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Nobody cares about your brand. There, I said it.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately that all we need to do is create a clear message in order to magically get more people to notice us and engage. Don’t get me wrong. A clear message is incredibly important. It can help people quickly understand what we’re all about. But if we haven’t first clarified why someone should care, then it doesn’t matter how clear our message is.

Imagine this scenario. You meet someone for the first time and after the usual introductions, this person launches into a monologue of who he is and what he does. And just when you think he couldn’t make you care less, he takes it to a whole new level by detailing for you how great he is.

What a jerk, right?

Well, this how most brands treat us. They can’t wait to tell us about all their features, or everything that they do. And they usually hit us with their awards and accolades. We’re left trying to figure out why we should care. And honestly, we don’t try that hard. We just politely excuse ourselves and move on.

This isn’t an issue of clarity. The message may be exceptionally clear. But it doesn’t make the brand any less of a jerk.

Okay, so how do we make sure we aren’t one of those jerks? There are three things that we can do to inoculate ourselves.

  1. Be appropriate
    We need to first understand who we are speaking with. Is it a 75-year-old grandmother or an 18-year-old girl? Where do they live? How do they live? And, most importantly, how do they think? If we demonstrate that we understand who they are, we have a greater chance of them giving us some of their time.
  2. Be empathetic
    Let’s think about what’s important to them. What are their needs? What do they struggle with? Now move on to the powerful stuff — what are their dreams and aspirations? When we focus on these things, they are more likely to look at our brand as one that understands what’s important to them.
  3. Be meaningful
    What greater purpose do we champion that aligns with the aspirations of those we hope to serve? Can we help them have an impact in the world? Maybe we can help them feel like they’re making a difference for another. What Big Audacious Meaning do we embrace? Clarifying this brings unparalleled meaning to our brand.

These three guideposts help us keep our focus squarely on those we hope to serve, showing them that we know who they are, recognize what’s important to them, and understand their aspirations. That keeps us from succumbing to the temptation to slide back into that let-me-tell-you-about-me mode. If we stick to path these guideposts create for us, we are much more likely to find ourselves in a place where our brand isn’t immediately dismissed. Because we have actually given those we hope to serve a reason to care.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the forthcoming book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.

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Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.

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