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What’s Your Hook?

Do you feel like a rock star when it comes to your brand?

I ask, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I work on my own brand (new website and totally new look coming soonish!) and help clients work on theirs.

  • What makes a standout brand?
  • Why do some brands generate buzz while others fizzle?
  • What’s the difference between a brand/business that makes you want to throw money at them, and one that you click away from and forget?


The power of the “hook”

I had the opportunity of a lifetime last week to have some photos made with Monica True, a photographer who specializes in high fashion editorial photography, and Myken Garcia, an incredibly talented hair and makeup artist, all under the thoughtful direction of Sarah Ancalmo, my friend, client, and creative director.

It was, in a word, amazing. Two+ hours in the makeup chair, several hours and outfits shooting with Monica resulted in some really stunning photos that made me feel like a glamorous movie star, and will definitely make people sit up and take notice when they visit my new website.

But the real power behind these photos isn’t so much about the fact that they’re beautiful images, that I look pretty freaking hot (just sayin’), or even that I will look more professional on a web page with excellent photos.

The REAL power comes from the hours Sarah and I put into considering the reason, the story, the hook behind the photos. It’s going to set me apart from any competition simply by being so unique and memorable.

That’s what a good brand should do for you, and it’s what your brand voice (your copy, your blogs, your tweets and social media posts) should do for you.

I always come back to one of Sarah’s best lines: Your brand is like a good bra; it should lift and separate you from the competition.

How do you find your hook?

It’s a fine line to walk between a hook and a gimmick.

Think about some of your favorite internet personalities, and chances are, they have a hook (also known as a unique selling proposition) that helps them stand out from the crowd.

  • Marie Forleo is the hip hop business coach.
  • Leonie Dawson is the business advisor for woo-woo hippies and unicorn lovers.
  • Erika Lyremark is the ex-stripper business coach.

They all do (roughly) the same thing, but they all have VERY different hooks to get you thinking about them and remembering them. But none of these are gimmicks—they’re all an integral part of who each woman is and how she got to where she is now.

Derek Halpern was doing some market research on his facebook page the other day and he asked for people to share why they follow him if they originally (or still) find him annoying. (If you don’t know, Derek is pretty loud and sounds like he’s from Jersey.) The answers were pretty fascinating. I personally don’t find him that annoying but I was won over by his excellent content if I needed any help getting past the accent. Other people talked about the fact that he reads academic papers on psychology and applies them to business, how he’s a chess and poker player (strategic thinker), how he’s run several very successful niche blogs, and other things.

Any of those could be Derek’s hook, but I personally think it’s the fact that he is a little brash, loud, maybe obnoxious to some—yet is talking about serious business and psychology topics. A Jersey boy talking academic psychology and applying it to business? That’s a hook.

So how do you find your hook? There’s no one-size-fits-all formula.  It’s a process.  Hiring Sarah helps a lot.  😉  But here’s what I’m thinking about hooks while elbows deep in the process:

  • A hook is organic and integral to who you are. It might be only one part of your story, but it’s still part of your story.
  • A hook isn’t a gimmick. It can be fun, playful, weird—but it can’t be faked. You can’t just decide you’re the Canadian launch strategist who plays the ukulele; that has to be you from the ground up.
  • It can’t be so “clever” that people aren’t totally clear on what you do. Make clarity your first goal.
  • A hook in writing often refers to a tagline or a statement in your copy that grabs people and doesn’t let go; a brand hook is the “high concept” tag you can apply to what you do, like “The woo-woo hippy business coach.”
  • A hook often juxtaposes two very different ideas. That’s one of the principles of stickiness from “Made to Stick” and it definitely makes for sticky, memorable brands.
  • You can play up and exaggerate one aspect of your life or story to create your brand. That’s what I’m doing. My new brand hook is a bit me on steroids—while still being totally me.
  • A hook is bigger than your tagline.  Think of it this way: your hook is the concept on which you hang everything else in your brand. From your messaging to your photography to your logo, that hook concept is what ties it all together.

Have you got a hook?

I’d love to know if you’ve put any thought into this for your own brand.  Do you have a hook concept that informs the rest of your brand? Let me know all about it in the comments below.


Photo Credit: denise carbonell via Compfight cc

4 thoughts on “What’s Your Hook?

  1. Ahhh, this is really good. I’m a bit embarrassed to have to admit that I haven’t given much thought to a hook *sigh*Is this something that you’re able to help with?

    1. Sure! That’s what my Voice Identification Process is about. 🙂 And don’t be embarrassed. Everybody has to start somewhere!

      1. Thank you for responding, and so quickly. I’m eagerly awaiting the debut of the voice identification process. I just recently came across your blog and I LOVE the branding and your blogs. Thank you.

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