Humanize Your Brand: Branding & Marketing Lessons from Zulily & Chipotle

In her case study–rich post, “Good Marketing Doesn’t Feel Like Marketing,” Meagan Keeney Anderson shares:

The best jobs in the world don’t feel like work, and the best marketing in the world … well … it follows suit. Each time we launch a campaign, we have the opportunity to build something that surprises people, captures their attention, and truly engages them. That’s a fascinating challenge to take on, and it certainly beats yelling “SALE! SALE! SALE!” at the top of our lungs.

But for many, especially overworked business owners lacking in resources, marketing not only seems like a budget drain; it feels like MORE work than it’s worth. So it then becomes the neglected orphan of an overall business strategy. The afterthought. The thing you do when you think you’ve tried everything else.

You know what I call that? BAD marketing. And bad marketing IS a waste of resources.

Are you getting the word out? Sure. Probably at the last minute or in response to dwindling revenues or without an overall set of goals in mind other than: “Must make money—pronto.”

If marketing is your duct tape, if you leverage it only sporadically, if you treat every marketing campaign like a fire sale, you’re tapping perhaps 2% of the power of an effective brand presence.

Good marketing emerges from strong branding.

Good marketing works in concert with your brand’s overall message. In order to create engagement, attract brand ambassadors (i.e., very loyal fans), and boost the success of individual marketing efforts, you must infuse all facets of your business and marketing strategy with the message your company breathes every day.

How do you do that? You have to define what that message is. You have to live it. Your employees have to live it. Your fans have to believe in it and understand it.

In some way, you are the BEST. But if YOU can’t tell the world what makes your business better than your competitors’, how do you expect your customers to know—or care? Yet many business owners treat brand messaging as if it’s separate from what they’re trying to sell.

Strong branding is human.

Imagine you go to a party to meet new friends. You approach someone with, “Hello, person I don’t know. Please give me your money.”

Yeah, that doesn’t happen. Yet that’s how many market their businesses.

Perhaps you would:

  • Introduce yourself personally
  • Try to make them laugh by telling a funny / humanizing story, in an effort to engage their emotions and demonstrate your charisma
  • Share memorable / interesting information so they will want to know you better
  • Ask them about themselves
  • Listen carefully to what they say and pay attention to their body language
  • Ask for their phone number and to hang out in the future

And if you didn’t want to have just one new friend, you might repeat that process over and over again. And if those friends believed in you and had a need you could fulfill, they might even give you money.

Yet many behave as if the invisible line that separates them as sometimes-vulnerable business owners cannot be crossed to tap the humanity of their own customers.

Good marketing is sometimes a wave, sometimes a rallying cry, sometimes a pratfall, and sometimes a hug. But it is ALWAYS human.

Ignoring the human element is brand suicide. You must build trust, explore every interaction, read the “body” language of your customers and fans, and be authentically YOU at every turn.

Strong branding has humility.

Chipotle scandalYou may have heard about Chipotle’s recent kerfuffles with food safety, a threat not just to the brand’s image but to the company’s survival—and for that matter, the survival of their customers. As reported by Time Business:

Chipotle, which pressured other fast food chains to be more health-conscious by serving fresher and less-processed food, has been slow to recover from a salmonella outbreak, an E. coli outbreak and a norovirus outbreak. Not only did the health issues drive away diners in droves—sales dropped 30 percent—it forced the restaurant to briefly shut down dozens of storefronts, sunk Chipotle’s stock, spurred a federal investigation and prompted a shareholder lawsuit.

On January 15, 2016, they announced they would be shutting down all restaurants on February 8 to address the issue. They’ve admitted their mistakes and they’re publicly addressing them. Time also reports that they will launch a marketing campaign afterwards to try to recover their brand image.

By humanizing their brand as they have their business practices in serving better quality fast food, Chipotle is positioned to recover from this. How? With marketing, of course.

Strong branding makes fans for life.

Zulilly CSREffective marketing happens, many times, without you having to do a thing other than operate your brand authentically—as a human among humans.

Social media has given the average consumer a voice, making it possible for a single interaction with your company to impact hundreds or thousands of lives.

Recently, online clothing company Zulily got a ton of press when a woman tried to return a coat she had ordered. The customer service rep told her, instead, to donate it. She took to social media and told her story, and what began as a singular moment became a viral sensation.

People began sharing their own Zulily customer service experiences and the brand’s name spread like wildfire. The cost to Zulily? $40… maybe? Whatever it costs them to ship a single coat.

Their brand culture has been now broadcast to the world, while their conscientious business practices have likely drawn in scores of new customers.

Did they mean for this to happen? Probably not. But did it help that part of their brand mission is to provide exemplary customer service and give back? Absolutely.

Photo Credit: Lucy-Lamb. via Compfight

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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Branding: Zulily Style MNGT136Wk5 | Elliot Orange
7 years ago

[…] flash sales. They find this to be more personal and effective in their overall marketing efforts. Like introducing yourself to a stranger and exchanging phone numbers and making […]