I remember once thinking to myself, “Will the business of branding ever die out?” With the automation and accessibility of decent design tools emerging for the layman to build with, will this industry that’s created so much value over the years shrivel up into obscurity? More than that, with the uprise of eCommerce sites like Amazon and Ali Baba, where a massive portion of the population just aims to buy the second cheapest widget they can find, does brand really hold as much sway as it once did? Well, as a brand builder who plays both these fields, I submit to you that it matters today even more than ever.

Throughout this past year, our agency has been doing a deep dive into the world of online retail, as we’ve seen a trend with a few of our national clients forcing them to shut their doors. The competition is fierce if you don’t know how to play the game, so we’ve dedicated ourselves to being heavy-weights in this category, infusing what we know how to do well – brand development, design, advertising, creative, product development – within the eCommerce space. Pair this with our operational capabilities to manufacture the products at low and high quantities and we’re in business. So we’ve begun by building a few brands to test in the market and I’m already seeing that we have a leg up on the competition.

I’ll be honest, it was with a bit of trepidation that I approached this initiative when it was first considered. What did I know about selling a product on Amazon — surely, they play by a different set of rules than we do coming from traditional branding practices. But as our team began to dive into what it takes to succeed there and elsewhere online — and believe me that is no small task — we began to see the big picture strategy was not so far a venture from our experience in branding as I had thought. It turns out that it’s humans that are buying the product; the same humans that have connected with the brands we’ve built in the past. The same principles are at play here.

Built a narrative around the brand that speaks to a very specific kind of person with a very specific hole to fill.

Take, for instance, our men’s leather goods brand, Wall St. Maker. On the surface and before getting to touch the product, these look like some nice products. That may be as far as it goes for some, but what will really seal the deal isn’t just the pictures or price. It’s what we’ve built around it that will end up converting over the long haul. We built a narrative around the brand that spoke to a very specific kind of person with a very specific hole to fill. We never claimed to solve all of this person’s problems, nor did we promise the world. We did, however, promise how they’ll feel when they use it which will in turn effect how they act. We cast a vision that conveyed a sense of opportunity and possibility, arising as a result of using our products. A lofty claim but one that’s been proven true time and time again. But even still, this is not the deepest hook that brand has on an individual. It goes beyond the practical benefits.

Successful branding has always leveraged the truth that humans strive to be (or at least appear) individualistic and unique, all the while, still part of something greater than themselves. We want to associate ourselves with identifiers that make us feel we’ve really represented our truest self. A person isn’t going to be committed to a brand (and eventually be a brand ambassador) without having something visceral to connect with; a brand one can trust and makes them want to not only identify themselves with the brand but to also identify themselves with other people who buy into the brand. Our focus must always be to build brands that people can point to and say, “That’s me; that’s part of who I am; I’m in that club.”

We, humans, have an insatiable desire to have and belong — we feed the physical and metaphysical alike.

No matter where your customer is perusing your stuff, remember that this person is human and humans are in a constant state of want. We have an insatiable desire to have and belong — we feed the physical and metaphysical alike. That’s why any successful company out there has seen it pay dividends when they make the effort to invest properly in building their brand. Whether it’s a product, service, or cultural institution, or NPO, give those who will support your company a story, an image, and a culture to commit to. This entrance fee is what humans will gladly pay for; branding proves it’s worth the price of admission.