Creating a soulful brand is the cornerstone of what I teach and work towards with my clients and within my own business. A soulful brand for me is one that feels good and does good things for my community. It inspires my audience to take action that feels good for them too, rejecting cookie-cutter and one-size-fits-all marketing advice. It’s ethical, strategic and timeless, focussing on long-term growth as opposed to quick-fix, trend-hopping reactive design and messaging.
Creating a soulful brand means thinking about how you want your customers or clients to feel from the very first interaction with your brand on Instagram, right through to the handoff after your work together is complete. And then building your brand around those feelings and the experiences you want them to have.
Not only does this ensure that your marketing and brand strategy will be something you actually stick to (because it doesn’t feel out of character or exploitative), but it allows you to approach your marketing, branding, sales and PR from a connection-first, customer-focused perspective. We all know by now that bro-marketing techniques which trigger fear, guilt and shame are so yesterday. The answer to that is techniques that lift people up, allow them to make informed choices, and help them to feel supported and seen as people.
So let’s take a look at how you can find your way to a more soulful and remarkable brand that does good things.
- Understand your values and purpose
Often in business and marketing, you will hear people say “start with why”. This is because people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. They’ve connected with your message, with the things you stand for, and the point of difference you provide from every other product or service on the market just like yours.
A purpose can help with your messaging, your customer loyalty, and even your employee buy-in. If they have a common goal to work towards, employee engagement tends to be much higher. A good purpose will be succinct, aspirational, easy to remember and a perfect guiding star for you to base decisions off. So a sustainable travel company might have “find a better way to travel”, for example.
Your values are the things you stand for, and that you want to be known for. They provide a backbone for business decisions, from hiring through to new product launches. They also form a core part of your brand voice and your wider content strategy. That same sustainable travel company might have the values of “advocate, disrupt, be kind”, for example!
- What is it that you love about other people’s brand?
Think about your favourite people online, whether they’re in business or not. Write a list of how they make you feel, and why you’ve come to associate those feelings with that person in particular.
Now try to identify how they thread that feeling through their entire digital presence, from the images they choose to post on their Instagram feed, to the way they write newsletters or blog posts. Christie from In Bursts of Colour is a fantastic example of carrying vibes through from her Instagram, to her entire digital presence. It is just all fun, all play, all happiness embodied!
- How do you want people to feel after interacting with your brand?
Identifying how you want to make people feel can go a long way towards cultivating a consistent brand voice. Different pieces of content will have a different purpose - some might be to inspire, some to educate, some to entertain - but either way, there will still be an overall feeling you want your audience to have after every interaction.
This may mirror what you’ve established from the exercise around what others are doing (but with your own spin, of course), or it may be something different entirely! From there, try to identify how you can convey those vibes. This includes thinking about colour palettes, photo styles, design choices (minimalist vs maximalist etc), the energy with which you speak or write, and the style of content you’ll produce!
- Speak to someone in particular
Probably you've done some kind of target audience exercise for your marketing plan, where you've come up with some character personas. This exercise is meant to help you visualise your client or customer so you can speak and sell directly to them.
While this exercise can be useful, these character persona's can also just remain fictional characters in your head. If you want to go at your marketing plan with a connection-first attitude, make that persona a real-life person.
Who that real-life person is, will depend on your business goals, your personality and how you want your audience to feel after every interaction. But you would all (hopefully) know at least one person who fits the description, even if that person is yourself.
So what would you say to them, if they were asking the question you want to answer?
What do they need to hear at that moment in order to feel supported and seen? Your best friend, your sister, your partner, yourself - how would you speak to them at this moment?
Keeping this person and these questions in mind can help you create content that is consistent in style and language every single time. And it can also keep you focussed on connection-first style marketing that feels good for you and your audience!
- Speak from experience and tell a story
Part of what burns people out in creating content and engaging as a real person is forgetting your experiences. We all have competitors in business, so we all have people who share the same information as us or do things in a similar way.
What sets you apart from the crowd, and cuts through the noise are your experiences and the stories that come with them. Instead of regurgitating the same facts as everyone else, try and find the story. Find the unique point of interest that will connect with your audience and help them understand the concept, in a way only you can!
- Be transparent and honest
Part soulful-branding, part good customer service, being transparent and honest should be at the core of every business, no matter what industry you’re in. Being transparent about your process and honest with your customers about where you are will go a long way towards building trust and cultivating an audience that will advocate for you in any room.
And that will feel good.
- Connection first, not sales first
Not long ago I was speaking with a client about how selling as part of her email marketing content plan made her feel gross. We talked about how so much of email marketing just feels like direct selling, and that’s not something that vibes with a lot of people.
And that’s why I advocate for connection-first marketing and content writing, as opposed to sales-first. That’s because I believe that the sales will come naturally after the connection has been made. After you’ve helped people and allowed them to feel seen and supported, naturally they will think of you when it comes time to invest.
So next time you sit down to write something take the “I need to make a sale” pressure off. Instead, frame it as “I need to make a connection” and see how better that feels!
Until next time, be kind to yourself and create something remarkable!