One of the grim realities of Google is that it is much easier to gain traction in a narrow niche than to survive as a generalist. If a generalist is doing well, it is usually because his business is local.
For example, my old website was Miamiwriter.com. This was an amazing domain for obvious SEO reasons. When I moved, it was awkward to explain, "Yeah, my website is a big fat lie and really I live in Edgewater." So I had to undertake the painful ordeal of rebranding myself.
My brand has gone through numerous iterations. I have a ton of great work for the travel industry and it was tough to toss that out. But I realized I had to choose one niche, not two, to make my SEO work.
So why did I choose to brand myself as a freelance writer for food and beverage brands?
I'm not a foodie or even a particularly good cook. I love writing for food brands because I love the passion that drives most food makers. In their own ways, they are a lot like myself. They have to balance their vision against a thousand and one challenges. It is extraordinarily difficult to create a product that tastes good, that can be manufactured efficiently and that can be distributed without going bad on the shelf.
Food makers are pragmatic creators. I am too. I am governed by the interests and characteristics of my food clients. I work within the parameters of their brand personalities.
You can't get more evocative than food. Remember Marcel Proust writing about the childhood memories that overcame him as he dipped a madeleine cookie in tea? It's not just one of the great passages in classic literature. It is a blueprint for how food is mapped in our brains to the broader realm of emotions and experience.
When you sell a cookie, perhaps a Damo butter cookie, with space for just a few words on the packaging, what wells are you going to dip into? Are you going to ground your cookie history in the established legacy of the Europe, where the plain butter biscuit first appeared in France in 1886? Or will you focus on quality ingredients like real butter? Or perhaps the crisp scalloped edges, based on the Leibniz Butterkeks? Or would you, like Damo USA, choose to market your cookies as a guilt-free pleasure?
The greatest frustration I face as a brand storyteller is that new or smaller brands suffer from FOMO. They want to cover absolutely everything within their brand story, so they don't miss out on potential customers. This means they wind up with internally inconsistent ideas that weaken the salience of the brand.
Damo makes butter cookies. It positions itself as "a healthier snack" with real butter, no corn syrup, no artificial colors, and just 30 calories per cookie.
I'm coming down hard on Damo because they have a great story to tell, but they aren't telling it.
(Disclosure: I worked on the packaging, but Damo used their own copy... maybe I really am just a petty asshole.)
I read an interesting article about restaurants yesterday. It said the most profitable and popular menu items are usually the least complicated.
Food is ultimately about comfort for most people. There is always an element of satisfaction that goes beyond stuffing our puffy American bellies. When we eat out or buy a premium product, we want to do more than appease physical hunger. We want to satisfy primal cravings for emotional and spiritual nourishment. It goes back to mom and the simple love we craved as infants.
Brand stories need to limit their ingredients too. Simplicity rules because it is easier to process cognitively and can resonate at a deeper emotional level. Strong brand stories often have little to do with product features and everything to do with emotion.
Clean ideas with a few salient (meaningful) points stand out. Kim Kardashian, whatever you think of her, has built an incredibly profitable personal brand based on big tits + big ass in nice clothes and sunglasses. It's pretty much the same thing over and over and people like it because they get it, they don't have to think about it, and they are amused by it.
Brands need the same kind of clarity. A few key ideas that really sum up the attributes that make you special and desirable – expressed in a way that is meaningful to your audience. And remember, people aren't really logical in their choices.
DOVE® Chocolate understands this and appeals directly to emotion in its advertising. There is nothing healthful about it; instead, it a small indulgence that every woman deserves to make herself feel better.
Curious...which of these packages do you feel communicates delicious butter taste? Or do you have another example?