Transforming Your Brand Into a Movement: How to Talk About What You Sell

Written by Laura Roeder

On March 31, 2017

We’ve talked about transforming your brand into a movement using some real life examples like TOMS, Airbnb and LittleMissMatched. When they’re most effective, brands that spark movements erase the line between the brand and customer entirely.

You don’t just wear TOMS. You’re the kind of person who wears TOMS.

How about your brand, though? You know there’s a movement around what you’re doing, but how do you talk about it?

Here are some ways to think about language as you transform your brand into a movement.

Focus on the solution, not the problem

It’s completely true that being able to describe a universal problem your customers have – not just what the problem is, but how it feels to have it – is essential to building a movement around your brand.

But this is where a lot of marketing makes the mistake of focusing on the problem.

We’ve all seen marketing language that shames and scares.

You can probably think of more than a few magazine headlines that forebodingly speculate about which everyday activities might give you cancer, weaken your joints, or make your eyeballs spontaneously fall out.

If you’re trying to fire people up, replace language that shames around a problem with language that inspires around a solution.

Forget: “What are you waiting for? If you don’t sign up now, you’re admitting to yourself that you’ll never change.”

The language above issues a challenge that, depending on the context, can sound a little confrontational.

Try instead: “This time tomorrow you could be meeting a group of brilliant women with similar goals who will help keep you on track – and maybe even become your new besties.”

This statement still implies a sense of urgency with the use of the word “tomorrow,”  but the question of “why wait?” is transformed into a positive. The focus isn’t on what you won’t achieve if you don’t purchase, but on the good feeling that will result when like-minded people get together for a common goal.

Put your sentences to the test: If you can easily fill in the end of a question with unflattering language, you just might have a confrontational statement on your hands:

What are you waiting for, you lazy bum?

Why don’t you, scaredy-cat?

If you don’t help yourself, who will, you friendless, hopeless mess of a human being?

When you tell people that without you, they’ll never achieve their dreams, or they’re wasting their lives, or that the government is going to take away their favorite vegan cheese, you risk deflating them so much that when they finally reach your solution and the end of this sentence they are tired and defeated and maybe even sad.

Unless you’re an authority your audience completely trusts, leading with a negative begs the question, “Who are YOU to tell me I’m going to ______ if I don’t do what you say?”

Here’s another hypothetical example of a movement-based positive statement.

“We’re passionate about giving vegan cheese its rightful place of honor. Today, have a slice on your sandwich. Tomorrow, share with friends (and ants) at the annual picnic. Together we can show our local supermarkets that vegan cheese deserves a spot right alongside dairy, and soon we’ll see it stocked proudly in every grocery in town!”

This statement gives customers a sense of ownership in the solution.

In other words, “Buy our vegan cheese, and you’ll help the vegan movement gain traction in more supermarkets.” A win for both producer and consumer!

Talk AROUND your product or service

Great marketing for movements can employ the tactic of talking around, over, beneath, and beside the product, instead of about the product.

In a movement, the product or service becomes a tool that takes you to an ideal outcome. Spotlight the outcome, and the tool will seem like a utilitarian must-have.

Here’s a great example.

Dr. Marten’s partnered with Rookie magazine in 2013 to produce a photoshoot and article featuring six teenage girls changing the world.

The girls profiled were asked “What do you stand for?” and given the opportunity to talk about race, gender, youth, and social justice, all while highlighting their accomplishments against a background of personal style. (Wearing, of course, Dr. Marten shoes.)

The company’s Twitter hashtag campaign, #standforsomething, also put the focus on ideals and activism instead of shoes.

Stand in the shoes (your Docs), stand together (on social), stand up for your beliefs! Makes a lot of sense, right?

Let your audience have a bigger say

Just like the Dr. Marten #standforsomething, LittleMissMatched – who you might remember from our last post about brand movements – also uses social media to let their audience have a say with #LLMUBU.

(Translation: LittleMissMatched, You Be You.)

LittleMissMatched encourages customers to share their stylish statements of clashing patterns and colors on #LLMUBU to show individuality and personality.

It’s free advertising for their brand, AND makes their customers feel good about themselves (because really, who doesn’t love showing off their own style a little).

When you’re ready to feed Edgar some movement-based snacks for your social media queue, it really comes down to this.

Your product is not the movement. Your audience is the movement.

Your brand story as a movement is your audience’s story – and allowing your audience to tell that story is incredibly powerful!

What movements have YOU seen – or started?

What social media campaigns do you love that have inspired people to share on a brand’s unique hashtag?

(Have you done it yourself?)

Let us know in the comments!

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