Down the Rabbit Hole: Don't Believe Your Own Hype

As an owner of a small business I've had to learn to tackle the world of social media over the past year. While it is a powerful an effective tool for any fledgeling entrepreneur, I also worry that it is doing as much harm as good. In the interest a clarity I'm going to break this one up into three posts. Part Two: Down the Rabbit Hole;  Don't Believe Your Own Hype

In part one I discussed social media as an alternate reality. The idea being that by continually witnessing a series of notable moments (staged or otherwise) you are hampering your ability to advance your own purpose. In part two I'm going to take this idea a bit further and look at what this alternate reality does when you become part of it.

When you really boil it down social media (and branding in general)  is all hype. You are basically taking your message (look at what I make, I like cats, I'm important, here is something that needs attention in the world, high school was awesome, high school is over...) and putting it out there in the hope that other people will be affected by it (they read it, relate to it, like you more, take action, buy something). There is nothing good or bad about this. As a business person it gives me a unique opportunity to educate people about what I do and why I do it. Obviously, hype can be used negatively. Like how the burgers in fast food advertisements don't look anything like the sad lumps of green/grey proto-meat you get at the pick-up window.  Don't get me started on the negative impact social media is having on our collective self-image.

As I have gotten more into the business of doing business I've started to tackle the hype hurdle. I'm focusing on better pictures, sharable nuggets about my business, packaging, my story and visual identity. Like everything in life, this will be a perpetual work in progress. What I'd like to look at is what happens when you get so caught up in nailing this one aspect of your business that you forget what it is you are doing. I'm going to do this via a real life case study.

The Bandana Bandito (not the actual name of this company BTW)

So I have been following a graphic designer on Instagram for a while. He has started his own line of of screen printed clothing and accessories. His message is one I enjoy. He has a really clean aesthetic. Lots of pictures of campfires, mountain sunrises, old trucks, making things with your hands, and quality old stuff. He got me; I moseyed over to his website. The website is solid too (lots of stories about travel and foreign places, Kinfolk-y pictures) and really well designed. I went to the store and looked over the products. They look pretty cool. I'm a big fan of bandanas (pocket sized functional artwork), so I picked one up.

A few days later the bandana arrives. Again the branding is spot on. The envelope it comes in is custom made, a nice linen bag with custom graphics, a cool looking free sticker, and a screen printed bandana. The bandana is lame.

The design isn't bad, but it is really poorly printed. More importantly the material it's printed on is plastic-y and see through.  Why is a company that markets itself as rugged and outdoorsy sending me this lame-ass man doily?

I don't think he is a huckster. He is not lazy. Clearly a lot of very hard work and long hours went into the message. The bandana was fairly priced in comparison to its competitors (about $20). I think he got lost in his own message. I hear the expression a lot "I'm not selling a product. I'm selling a lifestyle."  This is the new battle cry for branding on social media. I think that is a bunch of crap. I'm selling leather goods first and for most. Yes, my message is important, I want people to get what I am trying to do. First, however, I have to start by executing everything I make to the best of my ability. I constantly ask myself if what I am making lives up to the hype I'm trying to create for it. If the answer is "no" then it goes back to the drawing table. Because ultimately my message ends in your hands. My message will speak every time you use something I've made.

A solid website, engaging posts, jaw-dropping photographs, and perfect staging can be essential to elevating your brand. If what you are producing doesn't live up to the promises that you are making then you aren't "selling a lifestyle" you are shoveling something else entirely. Let your work speak loudest. Everything else can follow after.