Over 40% of the world is online.
Consider that. If you’re running an ecommerce store, your pool of potential customers accounts for almost half of the population of the planet. Stand them on a scale and you’d have a 126.4 million tonne paperweight. Stand them on each others heads, and you’d be 60% of the way to the moon.
Unfortunately, you and I aren’t the first ones to figure this out. Today, it’s estimated there are around 650,000 online businesses (and that only accounts for the ones actually making more than $1,000 in sales a year). You’ve got competition. A lot of it. But don’t let that sway you.
All you need to do is stand out. Branding is everything.
If you want your business to truly break away from the pack, you need to frame your wares as a lifestyle to live – not just an item to own
Whether you’re selling socks or bullion, you need your customers to feel part of a collective. Not only does this help you attract business – but it keeps your customers coming back. And as we all know, repeat business is the key to online success.
To prove my point, I want to take a look at three awesome example of brands who have done the impossible – they’ve taken the anodyne and given it life. They’ve redefined standard additions to the pantry, bathroom cupboard, or office drawer, into aspirational forces to be reckoned with.
If you’re having trouble branding your ecommerce business, here’s the inspiration you need.
BeardBrand are an incredible example of what you can do with the right mix of branding, digital marketing, and creativity.
Let’s not beat around the bush here. They sell soap, scissors, and beard oil. It’s hardly an innovative product. In fact, one might argue it’s the opposite of ‘innovation’. They sell early twentieth century grooming supplies on the internet. It’s an anachronism.
What is VERY innovative, however, is BeardBrand’s marketing strategy. It’s not just their awesome email automations, or their incredible video tutorials – it’s the very essence of their brand itself. Just take a read of this (I’ve added the bolding for emphasis):
“… We also focus on providing a wide variety of tools that men need to invest in themselves. Those tools include education, inspiration, and an incredible community. When a man invests in himself, he then has the power to invest in his family, his friends, his career, and his community. Amazingly, self investment can start with a simple grooming routine and ultimately lead to a better world…”
That’s BeardBrand’s self-described mission statement. Tell me that didn’t make you want to roll up some flannel sleeves, grow a beard, and build a log cabin. And wouldn’t you know it – the company is surging in popularity.
To BeardBrand, grooming has become a lifestyle. You’re part of a community of people who resolutely refuse to shave in hopes of changing the world. You don’t have a beard – you’re growing a statement. You don’t buy soap – you invest in ‘Tree Ranger Utility Bars’.
If you’re not convinced BeardBrand have some of the most well-marketed products on the internet, I strongly recommend you take their online quiz to find out what sort of a beardsman you are (ladies, you too can partake, no-one will find out).
Now that we are all carrying smartphones around with us everywhere we go, a notebook and pen is no longer part of your average person’s ‘everyday carry’.
But that hasn’t stopped Field Notes. Like BeardBrand, they’re harkening back to an older time with very, very modern tactics.
Field Notes’ online marketing truly encapsulates what it means to go ‘off-grid’. It takes their customers and fans on a journey into the unknown. With limited editions, a rustic origin story, beautifully consistent copy and a bold ‘FIELD NOTES’ title across every print – this is a company that knows how to brand their product. So how exactly do they go about it? How do they make blank notebooks icons of exploration and adventure?
Field Notes have melded vintage, intrepid and poetic vibes together to create a brand that their customers feel defines their very essence. Their motto? “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.” This is an experience company. So much so, the very act of writing in your notebook is, supposedly, an experience in itself.
These are not marketed as notebooks to jot down shopping lists in. These are memoirs to fill with musings, song lyrics or daring tales of your latest summit.
Here’s one of Field Notes’ customers taking a photo of his Notebook in the arctic for reference:
As he writes: “…in a moment of unsuspecting fortune… I packed a Cold Horizon as a back-up…. Here’s a picture of it against the backdrop of the Greenland Sea. If you ever wondered if you got the look of a “Cold Horizon” right… I think you did. This was as the sun was coming up at 11:15 am. You’ve got to love the Arctic Circle!”
Talk about Brand Advocacy.
Now try and imagine someone stopping in the Arctic Circle to take a picture of their Spirax. That’s the power of branding – and Field Notes (remember, these are small paper booklets) have absolutely nailed it.
King Arthur Flour
You might be wondering what could possibly be more uninspiring than blank paper. How could any company usurp Field Notes’ throne as rightful King of gussying up boring products?
Enter the God Emperor himself: King Arthur Flour.
Flour. It’s boring. We literally define the most boring things in society as ‘run of the mill’. What could possibly be more boring than Flour? The answer: All-Purpose Flour. A flour so bland, apathetic and unsure of itself you can use it to make both cupcakes and glue.
And yet, for years and years this was King Arthur Flour’s signature product. The marketer in you might say: ‘But flour is ubiquitous! It sells itself!’ And you’d be absolutely correct. It’s a necessary ingredient for 80% of the recipes on the planet – but that doesn’t make it any more memorable. When it’s needed, the vast majority of us simply buy the cheapest one within arm’s reach.
So how could it be, that King Arthur Flour have an Instagram following of almost a quarter of a million?
I know. I’m just as shocked as your are.
King Arthur Flour have made a name for themselves as a lifestyle brand through their incredible content creation. They know their audience incredibly well, they nail all the popular online channels, and they even release a triannual print magazine, Sift, which appears in newsagents and stores all across the globe.
The key to their success is through their focus on recipes, cooking tips, and mouth watering food photography. At the start of their customer journey, they’re not trying to sell flour. They’re trying to give away content.
King Arthur Flour have so much confidence in their product, they let it speak for itself. Showing off perfectly crumbed bread, delightfully fluffy sponges, and golden brown pizza crusts is their way of saying if your food isn’t looking this good, maybe you need a better flour’. It’s their way of saying ‘flour can be sexy too’.
So what’s the moral of this story?
No matter what your product, the internet provides you with a million different opportunities to market it. With the right creativity, a little bit of knowhow, and a solid understanding of your target market, you too can create a brand that shifts stock.
If they can make soap, paper and flour sexy, you can make your incredible products almost irresistible.