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The New ABCs of Branding: Feat. Daniel Pink’s 3 Rules for Moving Others

You may not be “in sales,” but you’re in sales.

That’s the premise behind Daniel Pink’s latest book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Even if you are not employed in a role as a salesperson, you probably spend an awful lot of time persuading others in some way, shape or form.

While his message applies to the sales arena, it ties in perfectly with the concept of branding as well…especially when the purpose of branding is to persuade or “move” your audience. ABCs, which stand for attunement, buoyancy and clarity, could very well be the new rules for branding.

“A” for Attunement

In order to brand a product or service in today’s climate, brands have to leave their own perspectives behind and put themselves in their customers’ shoes. When companies listen and take time to understand consumers’ needs, they can customize a brand that appeals to them. Branding today has to be more consumer-focused—not solely about what a company thinks its brand is about.

Take Staples, for instance. Their tagline, “That was easy” is reflected when you shop online or in their stores, because most of the time it’s a simple experience. The company was really tuned into what the customer wanted—simplicity—aside from paper clips and pens. Bissell recently launched ads featuring the CEO’s wife to reinforce that Bissell is a family business…something that consumers feel connected with. Talk about being tuned into their customers.

“B” for Buoyancy

Brands need to deliver their message and visual concepts with a sense of buoyancy. That is, they must realize that not every campaign will be a winner and not everyone will buy into their brand. Buoyancy isn’t about expecting to fail; it’s about bouncing back if you do.

This elastic approach nods to the fact that branding success may not happen instantly. It can take a while to reinforce a brand’s message. For example, Under Armor’s What’s Beautiful campaign enabled the brand to interact with customers, but maybe those customers didn’t come around when they saw earlier campaigns featuring sports celebrities dripping in sweat—maybe those consumers wanted to connect to something real, such as the real people submitting stories for the campaign. Datsun is launching a comeback marketing their vehicles in nations that never originally carried their brand. Maybe Americans don’t dig Datsun, but the Russians might.

One way Pink says to practice buoyancy is to write a rejection letter—something corporate and marketing executives may want to consider doing. What reasons would a customer have not to buy into their brand? When these reasons are in writing, it can help an organization to strengthen its branding platform or better target a campaign.

“C” for Clarity

In order to develop a brand, a company has to think and act clearly. That is, try to pinpoint problems that people may not be aware that they have, then jump in with a solution—clear and to the point—and reflect that in the branding efforts.

Another aspect of being clear comes with messaging and how a company tailors it to the audience. They should assemble a branding pitch, and be clear about it. Companies must be succinct with how they convey their brand whether that is in an ad or how the average employee describes the company. (Even some creative agencies fall short on this, and they’re in the branding business—so make sure to think your message through…not just a visual identity!)

As companies get smarter about the need to brand, the ones that are standing out seem to be the ones that follow these principles. They know what their target audiences want, they’re clear in how they approach it, they keep the message focused on consumers instead of simply showing what they have to offer, iterating on their campaign strategies and tactics until they succeed. The universe of Branding can be complex and vast — however, it does start with some basics and they are as simple as A-B-C.

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