You must connect with customers on an emotional level to become a ‘passion brand.’
6 min read
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Every brand desires to be loved by consumers, because they know that brand love translates to growth and increased revenue. But excitement and enthusiasm for brands doesn’t happen by chance. Why do people love Harley-Davidson? Why is there such an attachment to Tesla? Why will women pay premium prices for Lululemon? Because each has built its brand from the outside in — by identifying what their customers want, combined with what the brand value proposition is and delivering upon it — to truly become a “passion brand.”
The following 10 Commandments can help any company, whether a startup or heritage brand looking to redefine itself, make that leap to become beloved:
1. Understand who you are and who you aren’t.
When working hard to become a passion brand, it’s important that the company understands the value it brings to the consumer. Brands need to ask themselves why they are relevant to their target audience. It’s more than just talking about features and benefits; it’s about enabling the consumer to become emotionally attached so the brand becomes part of their lifestyle. Conversely, avoid being something you’re not. If you’re an indulgent food brand, don’t try to position yourself as healthy. Instead, create a backstory around the fun experience of consuming the product. Consumers recognize when brands are trying to mislead them.
2. Clearly define your target consumer — don’t try to be all things to all people.
Conduct a deep dive into what your product or service offers and who benefits the most from it. Rather than rationalize why every consumer would love your brand, challenge yourself to ask who truly lives a better life because of it — this drives emotion. That’s who your target audience is. Focus on your bull’s-eye with all your energy, support and marketing.
3. Build an ownable narrative.
The most difficult, yet most valuable, part of creating a passion brand is building a narrative that is reflective of the brand but also completely relevant to the end user. Shazi Visram, CEO of Happy Family, not only wanted to convey her knowledge of the natural baby food space and be positioned as an expert, she also wanted to be positioned as a mompreneur and eventually have her company acquired. All of this happened.
The lesson here is that you need to take inventory of all the assets you have to work with to build that narrative. Do you have a founders’ story? Are you creating a new category? Does your product have unique ingredients? Every brand is different; therefore, how you build and, more important, tell your story will make all the difference in the world.
4. Talk with your consumer, not at them.
Today, consumers are smart, informed, opinionated and willing to share their thoughts with the world. It’s imperative that passion brands embrace the power today’s consumer wields by being open and honest in everything they do. When something goes wrong — a product recall, for example — be direct about what happened, why it happened and how it will be averted in the future. This transparency will build trust and a connection to the brand from target consumers.
5. Be disciplined and focused.
When you are a small, growing brand or one that’s looking to reinvent itself, you must be smart about every decision. Wrong decisions can not only derail plans but also distract you from your overall objectives. Be sure to clearly define what you are trying to accomplish, what it will take to get there and what resources will be dedicated to ensure it happens. When time, budget and energy are limited, you can’t afford to be undisciplined.
6. Create a “reason to believe.”
Love for a brand typically grows from a small group of extremely passionate consumers who truly believe in its mission, the quality of its product(s) and the way the brand communicates. For example, Method wanted to reinvent the hand soap category by creating a cleaner, greener and more vertically integrated offering, which it did to create an amazing passion brand. Thus, it is inherent upon any company desiring to be perceived as a passion brand to create a “reason to believe” — a passion point that consumers can rally around. If you don’t form a reason to believe, then you become a commodity, which all brands should fear.
7. Ensure your leaders are likable, believable and accessible.
Senior management must build trust and confidence in all constituencies, including employees, customers, buyers, retailers and any other stakeholder. For example, when our client Justin Gold, CEO of Justin’s nut butter, speaks about his brand, the natural food category or anything related to organics, he conveys authenticity, credibility and honesty. To some leaders, this comes somewhat naturally; others have to work at it. Either way, the importance of approachability shouldn’t be ignored. When uncertainty in leadership exists, it trickles down to the marketplace in both direct and indirect ways.
8. Be consistent in all communication.
Passion brands are consistent in everything they do. Their PR efforts are linked to their social strategy, which is aligned with their creative campaign and supported by an overarching brand narrative. This type of 360-degree communication ensures that the consumer will receive the same messages regardless of which touch point they enter. Continuity is extremely important when you’re trying to win over the consumer and establish a passion brand.
Related: 5 Ways to Grow and Build Trust
9. Find a North Star.
Passion brands are constantly moving forward through innovation, technology, data or anything else that allows them to look at the bigger picture so they don’t lose their focus — this is their North Star. They desire to be the best in all they do, which means they never compromise who they are or what they do.
10. Stand for something beyond profits.
Most passion brands believe in a greater good. They are driven by things that go beyond being profitable. It could be the community, underserved markets or countries, or humankind in a broader sense. This noble gesture typically yields greater trust from consumers. For example, passion brand Patagonia fights to reduce greenhouse emissions, while Vita Coco is committed to re-invigorating coconut farming communities.
As consumers are challenged to find their “passion” in order to live a fulfilled life, so too should brands aspiring to maximize their relationship with target audiences. When companies are driven to fully connect with consumers on an emotional level, they have the potential to become a true passion brand.
Related Video: Why Your Customers Should Be Your Friends