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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Sustainability Empowers Brands

Creating, growing, and running a brand are no easy tasks. It takes confidence and determination from small business owners and operators to achieve their dreams and find success. Although these are great qualities, brands have found that they are not enough to attract customers that are now more concerned than ever about the environment and the world that surrounds them. Brands are beginning to understand that they have to be more proactive than reactive. As such, some small businesses have placed a greater focus on sustainability and the environment.

Now a days, more and more customers want to know where their products come from and if the raw materials were sourced in an ethical and sustainable manner. These customers care about reducing waste and the social and environmental impact caused by the products they consume. In an effort to embrace sustainability some small brands are now sourcing their ingredients and raw materials from co-ops, bio-dynamic farms, or growing the ingredients themselves. 

This is the case of a small skin care brand from Hawaii called Mahalo Care. The creator, Maryna Kracht, developed a high-performance skin care brand made 100% with natural ingredients provided by the earth and not made in a lab. To develop this sustainable brand, Maryna, utilized her knowledge of herbs, botanicals and aromatherapy and combined this knowledge with ancient Polynesian traditions and rituals. To limit the environmental impact from creating these products, each of the Mahalo Care products is crafted and poured by hand at their private studio in Kauai, Hawaii. Furthermore, embracing sustainability meant ditching plastic containers since the brand was created. Instead, Mahalo Care decided to attract customers concerned about the environment by only using etched bamboo bottles and jars.  

Video from Mahalo Care Instagram Account

This perfectly illustrates how a brand can be empowered by making sustainability a priority. As consumers’ desires evolve, it would be beneficial for all brands, but in particular small brands, to start rethinking their business strategies and make sure that sustainability goals are being implemented. To attract loyal customers and achieve business success, just as Mahalo Care has done, uncompromised commitment to sustainability is crucial. Therefore, remember that sustainability empowers brands. 

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3 STEPS TO HELP YOUR SMALL BUSINESS GO THE DISTANCE

I recently read a quote, which inspired me to stand out and take risks to achieve my dreams. The quote goes like this:

“Go the distance. Do it with grace or do it ugly, because some days that’s what your best looks like. It only matters that you go the full heart distance.” Author – Anna Blake

This quote reminds us of the importance to go the full distance, to fight for our goals and not give up.  Sometimes, this means that we will have to take risks, be different and stand out because we are experts in our own niche. The following are three steps that small business should follow to go the full distance. 

1. Take Risks  The status quo is not an option. Doing one thing really well is great, but you cannot ignore other elements that can make your business unique. You can create loyal customers when you step up your game and surprise your customers with a unique value proposition. You do not want your customers to lose interest in your brand. 

2. Be Different and Weird  Don’t be gimmicky, but make sure you stand out because you offer a unique product or service. If you want your business to be truly unique, do the opposite that your competitors are doing. This is your business; you have the power to challenge conventional wisdom when you focus on your strengths and do something different. 

3. Remember, You are the Expert You can build credibility with your clients when you become an expert in your niche. This can be achieved by never compromising the quality of our craftsmanship and sharing that passion and knowledge with your clients. They will notice and with time trust will be built. This is a very powerful tool that will help you go the distance because loyal clients will help you spread the word and they will refer other people to your business.   

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Rarámuri women, embracing culture, fighting oppression, and creating businesses

Let’s talk about culture! As the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively, culture is a crucial element of society, industries, businesses, and brands. Sometimes, the path to strengthen culture is through the unwillingness to conform to contemporary ideas and social pressure. When this happens, people unite with the goal to challenge the forces that prevent them from achieving economic advancement and hinder their social expression and traditions. For some, it is an act of rebellion while for others it is a way to survive and uphold their traditions. 

This is the case of the Rarámuri or Tarahumara, who are a group of indigenous people from northern Mexico. The Rarámuri are located in the Sierra Madre in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. As is the case of other indigenous communities, the Rarámuri face displacement and other hardships, which are usually exacerbated when they stand out. However, Rarámuri women have been fighting assimilation by making their indigenous dressing style something to be proud of and a part of their everyday life. 

Photograph by @malinfezehai

I was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. As a child, I remember admiring the bright and festive Rarámuri dresses, whenever I saw an indigenous woman. Rarámuri women sew their garments by hand using a dressmaking tradition that dates back to the 1500’s. The women wear beautiful, bright, ankle-length frocks. They are proud their traditions. They know their blood is Rarámuri and they have no reason to be ashamed of that.

Rarámuri women are challenging the notion that they need to conform to standards imposed by other cultures or societal pressures. They want to be seen as Rarámuri and only wear Rarámuri dresses. By doing this they have preserved their identity and now some are monetizing their crafts and skills. They are hand-sewing their bright, floral dresses and selling them to be able to support their families, pay their bills and allow their Rarámuri traditions to stand out. Unfortunately, oppression continues and some companies that buy the hand-made Rarámuri products do not pay the artisan women a fair price and they continue to struggle. This needs to change in order for the Rarámuri community to advance economically and socially.    

Photograph credit to my mother –
Martha Delgado

The purpose of this blog post is not only to illustrate the importance of embracing our culture, but to also to shine a bright light on this wonderful Rarámuri women, who are building their business, while staying true to their traditions.

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