We like to be “shown” things, instead. Your company needs to embody your vision. Your brand needs to “live it“. If it doesn’t, consumers will see right through whatever bullshit you’re trying to sell them.
“Show, don’t tell” is easier said than done. There are several ways you can show your vision effectively.
Communicate your vision through your About page.
Your About page should be one of your best sellers. If someone is visiting your About page, it’s a given they’re interested in your business and they want to know more.
This is where most businesses drop the ball. Just because the page is called “About us”, doesn’t mean it’s about you. It’s still about the customer. And more precisely – what it says about the customer if they’re using your brand. The focus should be on what’s in it for them.
Once it’s clear how you benefit your customers, then you can share your story. But remember – your story should be intertwined with theirs. That’s the only way to create a connection and effectively communicate your vision.
If you want to see a great example for this done right, look no further than Zappos. Their About page tells you everything you need to know about the company vision, while still being mostly focused on the customer.
Zappos‘ values and everything they do as a company is to support that vision. They’re famous for their customer service and customer-centric approach to business.
Even when the board of directors wanted a shift towards maximizing profits, the then CEO Tony Hsieh refused to give in. Changing the model would stray from the company’s vision, which he knew would be the end of Zappos.
Today, Zappos remains a customer-centric company, even after they were acquired by Amazon. Their vision is one of the main reasons why they became a billion dollar company.
Communicate your vision through your blog.
Like your About page, your blog isn’t actually about you. Unless you’re a big company, no one cares what’s happening inside your business.
No one cares your founder had a chicken sandwich for lunch. Or your new policy about using the office printer exclusively for work (Bob).
Your blog should be a powerful content marketing tool. You should be helping your readers with their struggles. Whatever your brand vision is, your blog should be an active part of making that vision a reality.
Patagonia’s vision is an ambitious one – saving the environment. Their blog is an excellent reflection of that vision. They share stories about sustainability, environmental issues, recycling, and activism. But they balance those topics with climbing, fishing, and mountain biking.
Everything on their blog is in line with their vision. It’s what their audience is interested in. This is one of the things that makes Patagonia a successful company – they have an audience, not simply customers. People who buy from them support their vision. And Patagonia clearly communicate their vision through their blog.
Communicate your vision through your social media.
Some brands are killing it on social media. Most are getting killed.
The secret behind a successful social media branded account is having a distinct brand character. Which ultimately comes from a strong vision.
Communicating your brand vision through your social media is an excellent way to connect with your audience. You get the chance to show your customers what your brand would be like if it were a person.
No other brand does this better than Wendy’s. Wendy’s pride themselves on serving fresh food at a fair price, in a comfortable atmosphere. Their social media presence is a great reflection of that vision.
Their Twitter posts are fresh, casual, and friendly (for the most part). However, where Wendy’s truly wins is when they start roasting people and even other brands.
There’s something inherently human about joking around. It creates a feeling of unity and closes the distance between people. We joke with our friends all the time and Wendy’s has tapped into that energy.
With their wit and humor, Wendy’s have won the hearts (and bellies) of millions. They’re one of the few franchises that can afford to roast people online (and people are practically begging them for it).
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
You can also use video, PDFs, presentations, email, printed materials – every touchpoint you have with your customers.
You can reshape, repurpose, and use most of your content on other platforms. For example, your blog post can turn into a 5-email sequence over five days. Your YouTube video can be cut down into smaller pieces and shared across social media. Your tweet can spark a discussion that later turns into a blog post.
Sky is the limit. Once you have a clear vision, it should be easy to communicate it.
Break the screen.
Brand visions were powerful in the 80s and they’re even more powerful today. A strong vision is the reason why you get the urge to buy a computer because you saw a huge screen get smashed during a Super Bowl commercial.
You don’t need Apple’s unlimited resources to communicate your vision and get your audience to fall in love with your brand. All you need to do is be clear, be genuine, and put the customer at the center.
Share your vision. Give them something to connect with and they will fall in love with your brand. So go ahead and break the screen. That’s how you build a successful brand.
Till next time.
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Disclaimer: No actual screens were harmed during the writing of this article.