The boom in entrepreneurship ecosystems in several parts of the world poses a unique problem to marketers. The problem really is as a company, how do you break through the clutter? Buying your way out of it, through expensive paid advertising, is certainly not a solution, especially for startups with smaller, or should I say, zero marketing budgets. Even if you run a Greenfield startup in an uncrowded space, chances are you’ll be fighting with competition sooner than later. Unless, say, you are Google.
So, what really is the solution to this problem that most companies, world over, are dealing with? Let’s take the e-commerce space in India. Flipkart had a unique brand character, differentiated through quality customer service, innovative concepts like cash-on-delivery and most importantly, low prices. But very soon, the company was dealing with several other competitors, all with the same or similar service offerings. What then, do you compete on?
I don’t have an answer to this question. But in this note, I am going to point you in the direction of some books, blogs and reading material to help you with answering this question. In some cases, I’ll also point out some interesting strategies adopted by brands to break through the clutter.
Also, in this list, I am leaving out the basics – the importance of customer-centricity, a great product or service, a wonderful team and most importantly, solving a problem for your customer. This list really is about how do you make your brand fascinating. Read on:
Founder as brand ambassador: I am sure we all have heard about AirAsia India. Have you thought about why you hear about the brand, as often as you do? I’d say the single reason for all the publicity it is getting is Brand Tony Fernandes. Be it the reality TV show he hosts, the formula 1 team he owns, the tweets or the interesting interviews he often gives to journalists, the man is on a mission to be interesting. Mahesh Murthy, one of our invitees to the Brand Owner’s Summit, shares the same attribute. You may not agree with them, but you can’t ignore them is the mantra they follow. As a founder, can you be half as interesting as any of these people? If you can answer this question affirmatively, use it to build your startup’s brand.
Read Seth Godin: This best selling author has written over 15 books including his latest titled Poke the Box. Godin is more an artist and less an author. His books, blog and videos teach you, or rather inspire you, to become interesting. If you feel you’re not ready to be the brand ambassador for your startup, learn to become one, from Godin.
Read the book Fascinate by Sally Hogshead: In this book, Hogshead digs deep into human psychology and emotions and helps us understand what fascinates us and why we do what we do. The book is broken down into the 7 triggers of fascination and urges brands to use one or more of these triggers to fascinate customers
The Amazon Approach: The big lesson for me from the Amazon.com story is how it keeps adding features, all with the goal of increasing sales. The e-commerce giant has its back-end in place to be the biggest online retailer in the world. But it also launches thousands of features, what Jeff Bezos refers to as the Fly Wheel Approach. Day in and day out, newer features are added to enthral customers. Can you think of features for your offering, that’ll enthral your audience?
The Google Approach: Google obviously gets several aspects of its marketing right. Of course, not everyone is building a business as revolutionary as Google. But, can we learn something from their approach? I’d say one of the biggest takeaways from Google’s marketing approach is its ability to attract the attention of traditional media. As much as we say traditional media is dying, reality is, it still helps amplify the interesting stuff. Google does so many interesting, whacky things that it amazes you. It builds a robotic car to drive down the ‘crookedest’ street in San Francisco. It also does the simple stuff very well, like how they adapt the Google Doodle on certain days. The last I checked, it had a Google Doodle that was designed by a student in Pune (for Children’s Day in India). Can you try out interesting stuff in your startup that traditional media will latch on to, thereby amplifying your brand?
At The Smart CEO, since we operate in a fairly crowded marketplace, I am glad I have written this note on ‘unclutter’ marketing. Now, it’s time I start executing some ideas from this list. May be, next time, you’ll find our masthead logo modified, Google Doodle-style.
Hope you enjoy reading this edition of The Smart CEO.