There are plenty of things to keep in mind when working on marketing your brand, but status should be one of the first. Who holds the higher status, and what does it mean?
I come from a background in acting, and one of the surprisingly key concepts when being a performer is the idea of status. Entire plays and films are based on the idea of status and who holds it. Fighting for status, seeking for status, submitting to status – these are all themes deeply imbedded in the entertainment media, but also in marketing media as well.
I recall an exercise in an improv class when studying for my MA. The instructor had a pair of actors get on stage and begin a scene. In less than a second of the actors playing, he stopped and turned to the class asking, “Who has the higher status?”
Instinctively, we all agreed student A had the higher status, but it took a discussion for us to come to terms with how we arrived at that conclusion with having only a mere second of watching the playing on stage. It felt like we had simply blinked but somehow knew the answer.
As humans, we understand verbal and nonverbal cues that key us into where we fall in the pecking order within a scenario. This isn’t unique to humans, however. Consider a wolf pack.
In a pack, there is an alpha male or female, a “top of the pack” that not only leads the pack, but generally gets preference over food and mating. Alphas an achieve their status by superior physical strength or through social efforts like alliances with other individuals.
Similarly, there is a “bottom of the pack,” the omega. These individuals carry themselves differently. Some keep their tail tucked, shoulders hunched and their head lowered. They can even move with a greater uncertainty (livingwithwolves).
If a wolf incorrectly identifies the alpha for the omega and goes in for a fight, not only would he be putting himself in physical danger, as the alpha is frequently the largest of the pack, but also social danger. A disruption to the pack order is enough to be expelled from the pack.
In marketing, a status faux pa won’t lead to banishment from society, but it may lead to an unsuccessful brand.
So how do you identify your brand’s status?
It always comes back to your customers.
If you're asking yourself "How do I know my brand's status?" then you are asking the wrong question. Rather, ask "What is my customer's status and how do we relate?"
Status is relative to the players in the scene. Student A only held higher status because Student B was present. The Alpha is only alpha because there are other wolves – otherwise, they’re just a wolf.
So firstly ask yourself, how do I want my customer’s to see me?
There are three levels of status you can appear as in relation to your customers:
For the most part, you want to avoid being lower status. Lower status could come into play for non-profits as it may be beneficial to place yourself in a lower position to pull on charitable hearts.
However, I would avoid it – more often than not, the customers read it as needy, whiny, and irresponsible (not things you want associated with your brand).
For me, personally, this is the sweet spot, because I tend to work with brands whose goals are relatability and approachability. These brands often work to approach their customers on the same plane.
For example, a brand selling eco-friendly phone cases may use equal status by showing graphics of people similar to their profiled customers, possibly middle-class millennials or upper-class socialites.
American pickup truck commercials tend to have husky male voices over visuals of rugged roads, appealing to men in the same social circles as those depicted.
For most sales-heavy brands, equal status is the way to go. It creates an “us” for the customer to relate and feel connected to.
While not as approachable as equal status, higher status is very useful for marketing a brand whose goal is to appear in a place of intellectual, financial, or social superiority. Let’s look at some examples.
An intellectually higher status brand may be a tax agency whose brand focuses on expertise in the field.
A financially or socially higher status brand may be an elite fashion agency whose brand focuses on one-of-a-kinds and bespoke designs.
Like with lower status, there is a fine line to walk. You want to still seem attainable by your customers and if you socially distance yourself from your customers too much, you will lose their interest.
Keep it subtle and keep an eye of customer interest to adjust if needed.
As always, remember status depends on your customer and who you are in relation to them. If you're selling to international diplomats but approaching them as a company that works out of your mother's basement, you may as well count your losses. However, that same approach to Gen Z entrepreneurs could be a good plan.
Just like status is both verbal and nonverbal in human interactions, status is a verbal and visual marketing tool, so keep it mind whenever you are working on marketing strategies.
Don't forget to leave a comment if you think I have missed something, and if you have any questions on your specific brand's status, please feel reach out. I am more than happy to help.
Good luck, and happy marketing!