“The best brands make you *feel* something.” John Kearon
What makes people love a brand or business?
It’s a simple question, but one that doesn’t necessarily have a simple answer.
Love is a word you don’t hear often in business — some people shy away from it, it’s too soft and fluffy for the traditional business heads out there.
However every business wants loyal, passionate customers that regularly spend money with them and tell their friends, but a fancy logo or glossy campaign won’t help them create an undying bond with their customers.
The first lesson of branding: you only get love back if you put love in.
Any makers or creative entrepreneurs out there will already know this of course. That to make something useful or even beautiful requires love, care and attention to bring into the world.
Not to mention patience.
And that attention to detail will help you find your first customer, and the second. And this is how it starts, one person at a time on your way to reaching your 1,000 true fans.
Since working with companies of all sizes for more than 20 years I’ve been fascinated by why we go crazy for some brands and not others:
- Why do people spend £1000 on an iPhone X when they could buy one with similar features for a lot less elsewhere?
- Why do people get permanent tattoos of Tough Mudder on their bodies at the finishing line of their events?
- And why would loyal fans of Patagonia, happily choose not to buy one of their products (with the company’s blessing)?
These are questions that I’ve been chewing on these last few years since building The Happy Startup School and I’ve distilled my learnings below to help you build your own brand that people love.
- They stand for something. The best brands have an opinion, a point of view or even more powerful — a mission. More and more companies are using business as a force for good, a platform to draw attention and possibly resources to a cause. In short, they have a purpose beyond profit. Whether that’s Patagonia telling us to not buy their jackets to protect the environment or Good Things Brewing creating the world’s first zero impact brewery. They do their thing not to sell more stuff, they sell more stuff to allow them to do their thing.
- They walk the walk. People love brands that have something to say, but crucially, then act on it. It’s no use having company values if you don’t then use them to guide the decisions you make. It’s important that you live your values, not laminate them. Our values of learning, play and friendship mean more to us than words and yours should too.
- They’re authentic (not fauxthentic). As brands have cottoned on to consumers desire for more authenticity in business, we’re becoming increasingly sceptical of brands that clumsily try and copy others or appropriate beliefs into their campaigns with little return for the actual cause. The brands that we warm to are those that are real and have deep integrity.
- They make you feel something. Whether through the way they communicate, the design of their products or the customer experience they deliver, the brands we love tend to stir up emotions inside of us that create deep bonds. They put love into their products and thought into how it feels to interact with them. Care and empathy are at the heart of their work.
- They have a story you can relate to. Whether it’s the founders or origin story of the company, often we love brands whose story resonates with us. It’s important that we can get a window into their world and relate to the people within it and their humanity, not just the company as an entity.
- They don’t stand still. They keep reinventing themselves, staying relevant as they grow and mature. Often being true to your values can mean making some tough decisions, even pissing some people off in the process. But the main thing is to not do things the way they have always done them if this no longer serves them or their purpose.
- They think long-term. Purpose-driven brands don’t focus on short-term wins in order to win some more customers or sales, they play the long game and focus on the lifetime value of a customer when making decisions.
- They make life better (for humans and the planet). If you’re not putting people and the environment at the heart of your decision making then you’re behind the curve. Not only is it the right thing to do, people’s buying habits are changing and customers are much more careful about how they spend their money. If you’re doing more harm than good, time will eventually catch up with you.
- They build community. I wouldn’t have written this 10 years ago, but now the brands of the future that win will be those that understand their role is not just in having relationships with their customers, but facilitating relationships between customers. They understand that their mission will attract likeminded people that will want to belong to this new tribe and be part of something bigger, together. It’s a great opportunity, but a responsibility too.
I hope this gives you some food for thought as you look to build your brand and community.
Great brands don’t happen overnight. It can take years of dedication and a bit of luck. But the main thing is to start with the right intention — putting purpose before profit — and you’ll be on the right lines.
Go forth and spread goodness.
Co-founder The Happy Startup School
📖 Some great books on branding:
The #1 strategy of high-performance brands
When everybody zigs, zag. This book emphasises the power of standing out from the crowd.
- Do Story
How to tell your story so the world listens
In this book Bobette Buster shares the tools and principles used by some of the world’s best storytellers and helps you apply them to your own.
- Made to Stick
Why some ideas survive and others die
Over 10 years Chip & Dan Heath have established what it is that determines whether particular ideas or stories stick in our minds or not, and Made to Stick is the fascinating outcome of their painstaking research.
Why things catch on
Why are some products and ideas talked about more than others? This book from Jonah Berger will show you how to make products, ideas and behaviours really catch on.
💡 Get more great ideas
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