Today we had the pleasure of talking with one of the most energetic and enthusiastic communicators around – Bruce Turkel, author and brand consultant to clients including Bacardi, Discovery Networks, and the City of Miami. Turkel gave us seven lessons from his book All About Them: Grow Your Brand by Focusing on Others.
Turkel is a master of the pithy insight, and all his lessons can be reduced to three words.
Commonly, entrepreneurs will spend far too much time talking about themselves and not enough time about what the product will do for their customers. The consumer needs to get a sense of how the product will improve their life.
Mere competence, even brilliance, is what Turkel calls “price of entry” – it’s what affords you the opportunity to sell your product in the marketplace. Just as a poker player must first put down their stake to even be allowed to play, brands need to take excellence as their starting point. How they then communicate will decide whether they win or lose.
Apple are a great example of this lesson, with their first iPod campaign using silhouettes of happy, dancing customers allowing people to visualize themselves enjoying the product.
People don’t make buying decisions based on a rigorous analysis of the facts (usually). More often than not, an emotional choice is made, and then people post-rationalize that decision with their intellect. Turkel recommends that brands sell the emotional benefits of their products and services.
Turkel tells the story of wanting to buy a new convertible but facing the objections of his wife who felt such cars were unsafe for their growing kids. When she saw a Volvo ad for a convertible it changed her mind about such vehicles, since Volvo’s message conveys the emotional value of safety.
Especially in the 21st century, consumers won’t give you more than a few moments to attract their attention, so it makes sense to create the simplest, most direct version of your message. Some car marques have effectively encapsulated this in a single word. For Mercedes-Benz it’s status, for Toyota it’s durability. Whatever message you convey, keep it straightforward.
Things become a little trickier when you are not selling to the end user. Children’s products and B2B sales create the same challenge – how to simultaneously sell two different priorities, since what the retailer wants is not necessarily the same as the consumer’s desires. One approach is to figure out the optimal outcome for the person to whom you are directly selling. Don’t be afraid to go deep with this, says Turkel – what is the emotional need of the individual you’re selling to?
Related to the above, the message you’re communicating when you sell must be conveyed quickly, ideally instantaneously. Certain cities have done this spectacularly well, says Turkel, who worked on Miami’s branding. When you think Miami, you get a mental image of its beaches, whereas New York might call to mind Broadway or Los Angeles, Hollywood. These cities have associations which spring to mind immediately. If you can do this with your brand, all the better.
This lesson sounds like it should contradict Turkel’s first tenant (make it “all about them”) but it’s about striking a balance between the personal and the universal. Turkel recommends injecting your own personality into your brand. Convey your own enthusiasm and it will become infectious.
Another way to think of it is that you can tell personal stories as background to your brand, but they must have universality. Although listeners are hearing about events that happened to you, they can easily relate them to something in their own lives. Turkel recommends “more feelings, less facts.”
Turkel has a kind of formula or pneumonic for this – CC2CC – which stands for “company centric to customer centric” and describes the translation of your brand values to your customers’ own values. You want to be offering “added value” to the customer, not just the plain functionality of your offering. What can you give them over and above your competitors’ offerings?
Although we primarily experience the world through sight and sound, all five senses can be engaged to evoke strong emotional associations. For a rich and resonant product offering, you can invoke smell, taste, and touch through analogies in sight and sound. Turkel describes this as almost a kind of synesthesia – using one sense to stand in for another. Novelists do this all the time – they only have words on a page to evoke whole environments.
When the senses are opened, says Turkel, this paves the way for communication to take place – a deep connection between speaker and listener if formed.
This one is a little counter intuitive. As businesspeople or salespeople, we often feel the need to change our sales pitches. We deliver them so often that we quickly become bored of our pitches long before our listeners do. Turkel cautions us to remember that, whereas we are entrenched in our own brand messages, others are not. It may be the case that the moment you become bored, your audience is finally catching on.
Instead, find new ways of “saying the same old thing”, suggests Turkel. However, he cautions against excessive cleverness, which can get in the way of effective communication, because it’s not immediate enough.
Turkel admits that although he performed academically well at school, he was criticized for being restlessly talkative. Later in life, he relates, he turned his energy and enthusiasm into a unique selling point. It’s now one of the chief reasons he gets asked to give talks.
Likewise, all entrepreneurs can take what they feel to be their liabilities and turn them into assets. After all, what makes you stand out makes you unique and getting noticed is the first task of any new brand.