Brand Strategy

Irrational loyalty is the ultimate goal of branding

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By: Deb Gabor

The ultimate goal of branding is to create a condition of irrational loyalty. When your customers consider using a competitor’s brand—but ultimately feel like they’re cheating on yours—THAT’S irrational loyalty.

The world’s top brands bond in highly emotional and compelling ways with the customers who are likely to spend the most money with them.

Do you ever wonder how top brands create this condition of irrational loyalty?

Let’s dive in.

The antithesis of the cable company is that any business that treats its customers so well that those customers develop irrational loyalty to that brand. My relationship with Zappos.com is an example of this in practice. Zappos’s entire brand is a customer experience. Zappos has successfully branded a particular type of customer service and customer love, and it shows in everything they do: from the free overnight shipping and free returns they offer to their exceptional, over-the-top telephone customer support when the unfortunate happens. As a result of my experiences with the Zappos brand, I am so irrationally loyal to them that if they sold chicken feed and I had chickens, I would have to buy it from them. This is the type of customer relationship that all brands should aspire to.

Let’s explore that notion of irrational loyalty a bit more.

When I consult with clients, they often ask me to illustrate the importance of branding. That’s when I like to talk about irrational loyalty—this notion of being loyal to something no matter what. The idea behind irrational loyalty is that you have so much positive juju built up in your emotional bank account for a brand that you would go back and buy from the company no matter what it did to you. If you’re irrationally loyal to a certain product or company it could disappoint you, and you would still remain a loyal customer.

A great example of a product that inspires irrational loyalty is the Apple iPhone. I’ve owned every model of an iPhone since the beginning of iPhones. I’ve had iPhones that heated up in my hand and burned the side of my head when I tried to talk on them. I have broken half a dozen iPhone screens, which I think are too delicate. And the iPhone costs about one thousand dollars! For a phone!

I believe there are more durable, technologically superior and better-functioning products out there. But I don’t care. I won’t switch to a different brand because I’m irrationally loyal to the iPhone. I once looked at a gorgeous Samsung phone with a big beautiful screen. I caressed it in my hands and lusted after it. But after about a minute of pure animalistic attraction to the sexy device, I ran out of the store because I felt like I was cheating on Apple. Sad, I know. But that is the definition of irrational loyalty.

The concept of irrational customer loyalty embodies some key lessons about the importance of branding. Irrationally loyal customers say things such as, “I love the whole experience,” or “I like how it makes me feel,” or “I like what that brand says about me.”

The best-loved brands in the world are the ones that become part of the person who uses them.

What does it say about the person that he or she uses this brand and what does it say about you that you use this brand? The reason I don’t use a Samsung phone is because I don’t want anyone to see me using a Samsung phone. I like what it says about me that I’m an iPhone user. I don’t care if there are other products that cost less and function better. I like the iPhone. I am obsessed with Zappos, even though I have to wait for my shoes to arrive with the UPS carrier. I know there’s a perfectly good Nordstrom store with thousands of pairs of shoes just a few miles from my house. I can walk in there, buy a pair of shoes and wear them home today. It seems crazy that I’d trade instant gratification for a customer experience in which I feel loved and embraced, doesn’t it? But I still prefer to shop at Zappos because I like what it says to the rest of the world and to myself about who I am as a person.

Branding is so much more than a clever logo, pretty colors or a funny advertising campaign. Branding is about building strong emotional connections with customers. That’s a seriously smart business move that will have an enormous impact on growth and profitability. Consider this: one of the most significant emotional connections humans experience is love. When people talk about the brands they’re loyal to and the brands they engage with, they often use the word “love.” I love Apple. I love Zappos. I love Audi. I used to drive a Volkswagen, but sorry Volkswagen, I never loved you.

What’s next?

Now that you understand what irrational loyalty means—I’m sure you’re wondering how to put this into action to create deeper connections with your customers.

Lucky for you, I dedicated an entire chapter from my best-selling branding book, Branding Is Sex, to the topic of "The Brand Values Pyramid". How do you get to the top of the pyramid so you can connect with your customers needs, wants, and desires?

To receive the free “Brand Values Pyramid” chapter from my bestselling branding book, Branding Is Sex, enter your information below.

P.S. You’ll have the option to read or listen to the chapter.

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What is a Brand Personality?

Brand Personality

Branding is, in a lot of ways, the act of creating expectations for how you will interact with your customers. Like an individual’s personality can give you clues into what interacting with him or her will be like, a brand’s personality sets the expectation for what you’ll experience as a customer of a particular brand.

Whether that’s the expectation that you’ll be relieved when you call Zappos customer service, excited by the kindness of the team at Passion Planners, delighted by the fun emails from Kettle and Fire, or hysterically laughing at any interaction with Cards Against Humanity, brands have a personality, and it dictates what we expect from them.

The brand personality can help bring your brand into clearer focus. It provides you with clues to how you want customers to experience your brand—the feeling you want to give them when they interact with you through your marketing, customer service, and even your products.

What’s my brand’s personality?

To understand your brand’s personality, think of your brand as if it were a human being. Create a comprehensive list of personality traits by detailing as many characteristics of that person as you can.

If you’re having trouble getting started, begin by considering how old your brand is. Is it ten years old? Is it twenty years old? Is it forty years old? Is it sixty-five years old?

Is your brand a man or a woman? Is it friendly or slightly more aggressive? Is it a lone wolf? Is it funny? Is it maybe a little bit irreverent? Does it like to shock people?

One of my favorite travel brands is Virgin America. I will happily fly at odd times of the day or on different days of the week in order to take a Virgin flight instead of a flight on one of the usual suspects like United, American, or Delta, just because I love the Virgin brand.

Most of our domestic airlines have really dry, authoritarian personalities (with the exception of Southwest Airlines). Aside from going “off book” as an outlaw brand, the Virgin brand personality is distinctly different from other airlines. It’s upbeat. It’s funny. It’s uplifting. It’s irreverent. It doesn’t feel oppressive and rigid like the other airlines.

Most travel days, I show up at the airport thinking, “How am I going to get screwed today?” When I fly Virgin, I don’t have that feeling, and I actually look forward to flying. I feel the brand’s warmth. It’s welcoming. It’s modern. It’s hip. It’s lighthearted.

In contrast, I recently took a trip to New York on Delta, another brand that offers a product that is exactly the same as what Virgin America provides. Yet Delta’s personality feels completely different than Virgin’s. Everything on Delta was totally buttoned up, all the way down to the uniforms that the flight attendants wore—pressed blouses buttoned all the way up to the top, suit jackets and vests, and black stockings. To Delta’s credit, they had an entertaining in-flight safety video featuring a host of visual gags to keep passengers’ attention. But the whole experience of watching that video fell flat because it didn’t align with the rest of Delta’s more serious brand personality.

Brand personality is so important for defining the way people experience the brand. The brand personality informs everything from the way the brand looks, the way it sounds, the voice and music it uses in its commercials, the actual words it always says, and words it would never say.

Brand personality is another way to ensure your brand carries the right tone and character to deliver on your brand promise to your customer.

How Does Your Brand Get Your Customer Laid?

Macbook

When I consult with clients and they struggle with the story their brand tells about their customer, my favorite shortcut is to ask, “How does your product or service get your customer laid?” I literally ask my clients this very question. At first, they’re shocked. But it works.

Strong brands help their customers solve problems, present a positive image to the world, feel empowered, feel accomplished, and feel like the hero in their own personal stories.

Think about what happens when you’re feeling like you’re on top of the world, feeling heroic, and feeling that everything is working out the way you hoped it would.

No matter which cliché you use—the feeling of having wind in your sails, the world on a string, or holding life by the balls—that feeling puts you in the mood for sex.

When I say having sex, it may mean literally jumping into bed naked with your partner. But it may also have a more figurative meaning: experiencing the exhilaration of neighbors or other moms in the carpool complimenting, fawning over, and praising you, as well as having your ego stroked and being appreciated your husband and children. All of these things feel great, too.

Branding is about making people feel so good that they want to take a roll in the hay. That’s it.

The IT manager as hero

The most successful and profitable brands in the world are created around people. Sure, some brands are naturally sexier than others, but why should a purchasing manager have less of an emotional connection to their microprocessors than I do to my shoes?

Let me give you an example.

My company works extensively with Dell Corporation on the enterprise side of their business, the part of their company that sells systems and solutions to the IT managers of other businesses. Traditionally, Dell treated enterprise IT managers as if they were robots—completely devoid of feelings and abstract thoughts.

What we know here at Sol Marketing is that each of those IT managers has a story they are writing for their own lives. That story involves them, eventually, getting laid.

If your brand can help that happen, you’ll have a loyal customer.

When I am working with Dell or with any other company that sells technology products and services to IT purchase influencers, I want the company to step outside of itself as a brand and step into the hearts and minds of its IT manager customer. That IT manager is a human being who has wants and needs and desires.

Conjure up an image of that person in your mind. Ask yourself, “What does success look like for that person? What does getting laid look like for him or her?” Then ask yourself, “How does my product/brand/service do that for them?”

Dell sells a lot of servers. The servers Dell sells go into racks that live in computer rooms and data centers all over the world. Servers don’t feel cool when you hold them in your hand. To the unindoctrinated, run-of-the-mill human, a server probably looks like a mess of metal and plastic and wires.

On the surface, a server just isn’t that sexy, nor is the Dell brand. A server is not like a bottle of perfume, a designer leather jacket, or a Ferrari.

So let’s do an exercise for illustration’s sake. For purposes of this exercise, take a walk in an IT manager customer’s shoes. Let’s say this particular customer is a forty-seven-year-old man. He works at a nationwide furniture retailer with stores in twenty-two states.

He has a need to put together an IT program in which all of the remote stores can send their transaction and inventory data to a central location at night. That requires a lot of computing power, remote access capabilities, and powerful servers and software—none of which are very sexy. All of those things must work together flawlessly.

If you think about what is unsexy about this IT manager’s job, it is a phone call from a store manager in the middle of the night.  Also unsexy is when the chief information officer comes down on him hard and says, “We did not pull data last night, and we don’t have the store-by-store results. My boss is up my ass for sales results, and because of an IT infrastructure issue and a network failure, we cannot do that.”

These are terribly unsexy things that can happen to this guy, and they absolutely can prevent him from getting laid.

The essence of brand strategy is to take that unsexiness and turn it around. To do that, you should ask, “How do we actually get that guy laid?”

How we get our IT manager laid

Dell does that by offering reliable products that they stand behind and develop with IT purchase influencers’ needs in mind. Dell is trying to give that IT manager the world-on-a-string feeling we described earlier in this chapter by delivering on its promises to him.

Dell’s goal is to make that IT manager the hero in his own story. It’s right there in their current brand manifesto: “The Power to Do More.”

Dell gives an IT manager the power to do more, not only with IT but in his life. Dell gets him home for dinner on time and inspires him with the confidence that everything back at work is functioning flawlessly, even when he’s not there.

Dell’s industry-leading uptime and reliability get him laid by preventing phone calls in the middle of the night when stores cannot send their data to the home office.

Dell makes sure the boss is not standing in the IT manager’s office at 8:00 a.m. the next morning growling, “Where have you been? The network crashed.”

These are the things Dell does to help him become the hero in the story of his life. Sure, Dell products are reliable, scalable, flexible, durable, innovative, and a good value. But it’s the way they make, sell, deliver, and support those products that enable their customers to “do more.”

How can you get your customer laid?

Take a moment to answer this same question for your own brand.

What does your customer need? What gets them love, attention, and affection? What could go wrong with your brand that would ruin their chances at sex?

By understanding the story behind your customer’s purchase, you’ll be better suited to ensure you are getting your customer laid. That’s the whole game.

The Importance of Understanding Your Customers (and What To Do About It)

Business Handshake

As we discussed in Your Brand Comes From Your Customers, Not You, branding isn’t about your color scheme, or the clever tagline you come up with from the confines of your office. Branding is about how your customer actually perceives you.

If your customer perceives you as filling a need (tangible or psychological) they have, that’s the essence of good branding.

With this perspective in mind, it becomes clear that the first step to successful branding is understanding your customers and their needs.

We’ve talked about the three questions, the brand values pyramid, and the ideal customer profile—all great tools to dive into your customer's’ needs and psychology—but the next question most marketers ask is always...

How do I learn about my customers?

So how do you learn everything about your customers?

Three words: talk to them.

There are many different ways to talk to your customers. On the super-low-budget end of the spectrum, you can just hang around in a Starbucks and ask people to try your product or service and then ask them for their opinions.

Be sure to ask open-ended questions, such as “What do you like about this brand?” Or, “How do you see this fitting into your life?” Or, “What would you change about this?” Actually talking to customers face-to-face is one of the most valuable things you can do to understand your brand.

Another easy way for marketing managers and executives to interact with customers is by fielding customer service calls or inbound sales calls. Even at the CEO level, if you take customer service calls for a few hours every month, it might just be the most valuable time you ever spend. The callers won’t have any idea you’re the CEO, so they won’t sugarcoat how they feel about your brand. And you can ask them almost anything you want and they’ll answer honestly.

Another free method is hosting a pizza and beer party (or pizza and wine party, depending upon your target demographic). Invite friends and friends of friends to visit your office or your home and try your product. Tell them you’ll provide take-out food and beverages in exchange for their time. The key here is to make sure you’re getting honest feedback. Friends and family usually will try to tell you they love it, even if they don’t. So offer them the booze in exchange for brutal, unvarnished honesty.

Those three ways of talking to customers are free. Even if you’re an entrepreneur on a shoestring budget, you have no excuse not to do them. As we discussed in When You’re Ready, It’s Too Late, the sooner you can start doing exercises like this to understand your customer, the better.

On the opposite end of the cost spectrum is formal market research, such as in-depth interviews, ethnographies, focus groups, and surveys. Professional focus groups can yield a tremendous amount of data, but they’re costly. Many books discuss techniques in market research. If you’re on a budget, or you have no budget, you may want to check out the book called The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, which suggests many methods for obtaining customer feedback throughout the development and growth process.

Don’t overcomplicate things. If you are having trouble answering the question, “What does it say about a person that they use your brand?”, just go out and ask them.

“What do you think it says about you that you use this brand?”

It’s as basic as that. Start there and then you can expand your customer research to learn other important things about your products, services, and brand.

The bullshit test

Understanding what your customers need and marketing to that isn’t enough. You need to walk the walk.

Once you understand your customers, ask yourself, “Do we have places where it’s an incomplete experience? Are our customer service representatives embodying what we say our brand stands for? Does our product or service really do what we say it does? Do customers experience the essence of our brand in a way that adds value to their lives?”

It’s important to know the answers to these questions so you can assess how well you and the rest of your organization are aligned on delivering a brand experience.

Zappos.com is known for its excellent customer service. That’s their brand promise. But what if a customer called and had a problem with a pair of shoes and wanted some resolution but the customer service rep was snotty to her on the phone?

Their marketing materials wouldn’t matter, because the customer’s experience wouldn’t be living up to the brand promise. They wouldn’t be fulfilling the need that the customer had, and therefore wouldn’t be living their brand.

When to hire outside help

One reason you may need professional help is that sometimes your boss or your team or your CEO is so in love with the brand that they can’t see its flaws. Sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective.

I look at my daughter and I am just in love with her. I think she is amazing, incredibly beautiful, smart, and talented, but I probably overlook a lot of flaws because she is mine. I made her. She came from my genes and my loins. A brand can be like that, too. It’s easy not to see the flaws, especially for founders and long-time team members.

Bringing in an outside brand consultant might make sense for you, but it’s getting ahead of ourselves.

  1. Speak to your customers. Try to really understand their wants, needs, and motivations.
  1. Read Branding is Sex. Use the tools discussed earlier in this post to gain clarity on who your customers are and how your brand needs to serve them.
  1. If you’re still struggling to get your branding right, or if it just isn’t clicking with your customers, think about hiring an outside brand strategist.

The Definitive List of Brand Archetypes

Brand Archetype

We all want a loyal following. We’re constantly looking for that magical marketing plan that will connect us to our audience and make our product an irreplaceable part of their life. What we don’t often realize is that connections are relationships. If we aren’t clear about who we are, no one is going to be interested in dating us.

In my book Branding Is Sex, I’ve devoted an entire chapter to understanding who your brand is, and how you should be starting a relationship with your customers.

The short version is this: There are 12 basic identities—or archetypes—a brand can assume. Below I’ve broken down all 12 in extreme detail to help you understand where you belong.

1. The magician makes dreams come true

The magician archetype is all about vision. Magician brands don’t build you a better toothbrush or help you keep your house clean, they bring your wildest dreams to life.

What they offer is a grand experience no one else could achieve. A magician is so in tune with the fundamentals of the universe that they can create the impossible.

Magician Archetype
Magician Archetype

Disney is the perfect magician. Disney is fundamentally a media company, but they are unlike any other.

Quick—think of the books and videos that have helped you in your career. You’re probably thinking of titles targeted to your industry, full of actionable advice and guidance.

Disney doesn’t do any of that. What they offer is a transformative experience.

They are in a category of their own because of the grandness of their vision. Imagine another brand that could build a “Magic Kingdom” or a “Disney World.”

2. The sage is always seeking the truth

To a sage, wisdom is the key to success. Everything else is secondary to the pursuit of knowledge.

A sage brand might not feel warm and cuddly. They don’t enrapture you in a fantastic world like Disney. Instead, a sage commands your respect by showing their brilliance.

Sage Archetype
Sage Archetype

Harvard University is one of the most revered universities in the world. Boasting an alumni list that includes eight US presidents, 21 Nobel laureates, and Mark Zuckerberg (sort of), Harvard’s brand is all about being the smartest.

Take this video for example. It’s not about success in life or fantasy, it’s about the power of knowledge. The video says the secrets of the universe hide in books, and that Harvard is where they are studied.

3. The innocent just wants to be happy

The innocent belongs in paradise. Everyone is free, virtuous, and happy in an innocent’s world.

An innocent brand will never guilt you with an ad or go over the top to convince you. Instead, an innocent brand will charm you with something much more powerful: Nostalgia.

Innocent Archetype
Innocent Archetype

Orville Redenbacher is the prototypical innocent archetype.

orville redenbaucher
orville redenbaucher

[source: Hammer and Rails]

What adult do you know who is that happy about their suspenders? What adult do you know that even owns suspenders?

But that’s Orville’s appeal. They sell you a childhood treat, popcorn, and their mascot is a grandpa who hasn’t stopped having fun since bowties were a thing unironically.

Nothing heavy-handed, just happiness.

4. The outlaw wants revolution

The outlaw isn’t afraid. Outlaw brands control their own life without regard for the status quo.

Where the innocent archetype touches the part of you that loved snack time in kindergarten, the outlaw archetype appeals to the part of you that cut classes in high school.

Outlaw Archetype
Outlaw Archetype

Building a cult following like Apple is the ultimate goal of an outlaw brand.

Remember those old iPod commercials where monochrome people had the best times of their lives dancing?

Apple Magician Archetype
Apple Magician Archetype

[source: Cult of Macs]

That ad doesn’t tell you to stand in a crowd or go to a concert. It tells you to be yourself, to dance whenever you like, and to do it with Apple.

If you think Apple doesn’t have a cult following, consider this. Did people wait in line for hours when the Galaxy S7 was released? No, is the answer.

5. The jester lives in the moment

The jester is all about having fun. Jester brands might not be curing illnesses, but they’re making your day better.

Humor, silliness, even nonsense are all in a jester’s toolkit. The goal of a jester brand is to make you smile with light-hearted fun.

Jester Archetype
Jester Archetype

The Old Spice Man is one of our all-time favorite ad campaigns, and the perfect example of a jester archetype.

Old Spice Man Jester Archetype
Old Spice Man Jester Archetype

[source: ePharmacy]

Some guys react well to hyper-masculine branding. Other guys don’t. By making a joke out of these super manly brands, Old Spice gets to appeal to both sides.

Guys who are into overly masculine brands get to be in on the joke. Guys who aren’t into macho brands get to laugh at them.

Everybody laughs, and everybody likes Old Spice as a result.

6. The lover wants to make you theirs

Passion, pleasure, and sensuality are the lover’s keywords. A lover brand wants you to associate them with intimate moments in your life.

What do you buy to celebrate? What do you buy your significant other for birthdays and anniversaries? Chances are, you’re buying from a lover brand.

Lover Archetype
Lover Archetype

Think of Godiva Chocolate ads. Do they ever make you think about your health, your finances, or your future?

No. Godiva seduces you. It shows off its richness and creaminess. It invites you to take part in life’s greatest indulgence: Chocolate.

7. The explorer wants to break free

Freedom is all an explorer cares about. Where other brands might try to help you build a home, explorer brands want to get you outside.

With this in mind, it makes sense that many outdoor brands are natural fits for the explorer archetype.

Explorer Archetype
Explorer Archetype

Subaru is the classic explorer brand. They don’t sell their cars based on luxury or comfort, they stress the freedom a Subaru provides.

Subaru Explorer Archetype
Subaru Explorer Archetype

[source: Tutsplus]

Blizzard? No problem. Subaru lets you decide where you’re going, no matter the circumstance. You’re free.

8. The ruler wants absolute power

Luxury and exclusivity are what the ruler is all about. A ruler brand is a gatekeeper. If a customer buys from them, they get to belong to the elite.

Being perceived as high-quality and expensive is critical for a ruler brand. Jewelry and high-end vehicles are natural fits for the ruler archetype.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.03.40 PM
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.03.40 PM

Do you buy a Mercedes Benz because of its crash test rating? What about its gas mileage? Its heated seats?

No. You buy a Mercedes Benz because you can afford to, and most other people can’t. Whenever you park your car, people will understand your status without you saying a word.

That quietly understood value is what a ruler brand sells.

9. The caregiver wants to nurture you

The caregiver is benevolent. They want to be there for you and the people you love.

Caregiver brands are all about warmth and trust. You can depend on them when it comes to your children. It’s rare to see a caregiver brand run an ad that takes a shot at their competition. They are the opposite of confrontational.

Caregiver Archetype
Caregiver Archetype

Johnson & Johnson’s tagline line is “Johnson & Johnson: A Family Company.” You can’t get more committed to families than that.

Johnson & Johnson Caregiver Archetype
Johnson & Johnson Caregiver Archetype

[source: Johnson & Johnson]

A Johnson & Johnson ad always focuses on how their products help you take care of your children. How their products build families. This is bread-and-butter for the caregiver archetype.

A caregiver is all about instilling trust between in the customer that for the rest of their life, the brand will be there for them.

10. The hero wants to prove himself

The hero makes the world better by being the best. A hero brand isn’t concerned with nurturing you, they’re interested in challenging you.

If you want to rise to the occasion, you’re going to need a hero’s help.

Hero Archetype
Hero Archetype

The U.S. Army is the ultimate example of a hero archetype.

Think of the recruitment commercials you’ve seen with troops jumping out of helicopters, running through training courses, and protecting the country. Any of that resemble your day-to-day?

Of course not. It’s not supposed to. It’s designed to compel you to “answer the call” and rise to the occasion by joining with a hero brand: The U.S. Army.

11. The regular guy/girl wants to belong

No glitz or glamour, just a reliable product that gets the job done. That’s what regular guy/girl brands are selling.

The archetype is focused on providing something so far removed from pretentiousness that it can appeal to everyone. It is the hardest archetype to pull off, because you have to have a product that actually appeals across demographics.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.05.19 PM
Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.05.19 PM

Everyone drinks coffee. Not every individual person, but every major demographic with the possible exception of infants. That’s what makes Folgers a great every guy/girl brand.

Folgers doesn’t market to a hip crowd. They don’t brag about their high quality, all-organic coffee. They keep it simple: “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”

Everyone wakes up. Everyone drinks Folgers.

12. The creator craves perfection

A creator isn’t worried about the cost of production or making things at scale. They care about one thing: building the perfect product.

While the magician also stresses vision and imagination, creators are different in that they don’t unlock the world’s magic and create the impossible. They create the perfect product.

Creator Archetype
Creator Archetype

Lego is a great example of a creator archetype. Take a look at this ad for Lego Vision:

Lego Creator Archetype
Lego Creator Archetype

[source: Ads of the World]

Lego recreated in stunning detail the most famous sights of the world. They didn’t build new sites, and they didn’t create some new technology that put the sites in your home.

Lego used the simplest technology possible: blocks. They took this simplicity and pushed it to its most perfectionist extreme. That’s what being a creator is all about.

What archetype is your brand?

This is one of the key questions we help clients answer at Sol Marketing. Almost every client comes to the table assuming they are the every guy/girl, but in 99% of cases, they aren’t.

Drilling down into what makes your brand special and how your customers best connect with your products isn’t easy, but it’s the most important thing you can do to understand what archetype you should be using.

The ideas in this post were inspired byCarol Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes.

When You're Ready, It's Too Late: Brand Strategy for Startups

Startups

Ah, startups. The land where branding is everything, yet most companies ignore it. For a branding geek like me, startups are incredibly fun and rewarding to work with. In addition to Sol Marketing, I also run another business called InvestorPitches.com, where we work with early stage companies to help them tell their stories effectively.

In my work with startups, the same theme comes up over and over again:

  • Is it too early to start branding?
  • Is branding a worthwhile investment at this phase?
  • Can’t we just focus on having a great product?

Of course, having a great product is important. But it’s not a trade-off where you can choose one or the other. For an early stage company nobody has heard of, branding is absolutely essential.

It’s Never Too Early

I always say, “Brand early, often, and always.”

Startups often fall into the trap of thinking they need to grow and be established players before branding matters. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The truth is, whether you work on it or not, you will have a brand. There will be a set of emotions, expectations, and feelings around your brand in the minds of customers. And if you don’t intentionally decide what that brand should be, your customers will decide it for you.

For an unfunded startup, it may be too early to invest significantly in ad spend and building a visual brand. But it’s never too early to understand your brand strategy from your customers’ point of view.

Minimum Viable Brand

Branding doesn’t need to be a big ordeal. New companies without much money to spend don’t need to hire expensive outside consultants, or run costly research studies, in order to understand their brand. But they do need to think about it.

At the very least, I encourage startups in their very early phase to understand the answers to the three fundamental questions of branding:

1) What does it say about the customer that they choose your brand?

2) What is the singular thing that only your brand can deliver to your customer?

3) How does your brand make the customer the hero in their own story?

These questions are simple, but they aren’t always easy to answer. Don’t think of this as a one-time, thirty-minute exercise. Instead, think of the process of answering of these questions as an ongoing discussion that unfolds as you find product-market fit.

I spend three full chapters in my book, Branding is Sex, explaining how best to understand and answer these questions. If you implement this process early, your branding is well taken care of. Like I said, branding doesn’t need to cost you tens of thousands of dollars. The book only costs $8.99!

As a start-up, if you do nothing else, dedicate time each month to discussing these three questions. This process gives you your brand’s North Star, which gives you direction and points you toward where you’re going.

Benefits Beyond Branding

The best thing about branding at the early stage isn’t just that it will impact how customers see you. It’ll also impact how you see yourself.

By going through this exercise, you’ll identify not only what you’re going to do but also, and more importantly, what you’re not going to do. It’s really easy as a startup to be opportunistic and to try to be all things to all customers.

But we all know that doesn’t work long term.

When you start to understand your branding and know directionally where you’re going, you can make more strategic, thoughtful, and deliberate decisions about your business.

Before You Start Branding, Answer These Three Questions

Brand Questions

We all know that many companies have a hard time getting their branding right. They have rebrand after rebrand, but their message never seems to hit home with customers. It seems helpless. After working with hundreds of companies in this exact situation, I’m confident to say that it isn’t helpless. They’re just making one fatal mistake:

These companies are focusing on the output of branding before adequately understanding their customers.

Many companies see branding as writing the perfect copy, choosing the perfect color scheme, and writing up a perfect brand message. This isn’t the case. These things might be the output of branding, but branding is one thing: understanding your customer.

This is a challenge. There are thousands of ways you can understand your customers, and many companies are paralyzed with understanding where to start.

From my experience helping companies understand their customers, there are three core questions that really get to the root of how the brand and customer interact. If you can answer these three questions, you’ll be in a much better place to start your branding process.

1) What does your brand say about your customers?

The first question for brands to answer is what it says about a person that he or she uses this brand. What does it communicate both to the outside world and to the customer him or herself?

This is important because, at its core, this is what a brand is. It’s a statement about the customer, and it’s crucial that, as a business, you know what that statement is.

Answering this question requires you to really get inside your customers’ heads and understand what they want to achieve in their lives, how they measure their success in achieving those goals, what they care most deeply about, and, ultimately, how the brand must deliver.

2) What is the singular thing your brand delivers that customers can’t get from anyone else?

The second question to understand is what the singular thing is that a person using this brand gets from it that they can’t get from any other brand.

In other words, what makes your brand singular and indispensable. What you’ll find, as you dig into this question, is that most of the answers aren’t tangible. It’s unlikely that your product has a feature that no competitors can provide. Instead, what commonly comes up are intangible benefits, like the ways the company makes them feel or the story it tells them about themselves.

3) How do you make your customer a hero in the story of his or her own life?

The third question requires an understanding of how your brand makes the customer a hero in his or her own life story.

Everybody wants to be the hero in his or her own story. Everybody wants to be the protagonist. Some brands may achieve that in an obvious way (like a fashion brand making the customer stand out from the crowd), whereas others might be more subtle (like an IT brand making the purchasing manager look good in front of their colleagues). No matter what the case, if you can answer this question, you’ll have loyal customers for life.


At a very high level, everything we do in branding is about answering those three questions.

Before you do any copywriting, design, or other branding outputs, take some time to answer those three questions. If you have trouble getting to the bottom of them, don’t worry. Ask your customers for help, and keep digging until you really understand them.

With this newfound understanding of who your customers are and how they want to interact with your brand, you’ll be on the path to defining a powerful brand strategy.

When should we brand? Early, often, and always

WorkplaceBranding

By Deb Gabor I hear one question from business owners all the time: “When should we brand?”

My answer is always the same: “Early, often, and always.”

Branding is not optional, and the risks of not taking it seriously are very real. Your customers might lose touch with your brand and leave you. A competitor with a strong commitment to branding might overtake you. Or, perhaps worst of all, the market might define your brand for you.

Brand yourself, or someone else will brand you. It’s very dangerous to let your customers, or the news media, or bloggers, or social media, or your competitors define your brand for you.

If you don’t intentionally control your brand yourself, it will take on a life of its own.

Brand or be branded For decades, cable television companies had no competition. They owned a local franchise, which allowed them to do business in a particular geographic area, and that was that. The regional cable companies had mini-monopolies because their customers had few options for home entertainment.

Hence, they often didn’t treat their customers well.

The cable companies knew their customers weren’t going to leave and, as a result, poor customer service became an ingrained way of doing business.

I don’t know if you’ve ever personally had the experience of being a customer of any of the big cable TV companies. If you have, then you’ve probably experienced the overwhelming sense of dread that comes whenever you have to call a cable company about anything. Dealing with cable companies is not a pleasant experience.

Invariably, you’ll start by waiting on hold for 30 minutes. When you do get a customer service rep on the line, you have to repeat all your account information that you’ve already entered. Then the rep will ask you a bunch of stupid questions you already answered for the person you spoke with previously. When you do schedule your appointment, customer service provides you a four-hour window of time when you need to be home. The technician shows up either early or late, or not at all. Finally, you get your cable bill, which is already too high to begin with, and discover that the company charged you way more than you expected for the service call.

When it comes to customer satisfaction—or the lack of it—it doesn’t get much worse than this.

With that atrocious level of customer service, pretty soon some of the big cable companies earned a dismal reputation among customers. You can go into a party and overhear people talking about how frustrated they are with their cable provider. “Oh gosh, I had to call the cable company the other day. What a nightmare. I’m still upset!” Everybody in the room utters a sigh of disgust because they’ve experienced the same thing.

Pretty soon, Consumer Reports or Temkin Group releases a survey and finds that the cable industry has the lowest customer satisfaction scores of any industry. Then the news media picks up the story. The bloggers start ranting. Twitter goes crazy.

Before you know it, the cable industry has been branded as an awful industry that abuses its customers. It can be very difficult to shed that reputation, and it can take years.

The cable industry lost control of its brand and let someone else—in this case, customers—own the brand. When you don’t take control of your brand’s image, and you don’t properly manage the relationship you have with your customers, the results can be devastating. And they show up on the bottom line.

What to do instead Branding doesn’t need to be complicated. You don’t need to have a major branding agency on retainer or go on weeklong branding retreats.

By answering three major questions, you can take control of your brand and understand who you are and how you fit in the market.

These are deep questions, and three full chapters in my book, Branding is Sex, are dedicated to understanding them and how best to answer them.

1) What does it say about the customer that they choose your brand?

2) What is the singular thing that only your brand can deliver to your customer?

3) How does your brand make the customer the hero in their own story?

By understanding the answers to these three questions, companies can ensure that they are sending the right message, and that their customers’ experiences are aligning with their messaging.

Branding is not a step-by-step process I want to be clear: Companies cannot just answer those three questions once and then hang up their branding hat. Answering the above questions is an ongoing exercise that should happen throughout the life of the brand. Branding is not something that takes place at a single point in time.

The answers to these questions will always be evolving and, even more importantly, living your brand and ensuring that customers experience your values is a constantly ongoing process.

You are in a competitive environment with changing customer needs and market forces that are beyond your control. Your brand needs to be constantly evolving to meet these challenges. You have to be in constant touch with your customers and your customers’ needs or subject yourself to the risk of becoming irrelevant.

The brand values pyramid: get to the top

Brand Values Pyramid

by Deb Gabor In Marketing 101, professors taught us that customers make rational purchase decisions. However, as a student of branding and marketing over the past 25 or so years, I’ve learned that reason informs, but emotion persuades.

The practice of branding requires digging a lot deeper into your customers’ needs, wants, and desires and then trying to uncover the inner stories customers tell themselves.

Marketing 101 was a good start, but to really understand branding, we need to leave the business school and walk across campus to the psychology department.

Maslow Was a Marketer If you think back to Psychology 101 class in college, you probably remember studying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow shaped his hierarchy like a pyramid, with the most basic human needs—food, water, shelter, air—at the base and loftier, more emotional needs at the top. The theory is that all humans must first solve for the lower levels of the pyramid before moving to the upper levels.

Once a person is no longer worried about finding food and water, he or she can move up to solve the problem of safety. Once that person figures out safety, he or she can move up to love, and so on.

brand values graphics for blog-04
brand values graphics for blog-04

Just as Maslow’s hierarchy explains human motivation, the brand values pyramid illustrates the idea that, when a person makes a decision to purchase or use a brand, they are motivated to achieve certain needs. After fulfilling one need, a person seeks to fulfill the next one, and so on.

As customers move up the pyramid, brands must meet more of their customers’ emotional needs, and as those emotional needs are met by more and more companies, the best brands must support customers’ process of becoming self-actualized.

Branding Lessons from My Garage Currently, I have two cars parked in my garage. I drive a sweet midsize Audi SUV, and my daughter drives a midsize Hyundai SUV.

Baseline Requirements The things that make both of these products midsize SUVs are what we call baseline requirements, which equate to the base of Maslow’s hierarchy.

In Maslow’s pyramid, those basic physiological needs are food, water, shelter, air, and so on.

In midsize SUVs, the baseline requirements are wheels, an engine, and a steering wheel, as well as seats, mirrors, windows, and the basic functional benefit of getting you from point A to point B.

The basic things that these two cars have in common with one another that make them function as midsize SUV’s are the baseline requirements for anything in the midsize SUV category.

All cars must meet these baseline requirements and deliver these functional benefits, or today’s market of SUV buyers will not take them seriously.

Emotional Benefits The next levels up in Maslow’s hierarchy are safety, belonging, and affiliation and esteem needs. These are the benefits that make you feel like you’re part of a group and protected.

In the brand values pyramid, these middle tiers describe how certain features make the consumer feel. In car talk, these are the options. In branding, we refer to them as emotional benefits. Emotional benefits can provide a competitive advantage, but they are not your brand.

The options packages in the middle of the pyramid for today’s cars are things such as Bluetooth, voice-activated navigation, heated seats, self-darkening mirrors, bi-xenon headlamps, and a variety of other cool things.

Not every model of car in a category offers those features, so they’re still somewhat differentiating and can command a premium purchase price. However, these features are easy for other brands to imitate, so they don’t define the brand and certainly aren’t sustainable long-term brand differentiators.

Like the functional benefits we discussed before, emotional benefits alone will never be enough to create and sustain a brand. As today’s options become tomorrow’s standard equipment, these emotional benefits aren’t enough to differentiate your brand.

brand values graphics for blog-02
brand values graphics for blog-02

Self-Expressive Benefits Self-expressive benefits—the stuff at the top of the brand values pyramid—enable customers to complete the statement, “When I eat/drink/drive/wear/use this brand, I am___.”

This is where brands become transcendent, symbolizing their customers’ self-concept and giving consumers a vehicle to express themselves.

When brands provide self-expressive benefits to their users, they can engender deep emotional connections. For example, consider the difference between the self-expressive benefits associated with Heineken beer, which may heighten a person’s self-concept of being a sophisticated, discerning, worldly person, with those of Budweiser.

Back to the two cars in my garage: the Hyundai and the Audi both meet the baseline requirements for midsize SUVs and provide some similar and compelling middle-of-the-pyramid features and emotional benefits. These two cars are so similar in their physical makeup, features, and benefits, that if you were to take the brand names away, they’d be virtually indistinguishable.

But everyone can agree that an Audi is an Audi, and a Hyundai is not an Audi. It’s a Hyundai.

Each of these two brands is unique and singular in what they let their owners say about themselves. For me, driving an Audi makes me feel powerful, cool, and in control. For my daughter, driving the Hyundai makes her feel responsible, stylish, practical, and safety conscious. Those feelings connect us to each of the two brands in very powerful ways, and elevate our concepts of ourselves and support us in telling a story to the rest of the world.

The most powerful brands are the ones that say something about their user. The key to successful branding is to make self-expressive benefits part of the brand value proposition to add richness and depth to the brand and the experience of owning and using the brand.

brand values pyramid for blog-01
brand values pyramid for blog-01

How to Discover Your Brand’s Self-Expressive Benefits There are three questions that every brand must be able to answer in order to understand how the brand values pyramid impacts their brand. These questions can be difficult to get to the bottom of, but once you understand them, they allow your brand’s strategy to flow naturally.

The three questions are:

  1. What does using your brand say about your customers?
  2. What is the singular thing your brand delivers that customers can’t get from anyone else?
  3. How do you make your customer a hero in their own story?

These questions may seem simple, but very few companies are able to answer them clearly. Those who can are usually the brands who win.

How to accurately answer these questions is beyond the scope of this blog post. In fact, there are three full chapters in my book, Branding is Sex, that focus exclusively on better understanding these three questions.

If you’re a brand struggling to deeply understand your customers, that’s the best place to start.

Branding is Sex: Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything

Brandind_is_Sex-cover
Brandind_is_Sex-cover

If you hate making money and the feeling of a mind-blowing, toe curling orgasm—stay far away from Deb Gabor's new book.

In Branding is Sex: Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything, the Sol Marketing founder and "brand dominatrix" explains how proper brand positioning gets your customers in the mood.

In just seven short and sweet chapters, Deb covers these juicy topics and more:

How the most successful brands in the world get their customers laid How to never fail The Bullshit Test Who your brand should hop in the sack with (and it’s not who you think)

Don’t rot in the brand graveyard like Blackberry, Oldsmobile, Circuit City, Compaq, Blockbuster Video, and Pets.com.

Get your sexy back and move from being “just friends” with your customers to being long-term “friends with benefits.”

Branding is Sex provides you with a concrete foundation and a basic how-to plan for building or re-igniting your brand without needing a PhD.

Buy your print or e-reader copy here, or read more about it at brandingissex.com

Investor pitch archetypes

Archetypes abound in all sorts of storytelling, and investor pitches are, after all, storytelling. Which archetype best represents these classic startup stories? archetypes_V6

Podcast: The 3 Big Questions Your Business Needs to Answer when Building Your Brand

Deb was recently interviewed by Tim Hamilton for the new Praxent Commanding Business podcast -- listen to it for a mini branding MBA, Sol style! Listen to the podcast in iTunes

Commanding Business Podcast by Tim Hamilton, CEO of Praxent

EP018: The 3 Big Questions Your Business Needs to Answer when Building Your Brand with Deb Gabor

Released Oct 13, 2015

From leadership to management and marketing to innovation, Commanding Business covers a variety of topics with an aim to uncover actionable takeaways you can implement in your own organization today.

Episode synopsis: To become a financial asset for your company a brand needs to have an essence, a promise and a personality. Building your brand requires sustainable differentiators, scientific research and most importantly, focuses on your customer’s point of view. Your brand should also closely resemble the strategy of the business to benefit your end customer. There are three questions your organization needs to answer to achieve top of mind awareness within your business sector. When you have answered the three questions you have the criteria for the top of your brand value pyramid.

 

Building a kick-ass brand that wins

Sol Marketing was proud to participate in Austin Startup Week last week and share our brand love with a room full of startup founders and entrepreneurs! Our interactive session detailed the importance of branding for startups and guided them through practical tips for defining their company's core brand DNA. If you missed out, check out the slides and highlights from attendees! In this session you'll:

  • Learn what a brand is and why it's important for startups
  • Understand how a brand informs future business strategies
  • Know when startups should start building their brand
  • Learn practical "hacks" to accelerate the process of defining your brand and articulating it to customers
See the slides on SlideShare: Building a kick-ass brand that wins from Deb Gabor

 

 

Brand Storytelling isn’t Telling the Story of Your Brand – It IS Your Brand

Storytelling is the latest buzzword kicking around ad and brand strategy agencies all over the world.  People often misuse the term brand storytelling to describe stories about a brand. Actually, a true brand story originates from its story platform – the emotional core, the DNA of the brand. The brand story is the very essence of the brand – something you need to convey in order to connect your ideas with your audience. We rarely evaluate companies based upon their products alone.  We’re in a world where a brand’s values and the emotions they evoke are narrative material. The most powerful way to persuade someone of your idea is to unite that idea with an emotion.  The best way to do that is by telling a compelling story.  Your brand’s story isn’t a tagline or a headline. It isn’t the logo or visual representation. Your brand’s story creates an experience and defines the emotional relationship your customers have with you.  Ultimately, the best brand stories are those that intrigue, engage and connect with users on a level that transcends the products or services themselves.

Your brand story is like the glue that will hold all your brand’s actions and words together for a long period of time.  Your audience may not see it, but without it, your brand is nothing.   Sol is doing a series of brand storytelling workshops next week, so it’s timely for me to write about how to create the story of your brand.  Perhaps attend one of our workshops (link to reserve your place is here), or it give it a try on your own with the following tips:

How to write your brand’s story:

1. Define your brand promise:  Your brand promise is a single statement that is the articulation of your brand’s values, the primary benefit you provide and your unique relevance to your brand’s users.  Your brand promise lies in the answers to the three questions below:

  • What does it say about a person that they use your brand?
  • What is the singular thing your brand offers that your customer can’t get anywhere else?
  • How do you make your customer a hero in his/her OWN story?

2. Define your ideal customer:  There is an archetype of the “perfect” customer for your brand.  This is almost a caricature of the singular customer who would be MOST predictive of your brand success – the customer for whom your brand is specifically tailored.  Sure, there are probably multiple use-cases for your brand and even a variety of target audiences who might use your brand, but the archetype is exactly that – an archetype, which serves as a prototype for customer behavior and attitudes.  Understanding who this person is empowers you to understand at a very emotional level the CONFLICT in the brand story.  As I said in this previous post about Brand Swagger, great brands solve acknowledged problems and address real customer needs.  Knowing your ideal customer intimately will help you ensure that your brand addresses significant and real pain and anchors the concepts and language your brand uses to create a vision for what the world looks like when you’ve solved customers’ challenges.  To create your ideal customer archetype, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the person for whom my brand is absolutely perfect?
  • Describe them demographically/firmographically…if you’re a B2B brand, that means focusing on to the very person within an organization who is buying your brand: job title, what level she is within the organization, what that person’s work day is typically like. Also focus on what type of business she’s in -- what’s her workplace like?  What’s the competitive environment?

Then, focus on attitudes, behaviors and other descriptors that help you bring fine focus to the picture of who that person is:

  • Where does she live/shop/learn/play/work?
  • What does she care about most in her life?
  • What are her problems relative to what you’re selling? How significant are those problems?  How is she currently solving those problems?
  • On what metrics do they measure themselves? How does she know she’s living the life she feels she’s designed for?
  • Finally, how does she view herself vis a vis her world, other people, her job, her family, etc.?

3. Explore and define your brand’s personality and character: The best brands in the world have a distinctive point of view and a unique voice that translate into verbal and visual articulation of the brand. The language you use, the colors, images, even the photographic style you use should reflect your brand’s personality and character. The brand personality makes your brand feel human.  To understand your brand’s character and personality, ask the following questions:

If your brand were human, where would it:

  • Go to dinner?
  • Go on vacation?
  • Who would it go with?
  • What would it wear?
  • What would it eat?
  • What would it drive?
  • Where does it shop?
  • Which brand of athletic shoes does it wear?
  • Would it live on a street, an avenue or a road?
  • How old is it?
  • Male or female?
  • What are its personality traits?

You get the picture, right?

4. Create the story arc:  The purpose of a story arc is to move a character or a situation from one state to another; in other words, to effect change. This change or transformation often takes the form of either tragic fall from grace or a reversal of that pattern. We often find this form of reversal in stories in which a character goes from a situation of weakness to one of strength. For example, a poor woman goes on adventures and in the end makes a fortune for herself, or a lonely man falls in love and marries.  Or a tragic hero falls from grace and then redeems himself in the end or transforms himself.

Great brands have a story arc too.  What’s the story of your brand?  How do you reverse your customers’ fortunes?  How do you transform people’s lives?

Chief Creative Officer of Momentum Worldwide, Jon Hamm (no relation!), recently wrote a piece in AdWeek which sums it up nicely:

“The truly great storytellers have long embraced the fact that the most powerful stories happen in the mind of the audience, making each and every story unique and personal for the individual. They also understand that stories are important because they are inherent to the human experience. Stories are how we pass on our accumulated wisdom, beliefs and values. They are the process through which we describe and explain the world around us, and our role and purpose in it. Audiences have always known this and asked for stories.”

So what’s your brand’s story?  How will you bond emotionally with your audience?

Sol Boot Camp: Activating your brand hotness

*Must RSVP to attend* Join us on November 10 at Austin’s own ZACH Theatre for a fun, hands-on workshop about creating kick-ass brands that win. Strip away the “self talk” in your marketing, and get confident in crafting your own empowering brand so you can get your customers paid, and get your customers laid. Come learn about your brand archetype and brand personality, and discover the answers to your three brand questions:

What does it say about someone that they use your brand?

What do your customers get from your brand that they can’t get anywhere else?

How does your brand make your customers a hero in their own story?

We'll be hosting two FREE sessions. Space is limited, so pick a time that works with your schedule, tell your friends, and RSVP to join us!

~Details~

What: Sol Marketing Boot Camp: Activating Your Brand Hotness Where: ZACH Theatre - Serra Skyline Lounge 1510 Toomey Rd Austin, TX 78704 When: Same session, different times - Session 1: Monday, November 10, 9:00 am to 11:00 am Session 2: Monday, November 10, Noon to 2:00 pm RSVP: http://solbootcamp.splashthat.com/sol

6 keys to building brand swagger

I always tell clients to answer the following questions to figure out what's at the top of their brand pyramids:

  • What does it say about a person (a customer, a user) that he or she uses/wears/drinks/eats/lives your brand? The answer to this question lies in how your product/brand addresses someone's core values and beliefs.
  • What makes you indispensable to a person?  Meaning: what is the singular benefit he/she gets from using your product or brand that they can't get ANYWHERE else?  The answer to this question is NEVER about the product – the speeds/feeds or the "ities" (reliability, adaptability scalability, manageability, etc-ability.)  The answer to this question gets to the true differentiation of your product and the root of the emotional relationship people have with you and your brand.
  • How do you make your customer a HERO in his/her own story?  Everyone has a story.  How does your brand play into the customers' own stories?

As I told you in a previous post: all branding is about sex.  How does your brand give a person that sexy swagger that makes others swoon?

The most enduring brands are the ones that create irrational loyalty among their users.  Irrational loyalty is the kind of love a mother has for her own offspring, or the kind of love that enables customers to continue to purchase and support your brand, even when they know there are products and brands available that are functionally superior.  It's the reason that I always run in Asics shoes, and why I always buy Apple products.  I actually feel guilty when I don't buy the latest and greatest iThingies.

I have my own loose model of brand success. Over 20-something years of working with and creating brand stories, I've learned that there are key elements that give brands the ability to create a lasting legacy in their categories. I didn’t just pull these things out of my ass, I have validated them through hundreds of thousands of research interviews and hours upon hours of hands-on brand consulting.

Here they are:

  1. Relevance:  a solution to an acknowledged problem.  The problem has to be huge and profound for the people that have it.
  2. Vision: an answer to the question, "what will the world look like when we've solved this problem," expressed thusly:  someday, every blank will be able to blank.
  3. Awareness and affinity: lasting brands are often (or have the potential to be) leaders in their categories.  Top of mind awareness has the highest correlation to brand purchase. For example, think of the first canned soup brand that comes to the top of your head?  Did you say Campbell's?  So...what's the #1 soup brand in grocery stores today?
  4. A system of economics: organizations that can create a system of economics  around themselves have endurance and demonstrate leadership.  Think of organizations like Salesforce.com, or Oracle.  There are developers, resellers, integrators, customers, employees, vendors, and others who all experience success as a result of the financial relationships they have with those brands.
  5. Integrity: the strongest brands in the world walk the talk.  Think back to B-school. Do you remember studying the Tylenol crisis?  J&J, the parent company of Tylenol, was able to weather one of the most epic product quality shitstorms in history because the brand has integrity.  They took control of the communication about the situation.  They were proactive.  They didn't hide anything.  They demonstrated respect for the humans involved, from victims to employees to stockholders.  Who wouldn't put their confidence in a brand that exhibits those characteristics?
  6. Humanity: in today's world, brands that show compassion towards other humans and a desire to authentically connect with their audiences create the most indelible bonds.  Think about the brands you feel most strongly about.  Are there any you LOVE?  Why is that?  When you love someone or something, sometimes they get a "pass" when they've done something wrong.   

As a brand, I'd love to be in that position.

It’s strange that I could sum up almost 25 years of my life’s work in this one short blog post.  But there it is.  How does your brand measure up?