How to Create, Share and Hijack Brand Equity in your Content


brand equity

From time to time people ask me why I write about content marketing on a social media business website? Which I reply to with, “Why am I putting this gasoline into my car?”

As for a quick recap of why content marketing is so essential to your strategy, think of your social media channels as buckets or holders for your content. Without something compelling in those buckets, you don’t give anyone a reason to dig further and see what lies below the surface. What you put in those buckets speaks volumes about the brand you may or may not be developing.

A lot of marketing professionals refer to themselves a “brand builders” when they are actually “product sellers.” I’m not taking anything away from either one of these professional directives, but they are simply not the same.

What is the difference between selling a multipurpose pocket knife and selling a Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox? Absolutely everything. The Swiss Army Knife conjures up specific positive images and thoughts:

  • A story about the way you or someone you know has used it
  • A history of quality and product diversification
  • The “essence” of feeling more prepared and able because the product is at hand
  • An immediately recognizable identity of quality and good reputation

Next ask yourself if the content you are creating for your product, education or service emulates your brand’s core values, benefits, and culture. Think about this long and hard for a minute.

God forbid you have an intern working on your social media right now. But if you do, what is stopping that person from blasting Instagrams of people getting wasted during a networking mixer at the next trade show? Have you and your marketing team developed a comprehensive strategy for the type of content you wish to gather and publish in order to portray the brand in the best light?

Creating Brand Equity

The puritanical definition of brand equity is the value and power of reputation and name recognition that causes a company to generate more sales than competing brands. So the question you might be thinking, “If I really have no brand, Justice, then how do I create brand equity?” And while there is no simple answer to this question, my immediate response is the thought leadership play. Often I am associated with startups, growth hacking programs, and the occasional brilliant idea that has no funding. How do you ramp up immediately and create brand essence around what is basically vaporware or something in an early stage?

Manufacturer brilliance.

Even if your product hasn’t sold 10,000 units since you clicked on this post a few minutes ago, you can still begin creating the personification that you as an individual will create magic. This is not a bait and switch, nor is it necessarily a personal brand forwarding a product brand.

This is the position that my dear friend Brian Clark (CEO of GMD Studios) refers to as, “being the smartest person in the room.” Companies such as Ecko Unlimited, Square (the personal credit card payment product), Basecamp (the project management system), and lesser known startups like Bad Spade Sunglasses, all have established the equivalent of “vapor brands.” They do it simply by creating a position of perceived intellect and understanding of their product category.

So how do you develop stunning content out of the gate? A smart question, and not necessarily an easy one. But here’s a quick list:

  • Face-to-face networking events. Learn to tell your story effectively in person, and you will get infinitely better at telling it in blog posts, status updates, and 140-character pitches.
  • Presentations/ white-papers. Anytime you have an opportunity to develop a presentation, whether or not you’ve even used it in a speaking engagement, I recommend putting it on SlideShare. From there, repurpose the slideshow by pushing it up to your blog. Then utilize your other social channels to fold back attention to the original presentation. Depending on the context and relevance, LinkedIn can be a great avenue to establish thought leadership.
  • Podcasts and videos. Utilizing a podcast gives you what Lou Mangello refers to as “instant expertise.” So you might consider either developing your own or seek out opportunities to be invited onto podcasting and video channels with large subscription bases.
  • Blog. Go at it like you’re covered in gasoline and a vindictive ex is stalking you with a lighter and a twitchy thumb.

Sharing Brand Equity

Sharing brand equity is an interesting exercise in finding mutually agreeable brands that you can equally exchange equity. For instance, if I did a series of photos of me doing a speaking engagement at the local VFW (taking nothing away for my respect from this organization) and featured them on Facebook, you might perceive it as small and localized. On the flip-side, being a sycophantic fanboy trying to show off a photo of you and Guy Kawasaki at a book signing also only plays to your brand’s inadequacy.

That said, let’s put this in perspective with a couple of quick rules regarding developing content on a shared stage:

  • Try to play “Switzerland” in everything you do.
  • Let the voice of your brand grow in confidence at the same speed as you’re perceived. Nothing will kill a fledgling brand quicker than coming across like an 800-pound gorilla that no one has ever heard of.
  • Act as if you are a band and you are on a concert poster for an upcoming show. Tweet, post, blog and Instagram different types of content that pays respect to the opening acts as much as it does the headliner.
  • Don’t be a dick — ever.

Hijacking Brand Equity

Possibly one of my favorite things to do in life is hijack brand equity — mainly because I think it is fun and most often no one ever really gets hurt. My favorite example of this type of content in social media is from the hip-hop industry. I love to see videos where rap stars jump in and out of million-dollar cars, driving across town at high rates of speed with complete impunity of the law, racing to the top of parking decks in densely packed cities, only to hop on a helicopter and be swept away to a private island.

Now I’m not saying this can’t happen in real life. But the chances of it happening to most people are somewhere between “lottery winner” and “struck by lightning.”

There is a very heavy caveat here regarding the legalities of doing such. Use your own judgment, but bear in mind that in some cases representing your brand/product alongside of a licensed brand or product can put yours in jeopardy. So take time developing your product so these associations don’t put you in legal peril.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of ways you can hijack brands:

  • Location, location, location. A beautiful model and a known beautiful location often emulate the brand/type/style of product you intend to portray.
  • Celebrity status. Developing content in celebrity rich environments can, in some cases, elevate your perception as to be worthy of such environments.
  • Product placement perception. For instance if you intended to do a social activation launch in a live environment at SXSW vs. fashion week in New York City (both exceptional environments), the messaging directive of your content must be in proper alignment in order to create maximum effectiveness.
  • Juxtapositions. It’s the classic double-take. In marketing as well as in content development, creating juxtapositions between your product/brand in environments that might be seen as opposite ends of the spectrum often will get the most notice.
  • Sex sells. Love it or hate it, in most cases creating sexual tension drives interest. And let me be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating that you use a pack of scantily clad models licking your package design (pun notwithstanding), but how do you create content that evokes passion?

I have given you a lot to think about here – now run with it and let me know how it goes. I would not use these tips and observations as a checklist, but more as a litmus test for the content you intend to develop. No matter how big or small you might be, it is always good to create an environment in which you can challenge your own thinking. Looking forward to hearing your feedback.

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