How a Slip ‘N Slide = Phenomenal Branding Power

By Jessica Albon

Small business brand design Slip 'n Slide of assumptions

Image by Respres on Flickr

Remember playing with a Slip ‘n Slide as a kid? You set up the plastic on a hill or flat part in the yard, hook it to the hose, and turn the water on. Then, you run, jump, and slide down the length.

On the one hand, we have the Slip ‘n Slide. And on the other, we have small business branding–which, as it’s done at the moment is often the act of puffing out your chest and crowing about why folks should hire you and not some other guy. Which, of course, has the effect of making you look like all the other small business people out there puffing out their chests and crowing about why folks should hire *them* and not you.

When you put the two together, you get something like this:

It’s a Slip ‘n Slide’s worth of “Why Sprint is cool and on the pulse of what’s happening and therefore you should use our network.” The first time I saw this commercial, I thought, “Where did they get all those numbers?” (The second time, I figured it out: they made them up!) And I bet you had a similar thought. Had they just given one number, you wouldn’t have been curious. But because they threw out so many, and did it with authority, you got intrigued and before you knew it, you were sliding straight down to “Their network sounds like it might be the right one for me.”

That curiosity, that getting someone to *think* about what you’re saying, that’s how you get them on your brand Slip ‘n Slide. It’s no less delightful than setting up the real deal in your front yard in a neighborhood of children.

But, how do you do this when you don’t want to make up a whole heck of a lot of numbers? You tap into your prospect’s ability to make assumptions using a handy formula that looks like this: Something You Have/Do + Something You Are + What You Do = Desired Assumption.

In the case of the Sprint Commercial, it looks like this:
Specific Numbers Re: Hipster Hi jinks + Belief that Faster is Better + Cell Network = The best choice for hipsters who want a 4G connection

Let’s play with some others:

  • Sophisticated + Siamese Cat Owner + Design = Sophisticated, slightly standoffish interior design
  • Introverted + Surfer + Life Coach = Free spirited, good-at-listening coach
  • Playful + Goofy Labrador + WordPress Design = Friendly WordPress Design 😉

Now, to make this clearer, let’s take an example that doesn’t work at all. Say I wanted to give the impression that I’m the World’s Most Sophisticated Small Business Brand Expert. Obviously, I wouldn’t play up these photos of Izzy:
Muddy Dog Does Not Say World's Most Stylish WordPress Designer

Because, that equation:
xxx + Goofy Labrador (who’s usually muddy) + Small Business Brand Expert ≠ World’s Most Sophisticated Small Business Brand Expert

So, let’s think about things that I do have that do say sophisticated… Hmmm… I live in a 1964 brick ranch–sure, it’s cozy and charming, but sophisticated? Nah. If Izzy were an Afghan Hound, he might help, but the way he’s snoring away as I type this… Nah. Aha! I also own an island townhouse that I decorated that’s been featured in magazines. That does indeed say sophisticated. So, that gives us an equation like this:

xxx + Sophisticated Home at the Beach + Brand Expert = (possibly) World’s Most Sophisticated Brand Expert

Now, what I’m missing is something that gives me that global perspective. Aha! My BA in Global Studies ought to do nicely. So, we get the equation:

Global Studies Major + Sophisticated Home at the Beach + Brand Design = World’s Most Sophisticated Small Business Brand Design

Now, in my examples above, I’ve been filling in that final part for you. But, in reality, the way you use your Branding Slip ‘n Slide Equation is by leaving the final part off. You want your Tribe to fill in the final blank. And, just as 2 + 2 always equals 4, your Tribe will also always come to the right conclusion.

(Sometimes people who aren’t in your Tribe will do their math wrong and that’s fine. If people *in* your Tribe are consistently getting the wrong answer, tweak your equation.)

When you want your readers to know you as the savvy, sophisticated interior designer, you show them photos of your work, talk about your Siamese, and don’t mention that you’re wearing mis-matched socks today. (I’m not wearing any socks at all, but that’s neither here nor there).

When you want your readers to see you as friendly and approachable, you share muddy photos of your goofy dog (who is in dire need of a bath today…) and don’t mention that you kinda wish the phone wouldn’t ring any more for the next two hours so you can get this blog post written. (As soon as it’s posted I’m happy to talk with you!)

And when you’re going for that free-spirited, yet introverted life coach, you share your great beach photos
, lessons learned on a surf board, and favorite new musicians, but you don’t talk about how you really wish your clients would stop talking so much and start taking more action.

Basically, setting up your small business Brand Slip ‘n Slide Equation is all about filling in the blanks in a consistent, reliable way so your Tribe can get to know you better. It’s about choosing which details to share and which to keep to yourself based on the relationship you’re building. Just as I save talk about guys I’m dating for my friends and not my newsletter, so too you can hold back certain details in your life. It’s not manipulative, it’s just editing (and, usually, it’s editing out the stuff they’re not all that interested in).

Today, put some thought into your own Brand Slip ‘n Slide Equation–trust me, this is math that’s actually fun (well, maybe not as fun as an *actual* Slip ‘n Slide, but at least it doesn’t require you to put on a bathing suit first!).