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Why Honesty Matters … for Blogs and Brands

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…”

brand

Ccopyright James Steidl - Fotolia.com

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

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Comments

  1. Doug Lance says:

    This is business and marketing 101, but it still amazes me how many people don’t truly internalize these ideas. I’d like to add that it might be more important to know your market before you even think about your product. If you don’t know what people want, then it is nearly impossible to design a successful product.

    • “…put out a blog that is both entertaining and genuine…” is great advice. To be genuine, you must blog honestly. With the amount of work that goes into blogging, if you can’t be yourself you are going to eventually be miserable.

      Just as Darren recommends in his book on blogging, write about something you are passionate about or your topic ideas will run dry. That passion for whatever you are writing about translates into being genuine. Writing about something just because it is “hip” or “in” won’t last long from a writing perspective.

  2. Enzo,

    I love your name by the way! It’s an Italian name … just like mine!

    I agree with your observation of the MAC ads.

    I don’t remember any of the “I use a Mac” ads, but the Mac vs PC ads were the ones that really started getting me to look at Mac computers differently.

    In the end, I’d say they were one of the major reason why I now own a Mac – that and the fact that Mac produces some of the coolest gadgets out there and their technology does not require a PhD in computer science to use.

    Great post!

    No doubt this will be the beginning of a great debate among readers!

    Krizia
    Women Entrepreneurs HQ Show

  3. Hey Enzo,
    Your blog is your brand and so are you. In order to be successful it would be beneficial to show your success to your audience.

    Let them know what you have to offer and that you are trustworthy. Like you said there isn’t any silver bullet method. What worked for one may not work for another.

    It takes time and effort to build an online presence. But with consistent focus and action our desired results will occur.

  4. I think this article applies to brands than blogs. But I liked your comparison between ads from Apple. Good choice in the comparison too. Anything about Apple creates a lot of buzz these days and it is great to see that you have found something useful from that. And yes, a good brand is always about honesty and delivering the promise.

  5. The Mac vs. PC ads worked because the commercials were careful to depict the PC fans in the best possible light – which was important since the vast majority of viewers likely used PCs. The PC fans were depicted as nice guys (instead of as morons) which helped make the message of the PC’s inferiority much more palatable.

    You can imagine a series of ads in which the “superior” Mac users sneered at the PC counterparts. Such a series obviously wouldn’t have done very well with the PC users, since no one likes to be told directly that their technology choices may be lacking in some way!

  6. Hasan says:

    Great article, its very true honesty matters and especially is this time and age, where people are still scamming and spamming, promising unfulfilled promises to people across the web.

    I mean, honesty is long term, while dishonesty is only short term!

    Great article, again!

    Hasan

  7. I was listening to Mark Sanborn speak yesterday and I heard this expressed a different way: The phrase Business Ethics is redundant.

  8. Graham Lutz says:

    I literally have never seen a guest post on problogger with no subheadings!

    That being said…I read the whole thing!

  9. Himanshu says:

    honesty is the only thing which helps in the long run. i like the post

  10. Marie Noelle says:

    Great markpost on branding and marketing! It’s always good to go back to the basics from time to time! You, Enzo, are a really “hip” person! :) Have a great day!

  11. john liming says:

    Hey! I love “Pro Blogger” because I am new at blogging and extremely naieve about the whole process. I started my blog about 5 months ago and, at the start, it was showing something like 3 and 4 hits a day. Not knowing anything, I thought, “Hey, that’s great! Somebody is reading me.”

    Now, a few short months later, I have had more than 11,000 people take a look and that is fantastic for me!
    I am sure that by now, it should be a lot more but I am old and happy with the Eleven Thousand who have come. I was also surprised to discover that, over the past weekend, I got between 180 and 210 “Hits” a day.

    I am somewhat eccentric and outspoken and that might have something to do with the blog growing. Maybe it should grow faster. I don’t know. It is not a money thing with me. It is a “Fight A Good Fight” kind of thing. I know nothing from either Branding or Marketing, but I know that I am having fun!

  12. Belize says:

    Hip means trend of the day or the week or month. I prefer authority that usually has far more staying power after the hip has worn off in the fickle weather of hipsters.

  13. patrick says:

    Very true. Having an open and honest relationship with your readers is the key to long term success and loyalty. Not only will they appreciate and respect you for it, they’ll also refer their friends and family. Being honest goes beyond being generic, it speaks to people on a much more personal level.

  14. George says:

    When you are honest to your readers, the quality of the blog posts does reflect that. It could be compared to serving a dish. If you’ve cooked it well adding necessary ingredients to the right amount, it tastes better.

  15. I am convinced that when someone offers a quality service in any type of product, customers will always be faithful to the service. Behaves the same way an honest and quality blog. Readers will always be faithful to the blog.