Slight delay in this week’s email – I spent the last few days travelling to Mexico, getting over jet lag and fighting off a cold (I do not recommend catching a cold in 30-degree heat 🥵)
Anyway, I’ve written today’s email to make sure you’re not slipping into the ‘my brand is for everyone’ mindset and help you focus on being really special to the right group of people.
This simply means that if you create a brand that tries to please everyone, you'll inevitably end up pleasing no one. Why? Because people are different, and you simply cannot please everyone.
It seems obvious, doesn't it?
So why do so many brands fall into the 'we're for everyone' trap?
When we've asked founders we've worked with 'who is your brand for?' the answer, more often than not, is far too broad. Parents, women, sometimes just 'anyone who's interested'.
The thing is, it's natural to try and avoid neglecting any potential customer. Narrowing your target market feels risky, especially right at the beginning, so keeping things broad means you're less likely to fail, right?
It's the opposite.
Narrowing your target market reduces your risk and increases your chance of success.
Because if you know exactly who your brand is for, you can tailor everything you to do meet their specific wants and needs. Through everything, from your product to your copywriting, they'll instantly know you're the brand for them, and they'll likely become your biggest advocates.
An analogy I like to use for this is nightclubs. Stay with me...
Nightclubs run events tailored to a specific group of people, which usually means a certain age group but, more importantly, people with particular music preferences.
This means the flyers they hand out, the social media posts they write and the visual language they use can be effectively tailored to that specific audience.
Imagine trying to run a nightclub event for absolutely everyone? Impossible.
The same goes for brand building.
If you're starting a new bank, perhaps you're a bank specifically for e-commerce start-ups.
If you're a dog food brand, perhaps you're a dog food brand for people who travel with their pets regularly.
If you're a luggage brand, perhaps you're only for digital nomads who move around a lot and work all over the world.
You get it.
There's nothing wrong with dreaming big and wanting your brand to become a global household name, and narrowing your focus at the beginning doesn't prevent that. But that doesn't happen overnight. All the big brands you look up to will have started with a specific audience focus and expanded as they grew.
That's what you need to do too.
Remember: you need to look at how the brands you love got to where they are, not what they're doing now — look back at their early days, not at the huge ad campaigns they're running now.
So, with all that now in mind, would you rather be nothing to everyone or really special to a few?
If the answer's yes, here's how to do it.
As tempting as it is to make everything about your brand appealing to as many people as possible, you now know you need to do the opposite because it’s far easier to acquire, engage, and retain loyal customers this way.
So how do you do that?
What’s the main problem your idea solves for people? Be specific and only choose one. Once you’ve identified the fundamental problem you’re solving, you’ll find it easier to think about who that problem is most of an issue for. What sparked your idea, and why did you start? That’s likely where the most prominent problem lies.
Example: people like instant coffee because it’s convenient, but it doesn’t taste good. We’re solving that problem by making instant coffee that tastes amazing.
Other problems could be it’s not ethically produced, or it’s not easy to travel with, but we’re focusing on taste in this instance.
Many people will likely have the problem you’re solving in one way or another, but the key here is to identify those you can solve it for really well. This will come down to how your product solves this problem and your natural affinity with a specific group of people.
As you know, we are big believers in building a brand that is a natural extension of yourself. So if you’re building an instant coffee brand and you’re an ex-city worker, your product will likely appeal more naturally to other city workers than to those in construction, for example.
What you need to decide is which group of people do you and your product naturally fit best.
Things like price, visual aesthetic preference and lifestyle will all play a role here.
Ask yourself questions such as:
You want to end up with a detailed description of your audience and what’s most important to them when buying into your brand.
The more you can narrow down your audience, the easier it will be to speak to them in a way that instantly connects with them.
Nailing niche audiences in ad campaigns [Attest] — this is specific to marketing rather than just brand but it brilliantly highlights how important it is to know your audience REALLY well.
Using brand to grow from niche to mass market [Interbrand]
Niche market examples [Mirasee]
Running brands each with their own clearly defined niche [Buzzfeed]
Like I said before, starting with a niche doesn’t mean you can’t become a global name. These two are great examples of that...
Yes, it’s a huge brand now with mass, worldwide appeal, worn by serious climbers, city workers, and fashion bloggers alike. But it didn’t start out that way, and it still stays true to its original community now. Patagonia started out making climbing tools for climbers. Over time, that extended into climbing gear in general and eventually into all outdoor apparel. As their audience grew and market widened, they could have changed up their messaging to better appeal to the fashion bloggers/city workers of the world, but that’s not who they are. They even stopped putting corporate logos on its vests last year.
When Facebook started, it exclusively targeted college students. More specifically, profiles were limited to Harvard students before the service was then extended to higher education students worldwide. Even the name comes from “face book” directories commonly used in American universities. Everything Facebook did at the beginning was tailored to students, from the way they built the platform to the messaging they used in their marketing. They knew their audience and knew exactly what they wanted. While Facebook now targets people of all ages and demographics, refining its features and brand specifically for students paved the way for it to become a worldwide phenomenon.
Yes, it’s hard to say no to potential customers but trust me, it’s the best decision you’ll ever make for your brand.
Find your audience, get to know them REALLY well and show them why your brand is what’s missing from their lives.
If you’re finding it hard to narrow your focus, reply to this email and let me know; happy to help think it through with you.
Keep being an outlier 💪
J + K