What do you do? Let your customers tell you

April 13th, 2010

Branding can be a pain in the ass, especially if you do something new and/or unusual.

The whole “fit in/stand out” thing can be a real headache – stand out too much, and nobody knows what to do with you. Fit in too much, and you’re redundant.

Over the years with iJump and then with sy we’ve struggled to articulate just what we do, and still, apparently, we’re not hitting the mark.

But we’ve made a decision about branding: by the end of the year, sy will no longer have the term “social media” in its name. It’s a phrase that raises hackles as much as it excites people. Worst of all, it gives an incomplete idea of what we do.

What are we going to rebrand to? I don’t know yet. Our customers are going to tell us.

Last week at Connect Now, Gary Vaynerchuck said he listens to everyone, but also ignores everyone when it comes to setting strategy. One of his quotes: “If you let your customers define you, you’re f**ked”. And he’s right.

So let me clarify: we know what we do, we just don’t know how to describe it in a very short sentence. We know the actions, we just don’t know the words. We’re too close. And probably, so are you.

So this year we’re collecting. We’re collecting great stories from our clients, we’re collecting their hopes and dreams and working with them to achieve those dreams, and we’re going to listen very closely to how they describe our part in their dreams.

Because we have some very cool clients, and we want to work with more people like them. So if we use the terms they describe, we figure like-minded people will be attracted to work with us.

This way, we can spend less time brainstorming our brand, and more time doing great work with our clients.

For the record, here are some of the things we do:

  • Create content for clients that buzzes with humanity (copywriting)
  • Help clients create their own content
  • Facilitate clients to create their own culture, rules and guidelines around social media
  • Help clients understand what they could do with social technologies, and then what makes the most sense for them to do using those technologies.

How do your customers describe your business?

(This post has been rolling around in my mind for some time, but Ben’s post on elevator pitches helped activate it)

(I’ve got to acknowledge the work of 7degree and Joi Design in getting us this far in our branding journey. This post doesn’t reflect on their abilities at all, the core of branding has to start with the company that owns the brand, and that’s us!)

(Photo from amboo who?)

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  • jonathonhagger
    Why not simply drop the term "social" from the title of what you do. That way you would become - "Sy Media Consulting". Of course this may attract a broader audience than the one you currently have but may be a better longterm solution?
  • Not the first time it's been suggested, but we do so much more than media. A unique part of our approach - that's hard to put into a few words - is that we help organisations develop their own guidelines and content for social media, we don't just ride in and present a completed strategy.

    It's a very painstaking, long-term process, but we believe it sets organisations up to be totally sustainable in social media.
  • Radhika
    Large or small I would discourage the invention of "unique terminology" why? Because attempting to bamboozle clients with nonsensical buzz words will turn them off. Case in point I am prepared to recommend turfing agency X (AUD$6m pa) because their rebranding is a disaster, have completely lost sight of what they do and their "bamboozling" attempts have created the most ridiculous drivel ever written on a site which is now apparent in every document they send us. Avoid cliches - even made up ones! Rebranding is an exercise in defining who you are and where you are going
  • Thanks Radhika, good perspective on the buzzwords thing.

    To play devil's advocate, Shakespeare invented so many words that are common now. I think it's possible to coin new words if you do it sparingly and with unstoppable confidence. And it helps if the word somehow ties back to similar words.
  • The more abstract your name the more future-proof is it. Rebranding is an expense you should try to avoid. Why not look at your core processes and make up your own unique terminology for what you do? Yes it's pretentious and may bamboozle your clients at first, but if your company is doing something different, filling a niche in the market then why not use the power of the English language to describe it, rather than tout clich├ęs. The 'fitting in' can be in the categories that follow such as copywriting.
  • Thanks Dave, good response. I've always resisted making up my own terminology because it goes against the ethos of plain language. However I totally get your point, and if it's a matter of working client by client, it doesn't matter if the average Joe Bloggs doesn't get it.

    Also, there's rebranding and there's rebranding. We're not changing the sy, just what comes after that (currently "social media consultancy").

    Thanks again for your reply.
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