Developing a brand for your Amazon products is both important for Amazon sellers and often overwhelming.
Cameron Yoder sat down at the Prosper Show in Las Vegas with Emma Schermer Tamir of Marketing By Emma to talk about ecommerce branding, why it’s so important to differentiate your brand on Amazon, and how to approach it to relieve some of the overwhelm.
Branding is more than a logo
You might think of branding as a logo or a color scheme, but Emma says it’s a lot more than that.
“Branding is happening whether you’re intentional about it or not. But when you’re intentional about it, it is really creating this identity of your business and how it operates in the world,” says Emma.
More specifically, beyond a logo and a color scheme, Emma says, “It’s the kind of language that you use on your product pages. It’s the way that your customer service representatives interact with problematic situations. It’s how you design your packaging, the materials that you choose. It really is all of that working together to create a story.”
All of those touchpoints add up to an experience of a brand that humans can connect with, which Emma says meets a very human need.
“And we as humans are always looking for an opportunity to be able to connect with the world around us. And so when you can do a really effective job of this, your branding actually gives customers an opportunity to form a relationship that’s deeper than just a product function. It’s something that they can feel like they relate to and are excited about and it aligns with their view of the world.”
Why Amazon sellers should care about branding
Let’s take this branding theory and make it practical for Amazon sellers because there’s a very good business reason to focus on these brand feelings, and that’s to make your products stand out from the pack to give shoppers a reason to choose your product over all the competition.
Emma invites us to consider the experience of the shopper who logs onto Amazon to do a product search and is served up many results that all look more or less the same.
“You’re going to get a page full of a bunch of product listings that look identical to each other. It’s like going into a pre-fab neighborhood where every single house looks identical.”
The problem with this is that it doesn’t give the shopper much to go on when making a decision. If the photos, title, and information are presented basically the same, the customer will have to choose based on ratings or price.
This isn’t to discount the importance of getting ratings and price right, but Emma asks, “What if you’re a new brand, a new product that is trying to make your way to the market? Or what if you’re somebody who had a really successful business and then all these other competitors came in in the last year and a half, and suddenly you don’t have that market dominance that you used to?”
In these cases, it’s very helpful to give shoppers something unique to catch their attention and give them a reason to convert on your product.
Branding is an ongoing project, not a one-time thing
Cameron and Emma agreed that branding is a very big project and it can be quite overwhelming to get started. As Emma put it, creating a brand “is kind of the equivalent of asking somebody “who are you?” If you were having to do that for your business… It is something that’s really difficult.”
The good news that can take away some of that overwhelming pressure is that brand-building is a long-term, ongoing process. Importantly, it’s also not something you can develop in a vacuum. It has to emerge via conversations with your customers.
Emma says, “It’s not something that you need to go sit down in a quiet room for days on end until you have that Eureka moment… It’s a constant discovery process and it’s not also a one-way street.”
This is the part where the conversation with the customer comes in. Emma went on to say, “So you’re going to have ideas about what you want your brand to be. And then you’re going to go into the world and you’re going to interact with your customers and they’re going to give you feedback.”
Where to start branding?
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to branding and it’s an ongoing process, but how do you get started? There is a good first step, and that’s to think carefully about the why of your business and the values that underlie it.
Emma advises, “I would really think about some of those deeper ideas. What are you hoping to achieve in the world? You know, why are you doing your business? And it might not even have anything to do with the products that you’re selling. But those core values can and should be reflected in how you’re presenting yourself.”
Those core values should be expressed not just in how you talk about your brand, but in business choices like how you source your products or the type of customer service that you provide.
One fun exercise Emma suggests is to think about your brand as if it were a person. She suggests, “It can be really fun and helpful to do some exercises on personifying your brand.”
There are a few helpful questions you can ask yourself as you do this. “So trying to imagine your brand as a human, what kind of clothes would your brand wear? What would it be? What would be the brand’s favorite television show? If your brand’s in Vegas, what hotel would it stay at?”
Translate the brand identity to customer experiences
Once you have this sense of the core of the brand you can translate it to a lot of experiences for your customers. This ranges from the style of copy you write for your product descriptions to the quality of the packaging you use for your products.
Emma and Cameron talked about the way that Apple has really invested in developing packaging that feels special and elevates the experience of opening an Apple product to build customer loyalty.
Not all sellers will have the budget for packaging like Apple does. But they can be thoughtful about the experience the customer will have when they first interact with the product. “To still think of your packaging as a throwaway, last-minute decision to make and not really have that same intentionality, you could really be doing yourself a disservice.”
That’s because for the shopper the experience of the packaging is part of the experience of the product. “If I’m looking at a package, the imagery is printed really poorly and kind of pixelated and not clear, or, we have the really questionable English on it, the product itself might be fantastic, but what’s your perception of what that product is when that’s your first impression when you get it into your household?”
Cultural trends in branding
Emma and Cameron also talked about trends in branding and tapping into bigger cultural conversations. A lot of brands are deliberately representing a diversity of gender and race in their marketing. Brands are taking a stand on the pandemic with messaging about staying home and staying safe or messaging about getting back out there.
Emma says these branding moves really have to come from a place of authenticity in order to not feel manipulative. Brands need to have deep hard conversations in order to make sure the messages they’re putting out there are authentically aligned with their businesses.
“Where is that line and how do you navigate that in a way that is true to who you are as a brand, but that’s also not going to feel manipulative to your customers? I think that that’s a danger zone,” Emma suggested. “If it’s not coming from an authentic place, it can just feel like a marketing move. So that’s what you need to be really thoughtful about.”
The takeaway from this conversation is that Amazon sellers do need to think about branding in order to differentiate their products, and that branding should permeate everything about the customer’s experience with your business.
But, this doesn’t need to be overwhelming or something that you accomplish all at once. Start with the values behind your brand, move from there to branding decisions, and stay in conversation with your customers so you can incorporate feedback and iterate on your brand over time and be responsive to cultural changes.