5 ways to make your branding dateable

Mack McCullough of Sq1 explains how to apply the principles of dating to branding design.

Mack McCullough of Sq1

What makes consumers pick one product or service over another? What makes them say they like Soda A over Soda B, or they'll get car insurance from this provider over that one? It's not like people, where washboard abs and bright smiles can make them more attractive. How can your brand attract more customers?

One way to approach this issue is to apply the principles of dating to your branding. They're way more similar than you'd first expect. If you're trying to make your brand more attractive, here are a few things from single life you can try.

01. Be really good looking

If given the opportunity, would you rather be 10 per cent better looking or 10 per cent more intelligent? If you tried to cheat and answer, "Be more intelligent, then I can earn more money and get a personal trainer and plastic surgery to be better looking," I've got bad news for you.

According to Daniel S Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas in Austin, attractive people are likely to earn 3 per cent to 4 per cent higher salaries than below-average-looking people. It literally pays to be attractive. The same goes for your brand.

The iPhone's good looks are central to its success

Take a look at the iPhone. Either pull yours out or ask the person standing next to you. Chances are one of you has one. Why has the iPhone become so successful? Its features and functionality are comparable and sometimes even inferior to its competitors. Its price point is certainly higher.

What makes the iPhone, and other Apple products, so popular? One answer is that they're pretty. Apple spends as much time and attention to the aesthetics of their products as they do the functionality.

People want to be seen with these products. They are so attractive; they make their owners feel more attractive, similar to how a tanned, toned fashion model on your arm may make you feel more attractive by association.

Attractive branding

Even if you can't change the look of your actual product, you can make sure your brand identity and advertising look as good as possible. Just as attractive people are seen as more intelligent (and according to Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, they are), good design in your marketing can make your brand seem more innovative and functional.

Work with creative people, either from a great agency or your in-house staff, to make sure your outward brand is aesthetically pleasing and unique. If it looks good, it will seem more interesting.

02. Be hopelessly charming

Not everyone can be Kate Upton or Matthew McConaughey. Some people are just born a little more average looking. Are we doomed to live and die alone, unworthy of love because of our lack of defined cheekbones and pecs that can crack walnuts? Of course not. But we may have to excel in other areas in order to make ourselves seem more attractive. We'd better have a charming personality.

A good sense of humor can make a person seem more attractive to a potential mate. In fact, if you can make someone laugh, your appearance will actually change in that person's eyes. It works for brands as well. Volkswagen has used humor to overcome many of its physical shortcomings to great success for decades.

Volkswagen's classic 1959 ad showed how to get self-deprecation right

In 1959, Volkswagen ran the famous 'Think Small' ad. It was a clever, self-deprecating piece that turned what many thought to be Volkswagen's biggest weakness - its looks - into a strength. By being clever and witty, Volkswagen changed the way people saw the brand.

03. Be genuine

Making your brand charming sounds straightforward, but people aren't easily fooled. If they think you're faking it, that's a huge turn-off. You need to come across as genuine.

So how do you go about it? First you have to get to know your audience. For example, a 14-year-old boy and his suburban soccer mom are probably not going to find the same jokes funny. Make sure your humor is right for the consumers you want to speak to.

Also don't overdo it. Think about the person at a party who is trying desperately to make everyone laugh. That desperation isn't attractive. Instead, let your brand's personality come through naturally. This is where a good copywriter can pay huge dividends.

04. Be confident

It takes guts to walk across a room and start a conversation out of thin air. That's why people go to bars so often to meet people. The booze gives us confidence (and intelligence, rhythm and sometimes invisibility). A confident person isn't scared about being shot down. They know they have something to offer, and that feeling is projected onto the object of their affection. Confidence is like having a secret that the person you're talking to is dying to find out. Does your brand have the confidence to chat up potential consumers?

For a brand to show confidence, it has to be bold. It has to be willing to do something different, and stick with it, even if it's not popular at first. It has to say, "This is who we are, take it or leave it."

Nike does an amazing job of displaying this confidence. Its TV ads rarely talk about the products. They don't say, "If you wear our stuff, you will play better." They don't have to. They make you feel it. And that takes confidence. There probably was at least one person in that boardroom during the first pitch who fought vehemently for the ad to talk about the shoe's benefits. Smarter, more confident heads prevailed, and the brand was better for it.

Nike ads rarely talk about the product - that's confidence

How can your brand exude confidence? Let it be bold. Let it stand out. Make your marketing different. If your agency comes in with an idea, and someone says, "I've never seen that before," make that your choice. Don't feel like you need to give everything away in the first 30 seconds. Leave something for the consumer to find out later, and have the confidence that they will.

Find what makes your brand unique, and then find an original way to sell it. The first step in getting consumers to believe in your brand is for you to believe in it yourself.

05. Get those digits!

The brands that go home with the most consumers either know these secrets intuitively, or they work very hard to make it seem like they do.

Any brand can be a consumer magnet - it just has to know how to talk to them. The right experts can help make your brand the hottest one in the joint, and with some practice you'll be getting numbers in no time.

Words: Mack McCullough

Mack McCullough is associate creative director at Sq1, an agency that takes data and turns it into insights, action and results, generating impressive ROI for brands such as Michael's, Dr Pepper, Travelocity and Jiffy Lube.