If They Know What You Stand For, Your Consumers Will Love You (and Your Brand)

HeartIn the news last month were the results of a recent study that reveals the world’s 100 most loved companies. The top three brands? The Walt Disney Company, Yahoo! and Google. The study surveyed 70,000 people in 15 countries and measured individuals’ emotional feelings toward a brand. While we’re happy to see several of our past clients on the list, the study poses a great question: How can a company establish enough emotional connectivity to create familiarity and favorability among its audiences?

A company can’t be familiar to, or loved by its customer base if it isn’t true to itself. If familiarity breeds favorability, this might make a good argument to push for a higher marketing spend. But a more fundamental (and less expensive) way to improve and sustain familiarity is to be coherent and consistent in how you tell your story. Customers are people. People trust what they know.

Creating a Trustworthy, Intriguing Brand
Three steps to becoming a familiar and favored brand:

  1. Know who you are. Build a strong identity strategy and you will have a clear mission. Your employees will understand what they’re a part of and your customers will be able to identify with the choices you make. Our founder and CEO Philip Durbrow points out that everyone from the gardeners to the guy who plays Goofy could give a solid yes or no on whether something’s really “Disney” or not.
  2. Walk the talk. If there is a disconnect between what you proclaim yourself to be and how your customers experience you, your brand will cease to be appealing or trustworthy. All the marketing dollars in the world won’t solve this problem.
  3. Find the balance. Once you have an established following, you have to decide how to walk the line of remaining familiar while innovating and evolving as an organization. One of our recent SlideShare presentations, “How to Create a Valuable Company,” demonstrates that a company can be both solid and reliable and dynamic and innovative.

Seeing Success
Many brands struggle to connect with their customers and create favorability because they never take the time to assess what they stand for. One study points out that, more than familiarity just leading to favorability, it leads to behaviors that support companies’ strategic goals. Word-of-mouth marketing, investment referrals—these help companies grow and succeed, and they are more likely to happen for organizations that tell a clear and honest story about who they are.


B2B Buyers are People, Too

You might think that in the business-to-business space, brand awareness and loyalty is less important than it is for consumer brands.

VMware tattoo

One of VMware’s customers tattooed the company’s logo on the back of his head, a move that demonstrates a pretty personal commitment.

But some branding experts believe that brands matter even more in B2B than in B2C. Why? Many B2B companies compete in a confusing or fragmented marketplace. Often they’re trying to differentiate highly technical offerings by focusing on functional aspects. It’s a cliché of B2B marketing that it’s all “speeds and feeds,” and that connecting on a more personal level is for the consumer realm.

But initiatives that focus on creating value for B2B brands can have tremendous payoff. A Harvard Business Review study on B2B brands concluded that the corporate brand is responsible for an average 7 percent of stock performance. Depending on your market cap, brand equity can mean hundreds of millions of dollars.

People Make Emotional Decisions

Preference and loyalty decisions are not unemotional, logic-driven events—even in the B2B space. Forrester analyst Laura Ramos, who blogs about areas of concern to CMOs, wrote that many B2B marketers still don’t understand that “B2B is really about the people.”

When I was studying integrated marketing in graduate school, one exercise came up time and again: Answer the question: “Do you have a favorite brand, and why?” Responses were mostly consumer brands, and explanations were always fascinating. Ask yourself about anything “Why do I want this or not want it?” Is it the color? Is it the ingredients? Is it what you feel in your hands? Is it the price? Is it the name? You can apply what you learn even to complex B2B products. A client of ours sells sophisticated scientific instruments and faces a competitor whose arguably inferior product has benefited from significant brand investment, best demonstrated by its sleek-sounding name. Even a marketplace filled with highly logical and analytical thinkers can be swayed by the sense that a cool brand makes the product inherently more desirable.

Some of our B2B clients inspire fanatical loyalty that most consumer brands can’t match. One of VMware’s customers tattooed the company’s logo on the back of his head. A tattoo is a pretty personal commitment, but the product enabled this person to feel like a rockstar in his professional life. Professional decisions are emotional choices. What matters in the end is that you’re offering your customers something that matters to them.