This guest post is by Enzo F. Cesario of Brandsplat.
Will someone please tell me what “hip” means? Does it mean “popular?” Is it what the kids are doing today? Well, just who are the kids? Do you mean teenagers? Early 20s? Hipsters? No, not hipsters … we’ve heard enough from them.
The same goes for words like edgy, trendy, hot, clever—managers seem to use these words all the time, and yet when pressed for an answer can’t seem to provide any input for what they’re going on about. It’s about as helpful as saying, “Make this product a bestseller,” but answering “How?” with an, “Oh, you know…”
A lot of people wanting to make a good blog ask these kinds of questions, though. “How do I make it hip? How do I make it really pop?”
Far from being a problem merely of unimaginative employees, vague guidelines do represent an obvious problem in the greater blogging world. The problem comes up from two separate directions: The first is not knowing how things work, and the second is not being willing to admit you don’t know how things work.
The first problem lies in the nature of modern branding and advertising itself. A blog is very much about creating a brand image—specifically, branding yourself and the way you have with words.
The sad, cold, utterly frightening fact of the matter is that there is no formula. There is no silver bullet, no magical way to do things that will result in viral success, online or off. This is because people are inconsistent, confusing, unusual creatures with the ability to change their minds about things. Sometimes people will respond to a well-done light show, other times they want to see an angry rant, and still other times they grow inordinately fond of a man in a towel parading through a Magic Realism sequence of events.
The second matter is a bit of necessary misdirection: there are things people can do to make branding work. There are rules for how pictures should be composed, the ratio of text to images and other sorts of guidelines that can make something work and another something not. But none of this is that fabled silver bullet that will guarantee branding success—everything that’s done in the field of branding is an attempt.
Take two examples from the same company, Apple. The first is the company’s classic, “I use a Mac” series, and the second is its “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” promotion.
The “I use a Mac” series didn’t take off quite as well as the Mac/PC series, and there’s no hard and fast reason why. Some opined that the ads were just too bland, others thought they represented a kind of snobby elitisim.
On the other hand, the fame of the Mac/PC ads is very well-established. They connected with people for some reason. Opinions, again, vary as to why—some thought it was the clever banter, others point to the fact that making the machines into people allowed viewers to connect more. Whatever the reason, the “I use a Mac” ads are forgotten, while the Mac/PC format is still being copied by such luminaries as Sprint.
Yet when examined visually, the two ads are almost indistinguishable. Both show people against white backgrounds, talking. What the heck made one work, and one not—especially given that no one can seem to agree as to the reasons why folks seemed to go for one or the other?
There are answers, but there is no one answer.
Here’s my personal take on these two ads: I think it was because Apple embraced its market more in producing the latter format. With the “I use a Mac” format, they were trying to target a new market—people who use Macs were talking to people who don’t. It’s hard to bring in new clients; most business comes from repeat customers. Further, it’s word of mouth from existing clients that tends to bring in new people rather than advertising.
So with the second set of ads, Apple targeted its own audience with arguments that were familiar to them: Macs work, PCs don’t. This made them more satisfied with their purchases and more likely to use their purchasing power, as well as trying to bring their friends and families into the fold. Again, this isn’t the definitive answer, but it is one that makes as much sense as any of the others.
So, how exactly does this translate to you? How do you make something hip and edgy and all those other fun, potentially meaningless words?
First, know your product. When you’re writing a blog, you are selling yourself and your writing. Before you do anything else, you need to know what niche you and your blog fill. Mac hit on this with the “Macs just work” argument that served the company so well. Be familiar with what you want to discuss and the way you intend to discuss it before you get started.
Second, know your market. You can have the best hair restoration product in the world, but marketing it to the Hair Metal glam rock set is probably not going to work out so well. Figure out who your audience is and what they like.
This is where the social side of blogging comes in. Take a few minutes and actually talk to people, socialize, discuss, laugh, tell jokes, be the butt of a joke. Do something to connect with people and have a discussion. Demographic research is great—but someone else can do that part. You should go talk to someone and get a feel for what their mood is.
Between these two elements, you will be able to come to a more honest vision of what they want, put out a blog that’s both entertaining and genuine, and “hip” can remain a description of a body part, rather than a meaningless adjective.
Enzo F. Cesario is an expert on blogs and social media for business and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, videos and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. For the free Brandsplat Report go to Brandsplat.com or visit our blog at http://www.ibrandcasting.com