Chapter 3

In the Beginning, No One Cares About Your Brand

People don't care about brands at the beginning

In Chapter 2, we talked about how there’s no such thing as an overnight success. Sometimes it seems like a business achieved greatness overnight, but that’s just an illusion. This isn’t to say explosive growth isn’t possible. Just unlikely.

Why?

Because nobody cares about your brand–yet.

Sorry, but it’s true.

In the beginning, the only person who cares about your brand is you.

Your mom says she cares, but she doesn’t really care about the brand.

She cares about your happiness and success. She’d be content if happiness for you meant a lifetime of quiet evenings watching Netflix.

The same goes for your spouse or partner. They like that the brand makes you happy or gives you freedom or provides financial security for your family, but there are other, “more secure” ways to get those benefits.

The only person who cares about the actual brand is you.

You can see this for yourself with a quick test:

After opening your ecommerce store, create a Facebook page. (You’ll probably create a couple other social media profiles as well, but every business needs a Facebook page.)

Once you’ve loaded your page with a profile photo, a cover photo, and a few posts, invite your Facebook friends to like it using the “Invite your friends to like this page” link. Facebook will send a message to your friends recommending the page.

how to create a facebook page

Next, create a standard post (bonus points if you include an image, such as your cover photo) from your personal account, telling your friends you’ve started a new venture and you’d like their social media support.

But don’t be discouraged by the small number of people who will like your Facebook page (even people who once told you, “I would definitely buy from you!”).

It’s not because they don’t support you.

It’s because people don’t care about brands nearly as much as business owners want them to.

Brands = Means to an End

In 2017, Havas Group published their Meaningful Brands study.

They discovered that most people wouldn’t care if 74% of the brands they use every day simply vanished. The same respondents claim only 27% of the brands they use daily improve their lives and wellbeing.

why meaningfullness matters

These statistics aren’t talking about the brands you interact with once in your life or even once a year. They’re referring to brands you buy from every day.

So why are people so indifferent to the businesses they interact with daily? According to marketing consultant Jeff Slater, we don’t build meaningful connections with most brands because we see them as tools; a means to an end.

There is a common misperception by the marketing community that assumes that a consumer cares about a brand. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consumers care about satisfying needs and solving problems. Brands are purely emblematic, vehicles or tools towards something bigger. Consumers love the experience they have through a brand – but it isn’t the brand itself that matters. More often than not, it is about being part of community.

Jeff makes a great point at the end that we can’t ignore.

Brands become meaningful to us when they’re encased in a community of other enthusiasts.

We can see that in the Havas Group study too.

When asked to name the most meaningful brands, respondents indicated some of the largest business in the world, each with avid communities of fans and evangelists, like Google, Samsung, Wikipedia, Disney, and BMW.

So if people don’t see brands as having any intrinsic value, but only care about what they can get, they certainly won’t care about yours until you provide value first (or at least, clearly demonstrate what they’ll get after the purchase).

Admittedly, this is tough to overcome.

On top of that, the products we use cement themselves in our brain as better simply because we use them.

That said, read this excellent article on how to build your brand awareness from scratch.

Humans are Creatures of Habit

Entrepreneur gurus will tell you that if you want people to buy your products, you have to provide more value than your competitors. At face value, this seems reasonable.

If you make a better product, people will buy it, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not nearly that simple.

You see, humans don’t make entirely logical decisions. We might deliberately compare the qualities of big purchases or products in a category we’ve never purchased before, but our brains don’t make conscious choices as much as we’d like to think they do.

In fact, our brains love automaticity–the ability to respond automatically to stimuli as the result of a pattern or habit–more than making deliberate, conscious decisions.  

Whenever the brain is missing information, it fills the gap with whatever seems reasonable based on our experiences. This seems dangerous, but it’s not. We do it consciously every day. For instance, if you don’t like the smell and taste of lemon, you probably won’t buy a lemon-scented floor cleaner, even if you don’t know exactly what the product smells like.

Moreover, what our brains use to fill these information gaps isn’t as important as how quickly and how easily our brain can complete the process. Called processing fluency, this explains why some decisions come quickly from our gut, or why some things “just feel right.”

Processing fluency develops through repeated experiences. Do the same thing enough times, and your brain will recognize it as important. Objects, locations, people, and even products can become so ingrained in our minds that alternatives make us feel uncomfortable.

This is all a fancy way of saying people like the things they like.

If they grow up wearing Levi jeans, chances are they’ll continue to purchase Levi jeans, even if other brands are superior or more accessible.

Our preference for automaticity is a part of social proof too.

Before we buy a product, we like to know that others have purchased it, as well as their experience with it. This simplifies our decision-making process. “Well, that guy liked it,” we think to ourselves. “Someone thinks it’s good.”

Think of it like a sliding scale.

Every time you purchase a product, it becomes more likely you’ll repurchase that product in the future, widening the gap between competing products.

This isn’t to say consumers never make conscious choices.

We aren’t robots who only make programmed decisions. Sometimes, there’s a compelling reason (like a new technology or feature, a new price point, or a change in social dynamics) to try something new, one that overrides our habits. But make no mistake: The deck is stacked in favor of familiar products.

Which means no one cares about your brand, especially in the beginning.

You aren’t just working to convince people your brand has value. You’re fighting a pattern in their brain that resists new things.

How to Make People Care About Your Brand

Fortunately, you can exploit the psychological phenomenon of automaticity to grow your brand.

Flipkart, a massive Indian retailer, recognized that stores like their own, which bring together millions of products, struggle to build customer loyalty. Shoppers don’t mind checking Amazon or another one of the countless shopping hubs for a better deal.

So to keep business coming back, they built an interesting, habit-forming shopping experience.

Initially, Flipkart recommended additional purchases to customers. But these recommendations were based on past purchases. Someone who bought a juicer would be offered an electric kettle because both items fell under the “Small kitchen appliances” category.

But there’s little intent here.

Just because someone drinks juice doesn’t mean they drink tea.

Today, Flipkart recommends products built around themes that relate to the user. If the website/app tags you as someone who likes outdoor sporting, it regularly offers you sporting equipment, even if today’s purchase isn’t related.

As shoppers interact with Flipkart, the store learns their preferences and only shows them what they’re most likely to buy.

This approach has increased sales, which has boosted loyalty, as customers built a habit of purchasing Flipkart products over time.

Read more about keyword intent in this excellent article by Alexa.

 

Flipkart’s solution is probably a bit tech-heavy for you, but you can still make people care about your brand by designing habit-forming experiences.

After repeated interactions, and with a little help from the “mere-exposure effect,” you’ll eventually narrow the gap between your brand and competing brands.

The web is an incredible business tool, because you can interact with your customers from anywhere around the world, at any time. As an entrepreneur, you can focus on relationship-building with your prospects and customers, instead of packing orders and standing in line at the shipping counter.

What types of interactions should you encourage?

Here are a few habit-forming ways you can drive people to interact with your brand:

  • Get them to view, like, comment, and share your social media posts.
  • Get them to open your emails and click on your links.
  • Show them targeted and retargeted ads (even if they don’t click).
  • Convince them to make a small purchase (a “tripwire”) before you ask for the big sale.
  • Get them to make as many additional purchases as possible in a short period of time.
  • Build a support forum or community of some kind and offer free help.
  • Partner with a non-competing business or charity.

If you have a specific idea about building habits that make people care about your brand, check out the Shopify App Store for an app that fits your needs.

Next Chapter