"You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance" (Franklin P. Jones).
It was a fairly average trip with my four-year-old to her gymnastics class when she suddenly declared "That's a Simba mattress!". "Is it?", I reply, "how do you know that?". Has she (unbeknownst to me) learnt to read? Nope, alas I do not appear to be raising a child protégée, but the answer nevertheless made me think. "I know it's a Simba mattress because I saw it on an advert on Poppa's computer". A couple of thoughts here...
- How long had she spent watching Poppa's computer and what was she watching? Closely followed by;
- How incredible that she would recognise and remember the name of a seemingly irrelevant product for a four year old. Why would she do that?
It isn't like this is some form of moulded plastic coated in pink and sparkle, in which case, let me tell you, she'd know the name, jingle and the RRP. It's a mattress. I mean, ok, its pretty distinctive looking, but a mattress nevertheless; and my girl isn't one who looks forward to bed-time.
My interest piqued, I felt obliged to read more about Simba, and a quick bit of googling reveals the people behind the company clearly know a thing or two about branding (Advertising legend John Hegarty, and Innocent Drinks Founder Richard Reed being amongst them). They are clearly spending relatively large sums of money on advertising, and the fact I've seen Simba ads popping up here, there and everywhere since my google search tells me they know a thing or two about behavioural targeting. However, there are lessons to be learnt for small or medium-sized businesses.
As a business owner, one of the most important assets you own is your brand, but often it's something you let just plod along. I mean, you develop the logo, perhaps a set of brand guidelines which you bend and tweak here and there as new formats are introduced and the company grows. So, what were Simba mattresses getting so right that even a four-year-old could recognise their ads across different formats? I'm not going to attempt to write a branding manual here, but just note a couple of things that I think they do so well and would be easy to replicate across your own brand.
Consistency of Design: think Simba and I immediately think their distinctive blue. You see it everywhere, the logo, the label on the mattress, even the pyjamas of the people in the ads. It feels fun, fresh and it helps the product stick in your mind. The product itself is sleek, no fussy patterns or unnecessary frills. It always takes centre-stage and it, quite frankly, looks the business. You could suggest this is much easier to do for a product-based business, and is harder for the service industry. However, things like consistency of photography (and investing in professional photography) make a world of difference here.
Consistency of Message. In my opinion, the most important thing you can do for your brand is consistently talk about the same benefits, clearly defining what it is your brand should mean to consumers. In Simba's case this is about being the "most advanced mattress in the world" and they go to great lengths to demonstrate why and why this is important. Whilst my four-year-old is an extreme example, it's almost worth boiling it down to this level of understanding. What do you do well, and how are you going to communicate this? Even she noted that the mattress looked comfy and you would get a good night's sleep. As someone who works in branding, I thought that was pretty impressive stuff considering she'd seen one short ad and a poster. In Simba's case they feature a rather peaceful-looking Gareth Bale (someone to whom, I'd imagine, a good night's sleep is paramount). Whilst big-money celeb endorsements might work for the big brands out there, it's not all about this. Consistently talk about the same things in the same way and your message will stand a far greater chance of resonating. This doesn't necessarily mean saying exactly the same thing over and over again, but it should all serve to reinforce the same positioning. Take time to understand what your positioning truly is: what makes your company special and what resonates with your customers/potential customers (this part is crucial).
A really useful exercise to carry out once in a while is to lay out all your ads, your literature, your website, your product if you have one, and ask yourself "would a four-year-old know this is all from the same company?". It might be more illuminating than you think...