1. Have a personality. You can’t have a friendship with somebody without any qualities or character. Tell people your brand is about ‘reliability’ and ‘quality’ and they will yawn, so be distinct.
2. Celebrate the ‘weenie’ — the term Walt Disney applied to the visual detail that stands out most to guests. What is it for your brand?
3. Before you get to your brand’s core competency, define its core belief — the one that underpins its meaningful existence. Is it a belief that the target market cares about?
4. Go to war (peacefully). There’s rarely a ‘we’ without an enemy with an antithetical value system. Identify it to better understand yourself.
5. Brand positioning starts with a feeling. Michelin leverages guilt your standing as a parent rests on your tires. Nike has pride, a drive to progress, combined with the satisfaction of attaining goals. Ensure yours is intrinsic to your brand experience.
6. The brain is like a pinball machine. You build your score with associations that light up in people’s minds. Work out which ones you can build on.
7. Feeling points beat talking points. Make sure your language speaks the brand-consumer relationship.
8. Be customer-centric. The product isn’t the hero, the customer is. Change any communication that puts ‘what’ ahead of ‘who’.
9. Strive for intimacy. It’s hard to hug a giant, but most companies try to seem as big as possible. Touch points must be organic and sensitive to consumer needs.
10. Be gender sensitive. Many brands use masculine assumptions, devaluing female perspectives, despite the reality that women do most of the shopping.
Does the brand-consumer link feel like a friendship? Is there a sense of membership? Can you readily identify with the brand? The joke that has to be explained is never as funny as the joke you just get. You’ll know you have reached the point where there is an emotional bond when the stories consumers tell about your brand spontaneously involve the use of first person pronouns, and are told with a burst of spontaneous feeling.
Above all else, remember that it is easiest to sell loyalty when the brand resonates with the consumer’s sense of self. When you address who people are, what they associate with, and what they do and value, you create an emotional connection so deep that consumers no longer think about what to buy.
Great brand worth becomes internalized and accepted as a reflection and extension of the consumer’s own beliefs. Fail to make an emotional connection, and you lose out, because value is determined emotionally. Brand attributes are like the claims related to a product. They are merely assertions unless the consumer’s emotional brain finds them valid and worth embracing. By contrast, trust and faith are able to add intensity to the quality of branded offering, making them less subject to erosion a point of particular importance in a time of economic uncertainty.
The bottom line is that consumer beliefs and brand equity go hand-in-hand because both are concerned with the long haul; they are about staying power. A ‘we’ that links a company to its target market of loyal buyers is possible to create, but the conduit through which it happens involves honoring each consumer’s ‘me’ rather than focusing on branding as simply a barrier to competition or a price booster and profit generator. In short, brands must appeal to consumers’ hearts to earn a place in their baskets.