How To Build An Interesting E-Commerce Brand In A Boring Industry

Just because your business or brand isn’t in an inherently interesting category doesn’t mean your brand has to be bland and boring.

While there is a huge number of exciting and trendy niches emerging, most industries have to contend with generating interest in what can feel like mundane, complex, or misunderstood spaces. Instead, it is the way a brand presents its narrative that truly makes it interesting.

In a 2019 study about what they called the characteristics of brand coolness, the American Marketing Association said, “We find that cool brands have up to 10 characteristics: Consumers perceive them to be extraordinary, aesthetically appealing, energetic, rebellious, original, authentic, subcultural, iconic, high status and popular.”

As long as a brand develops at least one of these major characteristics, it will create interest in even the most underloved industry. Even greater success will be secured by establishing as many of these traits as possible. This all happens as a business centers its vision on a clear goal like launching a new product and focuses efforts on using these attributes to achieve it.

For a “boring” brand to become more interesting, the brand owners need to know where to direct their attention. That means identifying its target market or community, focusing on storytelling, and learning how to adapt to the culture.

Put extra focus on your target audience.

One of the first steps to building a beloved brand is to identify your target audience. This extends to people who may become interested in your product or service if you capture their attention with the right story. As you narrow down this group, it is essential that you learn everything you can about who they are. Ask yourself, and much more importantly, ask THEM about their likes, their dislikes, their passions, and what is most important to them. What problems keep them up at night that your brand may be able to solve?

Audiences also care for authenticity. It is not enough to respond to your audience with the right message. Nowadays, audiences receive information about a brand from sources other than those created by the brand itself. They do a follow-up and watch for congruency and do reality checks.

Representation is also important. No one can tell a story about an audience better than the audience itself. Marketable groups want to see themselves represented in the content that is directed to them. Identity is of utmost importance.

These two variables create the need for an all-around perspective about diversity. If a brand wants to reach a particular audience, they need to incorporate that audience as storytellers, as creators, and as an integral part of the brand they seek their audience to identify with. There is huge value in creating a community that emphasizes what your brand stands for, while also having a vision your followers care about.

I spoke with Ryan Kutscher the founder of the professional branding agency Circus Maximus along with Ashley Richardson-George, his partner and CCO. As part of the conversation, Richardson-George asked, “How can diverse people feel included if they don’t see themselves represented in the content or in the brand itself?”

Offering an answer, she said, “Often, no matter how well the brand can convey a message for their target audience, if it is not told by somebody with whom they identify, who has experienced their needs and can convincingly attest the brand’s offering is able to address them, the audience will have trouble receiving the message.”

“It’s important to integrate with the community as a brand, and let that community integrate to you, so you can have a mission, purpose, positioning, persona, and tone of voice that specifically fits the people in your audience.” She continued, “This makes it much easier to focus on topics of authority and recognize the internal behaviors that will help you connect with people.”

Tell your brand’s story.

Consumers don’t always care if you have a great product. This may be difficult for some companies to hear, but it is crucial for them to understand. What is the reason consumers should care about your company beyond the product you sell?

Donald Miller, founder of StoryBrand, suggests that people don’t care as much about buying the best products as they do about buying the products that communicate most effectively. The same rings true for an eCommerce brand that can share its story in a captivating and engaging way. Even the most uninteresting business will have interesting people behind it with unique backgrounds, walks of life, and histories.

Instead of putting all of your focus on marketing and promoting your products, tell the story of your business, your owners, your employees, and even your loyal customers. People want to interact with people and will more deeply connect with a brand that uses storytelling to highlight this fact.

Adapt to current trends.

After watching the most recent Super Bowl, it has become more obvious than ever how important social awareness is to branding. We saw brands like Salesforce, Bud Light, and Expedia pull away from the norm of product promotion as they instead focused on trends, personality, and lifestyle aspects people really care about.

Nowadays, you’ll see many eCommerce brands focus their marketing and advertising on belief systems and ideals, rather than on their products. Consumers want to associate themselves with companies that align with their own views. If you can adapt your business to become a promoter of trending topics, while also integrating them with your company vision, you’ll see a boost in your customer loyalty.

Create a movement.

Even more than a charitable organization, people love a brand that is dedicated to making the world a better place. The ones that not only sell great products but use a portion of their profits to help people and improve society in general. There are so many ways to make a difference ranging from helping people, protecting animals, conserving the environment, and beyond.

The key is to only establish a cause that means something to you, your brand, and your employees. Taking some time to determine what people in your company care about could be a great start to creating a movement that consumers can get behind.

Pay attention to what your competition is doing.

Part of finding success in any industry involves watching to see what other companies in your space are spending their time on. Doing a regular competitor analysis is a great business practice to keep up with others in your space. There are a handful of ways to handle this research both online and offline.

You’ll want to take a look at your competitor’s website to see what is being shared on their main home page as well as the content that is being shared on their business blog. This may highlight industry updates or topics you haven’t covered in your own online marketing yet. You can also look up their media mentions to see if any of your competitors have been talked about in the news or major publications lately.

Among the best places to follow your industry news and what’s happening with other companies in your space is social media. See what they’re talking about on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or even hop on YouTube to see if they’re creating video content.

Former Dollar Shave Club owner, Michael Dubin, created an entertaining video explaining the product that ended up going viral. Men’s shaving supplies aren’t an overly exciting eCommerce industry, but Dollar Shave Club captured people’s attention through humor, simplicity, and a clear idea of what they offer. The viral video played a key role in the company’s massive growth, which eventually led it to be purchased by Unilever for $1 billion.

James Orfanos, co-founder of Top Notch Cinema, and his team helped Dollar Shave Club create videos for their brand and later said, “Without the power of video marketing, Dollar Shave Club never would have become a household name. Michael Dubin created a billion-dollar brand with video.”

Even the most underloved eCommerce space can be interesting

Your brand only needs to have at least one “characteristic of coolness” to be engaging. No matter what you’re trying to sell on your eCommerce site, there’s a way to capture attention from the masses.

Extraordinary, aesthetically appealing, energetic, rebellious, original, authentic, subcultural, iconic, high status, and popular. Whichever quality you are able to communicate, that’s your starting point to market your brand and present it in a cool way.