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The Power of Mystery

How to Give Your Brand a Story Without Marketing

Wholesale can be a dangerous animal when it comes to brand marketing. Since you’re not in retail and you don’t communicate directly with the end consumer, it’s not always in your wheelhouse to entice them or spend money on enticing them. A marketing budget is a risky proposition for a business that has to make its profit on a bulk margin. Hiring an advertising firm is probably not your cup of tea.

The good news is, there are cheap and easy ways to make your brand more interesting to the retail consumer without having to spend a fortune on brand marketing. By using simple tricks and having your brand tell a story, you can gain leverage in your industry and edge out your competition.

A Brand that Tells a Story is Free Marketing

Telling a story is an important part of selling a product. As humans, we’re hardwired to like stories, they are how we communicate and take in information. Every culture, color, and creed of humanity has ancient stories that it passes down through words, books, and pictures. Turning your brand into a story gives it a power that makes it stay in the customer’s head forever. They’ll remember the story of your brand long after they’ve forgotten your competitors.

A sales pitch that tells a story is more likely to stick in your customer’s brain and succeed. Many of the most successful brands of all time sold themselves with a story, and the story pitch works in every kind of media- Print, radio, tv, and internet, for every development in communication technology, the end result is always the same. The brand that tells a story retains its customer.

But if you’re in wholesale without marketing, and you don’t have control over how the retailer reaches the consumer, or the money to spend on marketing, then your options for how your brand tells a story are limited. Even in wholesale, you want your brand to tell a story, but you have a very limited tool set for how you can accomplish that goal. Fortunately, there are very simple marketing tricks for branding that don’t require an entire marketing budget. You just have to know they exist, how to use them, and when to use them. Once you know these tricks you can apply them to your brand, even as a wholesaler.

The Mystery Brand Tells a Story Without Needing a Whole Book

One simple way for your brand to tell a story is the power of mystery. The mystery is an extremely potent force. It is constantly used in brands like perfume, jewelry, and women’s fashion. When a beautiful woman walks into a room, everyone stops and turns their heads, they have to know her name. This powerful and ambiguous woman has a secret story that is irresistible. All the men want to know her, and all the women want to know how to be here. Musicians, performers, and socialites spend their entire careers studying this woman and trying to become her.

This is a feeling that your brand can have, it’s a power you can give your product without having to hire advertisers to promote it. When distributors and retailers pull orders for your product category, they’ll want the brand that tells the best story to their customers on their shelves.

Imagine your product on a retail shelf, next to all your competitors. As a wholesaler, it’s not your job to put it there or promote it. It’s your job to provide it to the distributor or retailer at a rate that will give both of you a good return. You want it to speak for itself against its competition. What can you do to make sure your brand is the most successful in its category and is the one your vendors keep ordering? The mystery might be an answer.

Not every brand is a good choice for mystery. Things like health products and food shouldn’t be mysterious, the customer wants to know what they’re putting in their bodies. But if your product needs to be luxurious, glamorous, beautiful, and sexy, then mystery can be your best friend.

The Queen of the Mystery Brand

One of the greatest marketing geniuses to ever live was Coco Chanel. She was born in 1883, lived through both World Wars, and died in 1971. She was the mother of modern women’s fashion and she created one of the most powerful brands in the beauty industry that has world-famous instant recognition to this day… And she did it all before televisions and the internet were invented.

Coco’s greatest brand was Chanel No5, a brand that is instantly mysterious on name alone. When you see a bottle of Chanel No5, your first question is, “What happened to numbers 1,2,3, and 4?”

What was the secret behind the 5th formula that made it so perfect? Was there a secret at all? The answer doesn’t matter, because the power of the brand is the mystery. If you read about Chanel No5 on Wikipedia, it will tell you that Coco picked the formula out from samples labeled different numbers and that she considered five a lucky number, she had an obsession with the number five and made business decisions around it.

This is probably true… But it might not be. Coco Chanel was a notorious liar. She deliberately told tall tales, she mired her company in constant ongoing lawsuits with her partners and vendors to create drama, and she told different friends, journalists, and interviewers different and conflicting versions of the same story, because she was the mistress of mystery and liked to keep the rich and famous of Paris constantly gossiping.

Lies, Secrets, and Doing it on Purpose… All for the Brand

According to fashion historians that study this sort of thing, Coco’s list of big fibs and little white lies is its own category of legend, called “Chanel lore,” or “Chancellor” for short. Coco Chanel was born into an impoverished family, she spent most of her youth in an orphanage, she was the mistress to a French aristocrat that she knew would toss her aside when he got bored of her, and a survivor of both World Wars. Being a pathological liar was part of Coco’s defense mechanism. She made up stories about glamor and wealth to escape the reality of her poverty.

When she became wealthy and successful, she kept lying- Either because it was her habit, or because she knew that mystery was a powerful tool for storytelling in the fashion industry, and she wasn’t going to change it when it was working. Nobody knows for sure what the true story is behind any brand that Coco Chanel created… Because she wanted it that way, she did it on purpose. She built her brands on a foundation of high society fashion gossip, stretched truths, and outright lies. Fortunately, we don’t have to suffer the way Coco suffered to benefit from her lessons. Here are some easy ways to brand a product that can create mystery.

The Big Question of Mystery

The easiest way to use the power of mystery in your product is to brand your product in such a way that it makes the customer ask a question, like where did it come from? What’s the magic ingredient? Is there nothing else like it? These are mysteries, and they can create a sense of novelty that compels the customer to buy. Simply by doing this, you can create more recognition for your brand in a competitive market. Here are some ways to provoke a question.

Coco’s Number Game

By using the name “Chanel No5” the customer asks the question, “What happened to 1,2,3, and 4? Were they not good enough? Was 5 the best one? Were there more than 5?” A number can be a question in itself.

Another great example of the number mystery that had nothing to do with beauty is the cleaning product Formula 409. At one point, it had a 55% share of the spray cleaner market and was sold to Clorox for 7 million dollars. This was in the 70s, that was a lot of money. There are multiple origin stories for the brand, and most of them are proven to be false. Among the stories for its name is the date of the inventor’s daughter’s birthday, the number of the chemical compound in testing, and the Chevrolet engine of the same name. (The engine from the Beach Boys song “409” which would later be used in an ad campaign to promote the product.) The true story isn’t important. Formula 409 is a highly competitive brand in the American market for cleaning products that owe a great deal of success to its mysterious name.

The Myth of Magic

Using mythological or magic imagery in the brand can sometimes make a customer wonder what the brand’s secret really is. The customer knows that unicorns and gargoyles aren’t real, so the question becomes “What’s the REAL secret that makes this work?”

Ajax is a powerful cleaning product brand that relies upon a mysterious hero of myth for its nameplate. The cleaner is named after the Mythological Trojan hero Ajax. “Ajax is stronger than Grease” is a pun, because “Ajax is stronger than Greece.” It’s a dad joke in a can. Now that you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.

The Secret That Isn’t a Secret

Sometimes, just having a secret is enough to make the customer wonder. Brands like Coca-Cola and KFC have secret recipes that they protect against their competitors. Just telling the customer that you have a unique secret formula unlike any other competitor can trigger the customer’s imagination. This is especially common in food brands. Coke and KFC are great examples, but sometimes the secret can be as simple as part of the process that separates your brand from your competitor’s.

While every other fast food restaurant was frying their burger patties, Hardee’s separated themselves from the competition by charbroiling theirs. Wendy’s separated themselves from the competition by using square-shaped instead of round patties, as part of a marketing stunt to give customers more meat and more value for their burger. Sometimes the secret that isn’t a secret can be the secret to a brand’s success.

The Name of Neologizing

What does neologizing mean? It means to make up a new name for something. This is a marketing trick. You can create a mystery out of nothing by simply taking a thing that already exists and renaming it. Kleenex is a neologized brand name for disposable tissues. What’s the origin of Kleenex? They were originally fibers used in World War I gas mask filters. The Slinky was invented by a Navy engineer that was working on springs for complex shipboard equipment when he knocked one over on his desk and realized he could sell it as a toy. His wife came up with the name.

Jerry can is a name for a gas can that was invented by the Germans for their army, and the design was so successful that the allies adopted their own version of it, and called it a Jerry can because that was the name they had given the Germans. Now, you can find different versions of the Jerry can in auto parts stores around the world, in stamped metal and in plastic.

Microwaves were invented when an American physicist working on a radar device realized that a piece of equipment he was working on had melted a chocolate candy in his pocket. He realized that it could be used to cook food, and the microwave was born.

You’ve Teased the Brand, Now Find the Buyer

Whether or not you can add mystery to your brand. You can always use more help in locating your clients and getting your product to your distributors and retailers. You can’t be the best brand in your category if you don’t have anyone to sell it. That’s where SeeBiz comes in.

SeeBiz is a wholesale business-to-business networking platform. This is where wholesalers find distributors and retailers to get their products seen, their brand on shelves, and their mysteries solved. Log onto SeeBiz and find the distributors and retailers for your brand.

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