LET’S TALK ABOUT BRAND INCLUSIVITY

Let me make something clear, to succeed in today’s oversaturated market your brand has to offer something of value to customers and it has to differentiate itself from competitors. To achieve this, your brand has to create genuine connections with all customers. The marketplace is a melting pot of customers from different cultures with unique traditions and ideologies. In response to this, branding is transforming itself to become more inclusive because all of these customers from different backgrounds want to see themselves in that brand. Regardless if you operate a brick a mortar store or an online business, I want to challenge your brand to become more relevant to a broader audience by updating your branding strategy.

Consumers are demanding authenticity, credibility and inclusivity from brands because these are issues that matter to them. Make no mistake, consumers pay close attention to the steps, or lack of there of, that your brand is taking to genuinely serve everyone regardless of race, ethnic background, gender, age, or sexual orientation. Consumers can tell if your brand’s efforts are authentic or a pure gimmick in the hope of attracting attention. Additionally, consumers are demanding that brands start pushing boundaries in the market to become the change we want to see happen.

The challenge for brands starts with understanding how to properly appeal to this broader audience, while remaining credible. The thing to remember is that inclusivity doesn’t happen overnight. Inclusivity is a concept that has to evolve over time, as it starts at the core of your brand. This is the only way your message will resonate with customers, who want to feel enabled to fit within your brand. I suggest that your brand builds and adheres to a long-term inclusivity strategy and that inclusivity becomes part of your brand’s core values.

It is not just about advertising your products with people from different races or cultural backgrounds, displaying the Pride flag in your website or store during Pride month, or even showcasing two handsome, white men kissing in your advertising campaigns. Inclusivity is about wanting to be part of these communities at a deeper level and creating safe spaces for your customers in which they can be their true selves.  In essence, if you plan to become an inclusive brand, you have to do your research. Become an inclusive brand, which respects the integrity and dignity of everyone. 

The good news is that more brands are staring to join the inclusivity conversation and are getting better at embracing diversity. Just remember, the path to inclusivity will vary from brand to brand, but the ultimate goal should be to have a clear brand strategy that builds trust and personal relationships with all of your customers.  

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IS YOUR BRAND BUILT FOR THE MODERN WOMAN?

Gender equality has been become a prominent topic in the past few years. Now, it is a crucial time for women as they unite to demand equality and proper representation. As society continues to adapt and embrace the concept of gender equality, we are starting to see the branding landscape shifting. Women are now more than ever crucial for brands, in particular niche brands. Modern women now expect that brands approach and treat them with a level of understanding and awareness about what truly matters to them.

The days when traditional branding perpetuated the idea that women prefer smaller products with “feminine” colors are over. Despite the social and economic power of the modern woman, many brands have failed to adapt. Brands can no longer expect unconditional loyalty from women if they continue to rely on traditional stereotypes. Therefore, brands need to demonstrate that they can engage with women in a more relatable manner or risk being left in the past. The damage to these brands could be irreversible. 

If you want your brand to succeed you have to take into consideration the authentic needs of women and develop long term branding strategies, which identify and leverage attributes important for women like; reliability, empathy, authenticity, helpfulness, inclusivity and relevance. By harnessing the power of these attributes, you can transform your brand in a way that resonates with women, as it shows that your brand’s core values are aligned with all the dimensions of their lives.  

For these reasons, I believe that niche brands have a great opportunity to attract the attention, brand admiration and loyalty of women. It is harder for big brands to change their ways and form a sincere relationship with modern women. Niche brands can embed these attributes in their mission and core values to create a more personalized approach, which ultimately gives women clear understanding about what they stand for. Niche brands have the strength to narrow their focus and direct their approach in a way that makes sense to their target customer. As gender equality continues to evolve over the years, consider if your brand is built for the modern woman.   

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SOCIALLY IMPACTFUL BRANDS AND THE CUSTOMERS THAT LOVE THEM

Do you want to start a socially impactful business? If the answer is yes, you have to understand how to properly blend entrepreneurship, sustainability and social impact.  We are at a time when the habits of the majority of customers are changing. It is no longer enough to innovate and create a great product. More and more people want to see if your brand goes beyond profitability to embrace social and environmental change as well as ethical behavior and sustainability. 

Customers are paying close attention to many social and environmental issues that matter to them.  As such, they want to associate with brands which are committed to what matters the most to them. Social and environmental responsibility have transformed from novel and cool concepts to become the way of life for many consumers, in particular, Millennials and members of Gen Z.  It is estimated that more than 90% of Millennials prefer to align brands which support social and environmental causes. If you want to create a truly socially impactful brand, you have to find the perfect balance among various factors, which include; craftsmanship skills, interests, and causes you are passionate about. 

After you balance the aforementioned factors and define your objectives, prospective customers will notice your desire to make a difference and commitment to align your brand’s motivations with their goals.  However, it is important to always act with authenticity and integrity as customers will notice if your brand is not truly connected to their cause.  Do your research to identify what sets your brand apart and to determine the best practices that will help your brand maximize its social good. 

Finally, if you are committed to the success of your socially impactful brand, it might prove helpful to maintain your stakeholder and community constantly informed about your brand’s social and environmental efforts. I suggest that you make your social goals and results known. Remember that customers want to know your brand.  They want to join the conversation and they want to be an active part of your efforts. The factors mentioned above, will provide you with a roadmap to create and grow your socially impactful business.     

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WHAT IS YOUR BRAND? AND HOW IS YOUR BRAND ENGAGING WITH CUSTOMERS?

When asked these two questions, many business owners and managers immediately want to tell you about how fabulous their products are, how effective their services are, and how they sell these products and services to prospective customers. I am sure their explanation about the craftsmanship of their products and the sales techniques used to get these products on customers’ hands are great. Sometimes I want to know what makes your products or services unique.  However, that doesn’t answer the questions what is your brand? and how is your brand engaging with customers? To properly answer those questions, you, as a manager or business owner, have to have a clear understanding of how your brand solves customers’ problems, addresses customers’ needs and appeals to customers’ desires.  

In order to answer those two questions, you have to dig deeper and analyze the effect that your brand has on customers. Your brand is not defined by the products you sell or the services your provide. Products and services are just elements of your business plan, but they are not the real reason why people are converted to loyal customers. Your brand is defined by the way it speaks to customers’ wants, needs, and concerns. Remember, your brand exists because you identified a need in the market. Thus, your brand is your customers’ feelings and views of how well it meets their needs. 

Creating a brand that truly resonates with customers can be done by putting yourself on your customers’ shoes and thinking from their perspective. Once you have that understanding, you can start forming a true emotional connection with your customers. It is critically important that your customers feel like your brand is offering them something of real value that seamlessly fits into their world. Knowing your brand means that you know your customers’ goals and you are part of their story.

However, it doesn’t end there. Your brand has to maintain open and constant communicaton with your customers. Don’t underestimate the power of being alert and responsive to your customers’ needs, as they will change over time. Stay relevant and fresh on your customers’ minds with content that inspires and entertains them. I promise that your customers will notice that you are trying to form a genuine connection with them. I am a true believer that your brand will be able to engage with more customers for longer periods of time when you humanize your brand and speak with authenticity to customers instead of trying to sell them your products and services every time you connect with them. 

The bottom line is that when describing your brand; you should emphasize how it addresses your customers’ needs.  Additionally, a successful customer engagement strategy should prioritize authenticity as well as open and constant dialogue with your customers. 

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EXCLUSIVITY IS THE UNIQUE ESSENCE OF YOUR BRAND

Does your brand offer that je ne sais quoi that creates excitement about your products? Many brands struggle to develop that element of rarity needed to transform regular people into loyal clients. As you set to build  your brand from the ground up, ask yourself the following question: will my brand offer a unique concept, product or service? If the answer is no, then it is time to start thinking about how to create value for your future clients. 

Creating a brand that offers an exclusive concept and product is one of the greatest unexploited opportunities in the business world. Today, most businesses blend in and as a result the market is saturated with brands and products that do not offer a distinct point of view. Exclusivity is born when your brand’s values are so powerful and unique that customers crave what your business creates, and no other brand would even dare to try and replicate what your business offers. 

This is why many small niche brands have an advantage. The type of exclusivity that I am talking about refers to selling your products in relatively few spaces, letting your products speak for themselves, using word-of-mouth marketing instead of paid advertising, and providing a one of a kind customer experience. This doesn’t mean that you are excluding customers, it simply means that you are catering to those who want a high-quality and unique brand. These factors are crucial as they allow your customers to feel that they are part of a special group.

A niche business which has the essence of exclusivity is Nasomatto. This luxury fragrance company was founded by Alessandro Gualtieri. Nasomatto has built a renegade reputation by refusing to publish the ingredient list of its fragrances, as a way to create a sense of mystery. Instead the brand describes each fragrance by the feelings and emotions it is supposed evoke. Nasomatto doesn’t advertise and the fragrances can only be  found at handful of niche boutiques. Many of the fragrances are produced in limited quality, and only those in the known are aware that they must buy the fragrances as soon as they become available or risk not being able to buy them until the following year.

Nasomatto is a great example of the power of exclusivity.  This brand has built its reputation by word-of-mouth and it now has a huge following. Nasomatto’s loyal customers desire the brand and anxiously wait for any new product releases. Exclusivity has become the soul of this brand and a point of difference. Thus, remember that exclusivity can be the essence of your brand.  

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WHEN BUILDING YOUR BRAND START WITH THE BEST RAW MATERIALS

Building a solid brand is fundamental.  Without high quality products, it is hard to differentiate your brand and achieve long-term profitability. Products are crucial for a business, as they illustrate a unique point of view. Yet, it is imperative to make sure that your products convey credibility, craftsmanship, uniqueness and experience. Your products should inspire and excite customers. To do that, you need to start with the best raw materials. 

In a world dominated by social media, now more than ever, products have become multilayered. People care about the processes and raw materials that are used to make their favorite products.  The best products have remarkable creativity, a powerful heritage and/or the best ingredients or raw materials. These factors help to bring down people’s walls of indifference to create a loyal following for your products. Thus, I recommend that you pay special attention to the raw materials your brand uses for each of its products. 

Photo from Apis Cera Instagram

I recently encountered a niche brand that does just that. The brand is called Apis Cera (Beeswax in Latin). This brand prides itself for using the highest quality beeswax to create 100% pure embossed beeswax candles and organic honey soaps, which are entirely handmade.  Craftsmanship and quality are powerful catalysts for Apis Cera to differentiate its products.

The mission of Apis Cera is to restore candles to their former glory by making candles only with natural wax. This is no simple task considering that most of the candles on the market are made with paraffin, which is a derivative of coal, petroleum, or oil shale or stearin extracted from animal and vegetable fat. Apis Cera provides a niche alternative to mass produced candles as informs its customers that natural beeswax is non-toxic, non-carcinogenic and non-polluting. 

Photo from Apis Cera Instagram

It is fantastic to see how a brand like Apis Cera uses a simple and natural raw material like beeswax to make high quality, niche products and differentiate its brand. Respecting ancient traditions has allowed Apis Cera to produce products of excellent quality that are also eco-friendly. As this example illustrates, when building your brand, make sure you start with the best raw materials.  

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Simplicity is the Ultimate Path to a Brand’s Success

Focusing on simplicity can be the best path to find success, when building your own brand. However, simplicity is hard to achieve. It is not enough to just avoid the “more is better” trap.  Creating and growing a successful small business requires that you have a well thought out plan and strategy. Yes, this means that you should write down your business strategy so you can reference back to it when you feel like deviating. Your business must have a clear direction to move along the path to achieve every milestone needed for success. 

This path starts by recognizing that you, as an artisan and business owner, and your small business will experience roadblocks or limitations. Therefore, every time you decide to implement a piece of advice or make a decision that will impact your business, you should ensure that this is only done to advance your business on the path to achieving stated goals. The key to success is to make simplicity a priority, but you must stay focused when growing your brand. This means that you must maintain your business on course and avoid unnecessary traps. 

Keep it simple and stop complicating your brand’s path to success. Many of us have seen how brands change course when distracted by the latest trend. By trying to please everyone, brands diversify their product selection with unnecessary offerings. Complicating your business plan only creates customer confusion. The last thing you want to do is to overwhelm your customers with unwanted products or confusing concepts.  

Concentrate your efforts on developing a strong, yet simple business. Remember that just because something is trending, it doesn’t mean that it is a right option for your business. Offering a brand with a clear and concise mission will do more for your business than anything else. I believe simplicity starts with a clear strategic goal to guide your business.      

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