Among the 30,000 words on the Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap label, you’ll read things like “The surest way to destroy our enemy is by making him our sincere friend!” and “We’re ALL-ONE OR NONE! ALL-ONE!” It’s a strange way to build a brand, indeed. But this quirkiness catapulted a family-owned soap company into the niche spotlight.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap has remained largely the same since 1948, when third-generation soapmaker Emanuel Bronner began mass producing the soap and his strong messages about unity, love and hard work. The attention-grabbing brand began to draw interest in very specific ecologically-minded circles and grew from there.
These days, big businesses have access to a plethora of marketing techniques and are able to change their marketing to reflect industry trends, create and comment on fads through advertising, and can even change their mottos to match industry sentiment. Dr. Bronner’s has stayed out of the marketing arena, focusing instead on the quality of their products and relying on their unique message.
So, how can you use this extreme approach to branding to your advantage? Dr. Bronner’s shows us that by focusing on quality, ideals and fair business models over profits, market share and blatant advertising, you can gain traction and become a staple in your niche. With tiny shifts and indicators that we may be slowly moving towards a values-based economy, it’s important to consider what you can do now to solidify your brand.
Three Elements of a Good, Clean Brand
- Authenticity – Dr. Bronner’s soap comes from a long history of family soapmakers, and the sometimes tragic story is available to anyone who will listen. Transparency about their raw materials is also an essential part of their brand, and they’re first to defend their organic, fair-trade materials in a sea of pretenders. The brand believes sharing your story, talking about your struggles and your triumphs and humanizing your brand so that your audience can relate is the best way to connect. A true love for your product or service shows your customers that you’re not simply in this for the profit.
- Consistency – Smaller, niche brands like Dr. Bronner’s find that their original quirkiness is what makes them appealing. When Dr. Bronner’s began expanding into other personal care items like lip balm, lotion and shaving gel, they simplified the packaging—it was such a change from the original packaging that it was hardly noticed on the shelves. They learned that their wordy, ranting label was part of the appeal and reverted back to that style. If your message, packaging or ideals are essential to your brand and to your message, don’t change them to reflect your audience. Find a better audience.
- Specificity – In the 1960s, the soap appealed to hippies and soul-searchers more than anyone (Emanuel Bronner’s passionate speeches were a strong element of his brand). Nowadays, its appeal has grown outward towards more straight-laced and practical people looking for organic alternatives. But the message still hasn’t changed and the fervor with which the company stands behind their product has not wavered. To win a niche market, create personas and analyze your target audience to learn how to speak to them, and build your brand to reflect their interests—not just how you market it.
One of the most repeated tips in marketing is don’t try to market to everyone. While large chains and big box stores may provide some exceptions to this rule, it’s time for niche product marketers to take heed. Blog for fewer people, advertise through fewer media outlets and build up your product to be a natural word-of-mouth generator within your niche.
Build your brand, and they will come.
Image credit: DrBronner.com