A Good Story Can Boost your Brand
Sept 2, 2010 - Humanizing a brand is a great way to boost sales, deepen customers' connections with your company and create a community around your products. Veronica Bosgraaf, founder of Pure Bars, and Ramona Singer, owner of Ramona Singer Jewelry and star of Real Housewives of New York City, have boosted their businesses by humanizing their brands.
Singer puts herself out in front of her jewelry line. "I'm a mother, a wife and a businessperson," she says, "and people identify with me." The process of allowing people to get to know her, she says, has humanized the brand and helped sales grow. Her role on Housewives--in which she is not afraid to put herself out there as a whole person--has certainly helped.
Singer's husband was running a fourth-generation jewelry company, selling mainly through church stores. After Singer's appearance on Housewives in 2008, they created a completely new line of jewelry--Ramona Singer Jewelry. Her image and persona are front and center, and it's been effective. The internet was the key to cost-effectively spreading the word.
"We started by putting the jewelry on the internet about three years ago, went on HSN in 2009, and placed Ramona Singer Jewelry on Amazon.com in 2010. There is a tremendous amount of business available through Amazon.com," Singer says. "My husband was hesitant at first about the internet, worrying that his customers would feel he had gone around them."
As it turned out, current customers didn't mind, and the jewelry company gained hundreds of thousands of new customers. "We paid for keywords and Google searches, and it paid off for our website," Singer says.
Interest in Singer soared as a result of Housewives. At first, Singer found it odd that fans wanted to know every detail about her--her workouts, her lifestyle, her travels and activities. But opening up her life through Twitter and Facebook, while also promoting jewelry sales and specials, allows consumers to see the "whole" Ramona Singer. "I never realized that social media was so important. But it's key to humanizing your brand in the eyes of the customer," she says. It's also inexpensive and highly effective, says Singer, who advises other entrepreneurs to be extremely budget-conscious about everything, not just marketing.
She recommends planning two-year cash flows, having a cushion, and reinvesting in the business rather than giving yourself a raise or bonus in a good year. "That way, when you are selling, you never have an air of desperation. Instead, you are confident, upbeat and have an attitude of substance, which is felt by the buyer," Singer says.
Singer has more than successfully put her face in front of her brand, promoting herself not as a celebrity from Housewives but as a real person.
Bosgraaf founded Pure Bars in 2006. Her company grew out of her then-6-year-old daughter Anna's personal mission to become a vegetarian. After visiting a petting zoo, young Anna made a connection between the chicken on the table and the animals she'd held earlier. She decided to become a vegetarian.
Then a stay-at-home mom, Bosgraaf recognized this as an opportunity to explore a new way of eating together, so she and Anna decided to create a healthy, vegetarian snack. "Our requirements were stiff--whole ingredients, organic fruits and healthy nuts untouched by harmful herbicides and pesticides with no refined sugars, no chemicals, no genetically modified stuff, rich in antioxidants, vitamins and omega-3 fats, which had to taste amazing," she says. Pure Bars was born.
The story of the inception is Pure Bars' differentiating factor. Putting Anna's image and story behind Pure Bars launched the first big order with a major supermarket chain. "The story of how the bars were created was written about in a newspaper from Grand Rapids, Mich. The piece focused on Anna and how the company was founded. The CEO of Meijer read the story and was impressed by it. He told his buyers he wanted Pure Bars on the shelves of every store," Bosgraaf says. There are 200 Meijer stores in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. "That's what really launched us," Bosgraaf says.
Stores such as Wild Oats and other specialty chains followed suit. "I was able to say our bars were in all of the Meijer stores, which built credibility quickly," Bosgraaf says. Bosgraaf continues to use the power of Anna's story to resonate with consumers. Mommy bloggers continually sing her praises. As an ongoing strategy, the company targets moms, sending product to mommy bloggers, whether they have large or small followings. The company strategy is a success: The bars are available in Whole Foods, Wild Oats and supermarket chains across the country.
Here are Bosgraaf's and Singer's dos and don'ts for humanizing your brand:
- Be authentic.
- Make sure it is pure, true, authentic and will resonate with target audiences.
- Be yourself. Put yourself forward. Let people know who you are, your true opinions and details that put together a whole person.
- Let the story sell itself. Social media and organic methods of public relations work best. Choose two methods of social media communications and master those before moving on to others.
- Be frugal.
- Be authentic.
- Create an entire strategy around humanizing your brand.
- Let customers know what you are doing at least twice a week, whether through traditional public relations, Facebook or Twitter. And, of course, include preferred customer promotions and sales.
- Use a story just to use a story.
- Take out ads touting your story--it will only deflate your earnestness.
- Over-spend. Save and reinvest in the business
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