Which Line Are You Standing In?

I witnessed an interesting phenomenon at a recent marketing conference. The marketing conference attracted over 19,000 marketing and sales professionals. Professionals from a variety of industries, representing companies of all sizes.

There were two talks, in two rooms, right next to each other. To the right, there was a workshop entitled “Creating Ridiculously Good Looking Websites”. It promised 10 “growth hacking” tips to attract new users to your website.

To the left, there was a workshop entitled “Tell Your Story, Give Your Brand a Voice”. It promised to help you tell a better story that resonates with the consumers you want to attract and retain.

The line for the workshop to the right was wrapped around the convention center. Literally, hundreds of marketers shooting for a chance to learn how to “growth hack” their websites. Marketers looking for a shortcut to jolt their customer acquisition efforts.

The workshop to the left, had no line at all. The room ended up being only 25% full.

Why is it that we are so attracted to shortcuts? Why do we care more about the design than the stories that the design is supposed to help bring to life?

Why do we view the story of our brand as a stationary object — one that doesn’t need continual fine tuning?

Instead, we think of the story we want to articulate and then put it on the shelf and let it sit, while we spend time trying to “growth hack” our way to new consumers.

The answer: Brand building is hard. It takes time. A lot of time. It requires consistency. It requires truly listening to our consumers and telling them an authentic story that they actually want to hear.

Telling authentic and compelling stories is equally as hard. They both take a significant amount of emotional labor.

There is no grow hack to help us tell better stories. There’s no growth hack to make it less of an emotional process.

You know what is pretty easy? Building a website. There’s square space, weebly, wix, word press, shopify… and the list goes on. These companies walk you through how to put together beautiful websites. You can even offshore it for minimal cost. Website building and design is a increasingly commoditized category. Anyone can have a nice website, if they want it.

However, what you can’t do easily is build a brand. Tell a story that is authentic. Articulate a message that resonates strongly with an audience. So strongly that they are willing to change their behavior, get off of the couch and to go to the shelf or go online and give your brand a vote of confidence through their purchase.

You can have a pretty website. You can have great specs. However, people don’t care about facts or specs. People care about stories. Stories that match the frame through which they view the world. Build a brand that speaks to people.

Otherwise, you will not win.

This doesn’t only apply to companies. It applies to each of us. We are walking brands.

Ask yourself, what’s your brand slogan? What’s your story? What would others say? Does your brand resonate with your target audience?

You can’t “growth hack” your way to where you want to be. It takes time. It requires consistency. It entails emotional labor.

Will your brand help you win?