A LESSON IN BRANDING FROM THE EARPLUG INDUSTRY
Yup, you read that right! We're talking earplugs today, so listen up 😉. A little quirk about me - I sleep with earplugs every single night. It started 4 years ago when I studied abroad. With bars in Europe closing around 5am and me having class at 8am, I quickly developed an affinity for earplugs. By the time I came back home I was so used to falling asleep with them, I haven't been able to go without them since!
When we think of what successful branding looks like, a few companies always come to mind; Starbucks, Apple, Tesla, Nordstrom... The truth is, you don't have to have a "sexy" product to creatively brand yourself and stand out in a crowd.
Take it from the earplug industry. One quick browse of the selection on Amazon and it's clear that this might just be the least exciting product ever. On the first page of earplug search results on Amazon, 19 of the 20 products are neutral in color and have vague descriptions that all use the same industry language (ie: noise reduction rating, decibels, durable). They are trying to appeal to just about anyone who can hear, and in doing so most consumers are going to see them all as identical and will end up just purchasing the cheapest option.
One product on that page, however, got to the bottom of the "why?" people shop for earplugs, and built a brand that sets themselves apart. Instead of saying how many decibels of noise their earplugs cancel out, the product description says "ideal for blocking out snoring". Instead of saying "material: soft foam", it says "silky and comfortable for a perfect night's sleep". Instead of just saying their earplugs are safe, it says "prevent damage and protect the ears of your loved ones". Did I mention these ones are hot pink and there's a heart on the box?
So immediately what can we tell? This company is targeting women, specifically wives and mothers. A lot of people fear the idea of branding, because by its very premise, branding marks your product or service with a particular identity that is appealing to a specific market, but alienating to others - in this case, men. This can be scary for a company, because the likelihood that a man will purchase these earplugs is slim to none, therefore they've alienated half the consumer base. That being said, I can almost guarantee that every woman who searches earplugs on Amazon will instantly be drawn to this brand. So out of 20 competing products, this single company has managed to capture 50% of the market, while the other 19 companies are competing for the remaining 50%. When it comes down to it, most consumers don't care at all about the particular specs or features of a product, they just want that product to SOLVE a PROBLEM. If you can paint that picture for your potential consumer, you're one step closer to getting the sale.
With this in mind, here's your homework. Think of a specific problem that your product or service solves. Got it? Now figure out what kind of consumer will benefit most from having that problem solved. This should be your guiding compass in designing your brand and marketing strategy!
I hope you found this helpful and if you end up implementing this lesson into your own brand, leave a comment below or let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear how it worked out for you!