This guest post is by Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site.
Let’s begin with some word association:
- Disney World
- Goldman Sachs.
What did you think about when I mentioned these brands? What words came to mind? Thoughts? Feelings? Images?
Whatever it is that came to your mind is the brand image you associate with that company. When I think of those companies, I think of (respectively):
- family fun
- serious athletes
- youthful and innovative
These words may be simple but they represent a whole array of feelings and emotions that the company names express to me. And it is those thoughts and emotions that shape my interactions with them, just as it is your thoughts and feelings that shape your interactions with them and how you relate to them. It is those feelings that either turn is into loyal customers or loyal “people who always shop elsewhere.”
You are an idea
What are you? What about me? What do we represent?
This is not some existential question about life. These are questions about what your website or company is about and how people identify with it. Whether we know it or like it, our websites create an image in people’s minds, and we need to be conscious of that image because if we aren’t, our expectations and goals for our business won’t match the real perception of our business.
When we think about “brands” we think of marketing, business techniques, and icky sales terms. We think of slick ad men and women who are putting together ad campaigns to pull the wool over our eyes.
But this article isn’t an article on how to manipulate your brand image, it’s about how to understand and use it. The idea of a brand is a powerful tool that can help you engage your readers, foster trust, and create credibility. If you want to be successful, you need to understand your brand.
Think about Apple. What is Apple’s brand? When I think of Apple, I think trendy, cutting edge, and youthful. When Apple is about to launch a new product, I know right away that it will make me drool with excitement over how technologically advanced, functional, and stylish it will be. It’s why people pre-order a new iPhone without even looking at it. It’s why people will wait in line for days to get a phone they can get the following week without waiting. They just think, “It’s Apple, so it must be good” and line up to buy the product.
Once the product comes out, it continues to follow Apple’s pre-existing brand image of style, trendiness, and technological awesomeness and thus reinforces the idea of what Apple is in the minds of people. (This isn’t duplicitous. The products are great in their own right. They help people, which only further strengthen the brand and creates a self-feeding cycle.)
Think about what you convey when you build your website. What do you want people to think about you? On my site, Nomadic Matt, I like to convey the image of thoughtful, yet fun and inexpensive travel. To me, my site shows anyone can go out, have fun, break out of their cubicle, and still not spend a lot of money. When I asked my readers what words/images they associate with my site, they told me:
- budget travel
- muppets (my Twitter avatar is a fraggle)
- solo travel
I want people to think about a trusted source for fun budget travel. As a consequence, everything I do revolves around conveying and strengthening that brand image. I don’t write about luxury trips, I don’t promote books that don’t enhance the travel experience, I don’t write about blogging, and I don’t talk about hotels.
I get a lot of emails on joining digital nomad affiliates, but that’s not my audience and it’s not my brand. I’m not a digital nomad, I’m simply a nomad. I don’t write about making money, I don’t do sponsored posts, and I don’t talk about the mundane events of my life. All of that takes away from my brand image. I stick to a consistent message.
Strengthen your brand
Look at the words people associate with my site. They are the exact words I want them to be. I want to create a site that conveys those exact words, and by focusing my content, I can focus my brand to create the type of site that conveys it.
All that stuff I don’t do has only helped my site. I may not appeal to everyone but I’ve found that the more I am to fewer people, the more connections I make with them. In other words, I’d rather have a strong following of 1,000 people than a weak following of 10,000.
When creating and marketing your site, it is important to stay focused. Staying focused on what you want your site and brand to be about will help increase your traffic much faster.
Don’t be everything to everyone. Instead, be that one thing or expert that everyone turns to for information. Because when people get asked, “Can you recommend a budget travel expert?” I want them to recommend me. And by religiously focusing on what my site is about and never deviating from it, the more I become that budget expert in the minds of people. And that’s what I want. I want to be that budget travel guy, not anything else.
The mistake that many bloggers make is trying to be everything to everyone. They create content that is all over place. There’s nothing wrong with that if you just want to keep a personal, opinion site. However, if you want to run a website that supports yourself, you need to find a topic and stick to it. You need to ask yourself what you want to be, and focus on creating content and a brand around that.
My name is Matt Kepnes and I’m the budget travel guy. Who are you?
Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world for the past four years. He runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site and has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian UK, AOL’s Wallet Pop, and Yahoo! Finance. He currently writes for AOL Travel and The Huffington Post For more information, you can visit his Facebook page or sign up for his RSS feed.