You have 2.6 seconds. Don’t screw it up by focusing on YOUR brand.

 You have 2.6 seconds to make a good first impression with your customer. Don’t screw it up by focusing on YOUR brand. Brand strategy. Brand messaging. B2B brand.

A few years ago we were hired to guide a tech startup through a brand transformation. In a conversation with the founder about the tag line, we quickly arrived at an impasse. The tag line read…

Customer centered. Results driven.

The founder was firmly committed (entrenched you might say) to his perceived value of the meaning of the tag line because it stood for what he valued. He believed that the IT services industry had lost touch with truly focusing on results for the customer. He believed their brand had a mandate to get back to that focus...an honorable pursuit and the back story that fueled the creation of the tag line.

Unfortunately, the meaning of the message was crafted through the lens of the brand rather than the lens of the audience. Despite using the words “customer” and “results”, the tag line was in fact a description of the brand. Yawn. I mean really, what brand wouldn’t describe themselves as customer-centered and results-driven? Customers expect that from our brands without us proudly declaring it. The only appropriate context for such an obvious message is to mock it through entertainment. Cue Captain Obvious from the hotels.com commercial.

While a tag line is just one representation of our brand stories, it is an important one. We can learn a lot about creating all our content, brand story and marketing, from effective tag line creation. A tag line is specifically designed to serve as a call to engage. That call to engage needs to be something that the audience can own themselves as a pathway to their WHY.

And it has to be quick.

We have little time to make a first impression with our brands, or more pointedly to achieve a “first opinion” from our audience. First opinions are lightning quick. How quick? One, two, almost three seconds… opinion formed. According to a recent research project performed by the Missouri University of Science and Technology, 2.6 seconds, to be precise, is how quickly  our audience forms an opinion about what they are considering to consume.

There's a lot of noise out there. We’re all competing, not just against defined competitors, but against an endless sea of content producers. Brands that win the attention of their audience are brands that view themselves through the lens of the audience. That means they know how to immediately draw in their audience with authentic value. Authentic value is something of which the audience can immediately take ownership because it opens the door to their WHY. The audience WHY is whatever results they want to achieve. American Economist and Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt said it best, “people don’t buy a quarter inch drill bit, they buy a quarter inch hole.”

Back to our startup tech founder story. How was he going to translate the meaning of the tag line into a pathway to the audience WHY? The answer came in the form of a three way comparison with two of the world’s top brands. The comparison offered two choices for each brand. One tag line was crafted through the lens of the brand resulting in a brand description. The other was crafted using the lens of the audience resulting in a pathway to the audience WHY.


Nike

Athlete focused. Performance driven.

OR

NikE

Just do it.

Apple

User designed. Experience driven.

OR

Apple

Think differently.

GuideIT

Customer centered. Results driven.

OR

GuideIT

Do technology right.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know which tag line Apple and Nike actually used. After some time to reflect on the comparison (and an audience survey about the options), the founder chose the right path. He chose his audience.

Tune in next week. We’ll dig into using the audience lens for yet another component of brand story…personas. Note...demographics do NOT equal personas!