To be successful (especially online, with competition just clicks away), your brand needs to differentiate itself in such a way as to convey additional value to prospective buyers. How you present your honey has a direct impact on how likely someone is to buy it (especially if you’re not at an event where the taste speaks for itself). By highlighting what makes your particular brand unique, your bee products will appeal more strongly to people, and you’ll sell more.
What I’d like to delve into today is how to identify your unique story: the personality behind your brand. By doing this, you build a brand that stands out from your competitors, creates trust more quickly, and increases people’s desire to buy—and to spread the word about—your products.
What makes a compelling brand?
It may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to sell more honey (or more of anything!) is to create a strong brand that repels some people, but crucially attracts others to it.
Just as some flowers don’t attract bees, but are very attractive to birds, so you want your honey to attract certain people far more than others.
Let’s take an extreme example from the beer world to illustrate the point: what if I offered you a bottle of stout labeled “Tactical Nuclear Penguin” and told you that it had 32% alcohol by volume (!) and had a warning on the label stating “This is an extremely strong beer, it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.”
You might say, “Wow, that’s just the beer for me, and I never even knew it existed!” or equally you might say “Yikes, I’d never drink anything like that in a million years!” Either way, you most likely wouldn’t feel ho-hum about it.
And that’s just what you want for your honey. When your brand speaks to someone (specifically, to something that they identify with), they’re far more likely to buy from you. And they’re also far more likely to remember your brand, and to mention your honey to their friends.
Contrast this with a good but unremarkably branded honey. If people aren’t able to taste it, then there’s nothing about it that’s specifically attractive. Rather than creating the desire for this honey in someone’s mind, a more average brand just sits there waiting, hoping someone comes along who has enough interest in trying various honeys to take a chance buying this one.
How do you identify your unique story?
There are several ways to come at this question. One is to ask yourself if there’s anything you do differently from others in the bee industry. What gets you excited about the way you do your beekeeping? For example, I know some beekeepers who’ve adopted a foundationless, treatment-free philosophy. For certain types of customers, mentioning that you never use chemical treatments will be very appealing (just like antibiotic-free, all-natural food labels).
Calling attention to the life your bees lead (such as building their own honeycomb, just as they would in nature) may also resonate strongly with certain folks. Remember the “happy cows” branding made famous by Ben & Jerry’s (and also in the California Cheese commercials)? Your customers don’t have to understand the ins and outs of beekeeping to appreciate a “happy bees” or “let it bee” brand story.
Another way to come at this question is from your own personal tastes. For example, do you love art nouveau, impressionism, or surrealism? I’ve personally purchased wines and beers for their label art alone (and I’ve even had a more favorable impression of the taste when I’ve felt a special affinity with the brand)! Or perhaps you love jazz, or rap, or street art… the list of loves is endless, and these are all things that you might choose to roll into your branding (artistic and musical bees, anyone?)
Don’t build a brand based on what you think will sell… this sounds good in theory, but when you’re thinking in such general terms, it’s very hard to create a brand that appeals strongly to people. Doing so might prompt you to create yet another ‘artisanal’ brand, but without the personality behind it that makes it a compelling buy that really draws people in.
Instead, focus your brand’s voice on what it is that’s different about you, whether that be your approach to beekeeping, or your personal tastes or values.
Questions to help focus your branding
- What’s the origin story behind your company?
- What aspect of your business gets you jumping out of bed?
- Is there something you do differently from others in the bee industry?
- What’s the “one thing” you want someone to remember about you?
- Where do you and your bees live? What’s the scene like?
- What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
Aim for a honey brand that says something about your relationship with your bees, and is quirky, or artistic, or rooted in a particular locale or scene, or memorable in some other way that’s distinctive to you. When your brand tells a story that sparks an interest in like-minded strangers, your honey will literally jump off the shelf when the right people walk by!