Monday Mornings with Madison

The New Pinnacle for Brands: Brand Love, Part 3

Brand love may sound like marketing hogwash to old school business traditionalists.  But one need only look at hard line numbers to know that brand love is not only real, but in today’s world, it enhances the bottom line far more than cutting expenses, adjusting pricing, improving operational efficiencies, streamlining ergonomics and economies of motion, or outsourcing complex business processes.  Whereas once upon a time, companies might have seen marketing efforts as a waste of time and money, today everything a company does is inextricably intertwined with marketing.  Brand is everything and marketing’s focus is on finding ways to garner brand love.  In that regard, everyone in every company should be a part of the effort to generate brand love.

For the last two weeks, we’ve examined the concept of brand love and began delving into the qualities that foster brand love.  Last week, we recognized that a company that is loved is one that:

1. embraces a worthy mission — A company must be purposeful, with a clear and resounding mission statement and it must be tied to an end product or service that consumers value and trust.  Beloved companies stand for something.

2. lives their values – These are companies that don’t just talk the talk, but also walk the walk, of what they say.  They not only have something to say, but act on it.  The company’s values actually guide the decisions they make.

3.  are authentic – Customers have become increasingly skeptical of brands that appropriate beliefs into their brands with little genuine passion to back up those claims.  Brands that earn customer love are real, with human qualities and have deep integrity.

4.  Evoke Emotion. Brands that are loved are good at making their customers feel powerful emotions.  Whether it is through the way they communicate, the design of their products or the customer experience they deliver, they stir up emotions that connect customers to the brand and one another.  They create deep bonds.  They think carefully about their products and think about how customers feel when they interact with their product.  Care and empathy are at the heart of their work.

Here are five more values that beloved companies demonstrate.  A company that is loved is one that:

5.  has a compelling story. Whether it’s the founders’ story or the origin story of the company or the story of what the company is about, people love brands whose stories resonate.  For all that we try to de-personalize business, companies are formed by people, operated by people, and serve people.  And, at its core, people do business with “people” they know, like and trust.  So the more people know about a company’s story, the more likely they are to bond in a meaningful way with that company.

What makes a business story compelling?  It usually answers one of these questions.   What are the founders’ backstories?  What drove them to risk everything and pour themselves into a business?  Where did they get the idea for the business? What obstacles did they have to overcome to turn their idea into a successful business?  People love underdog stories like David vs. Goliath.  They love rags to riches stories.  And they love stories about people who are scrappy.  They also love stories about companies that go above and beyond.  Those are the stories that inspire, ignite and fuse people to brands.  It is important for consumers, customers and clients to get a window into their world and relate to the people within it and their humanity, not just the company as an entity.  That is what turns those who like a brand into those who love it.

6.  doesn’t stand still.  A brand that is loved is one that keeps reinventing itself, staying relevant as it grows and matures, while still sticking to its core values.  Some traditions are good but companies must evolve as the market does.

Case in point.  Minnetonka is a company that has been producing quality, comfortable footwear since 1946. In fact, the current CEO, David Miller, is the third generation of family leaders at the company’s helm.  It is a quintessentially American brand that has remained true to its values throughout its history, even as the company has gone international. Today they trade in 50 countries worldwide.

Minnetonka understands that staying true to its roots is key to building a brand with timeless appeal. The foundation of the brand has remained firmly in place.  Their family brand is one that consumers can trust to supply products that look good, are comfortable, and will last. They manufacture quality products that are affordable and accessible to everyone, products that transcend class and generations.  Celebrities wear Minnetonka but so do parents, neighbors, and kids.

But, at the same time, their products and marketing has moved with the times. The company pushes its values in the many stories it tells and ways that it connects with customers.  Their company history is presented on their website as a short timeline and ends with an inspirational movie that delves into the brand’s beliefs and its relationship with its customers.  Then there is a short article that illustrates the quality of their products and materials.  And they infuse a healthy dose of user-generated content.  Their #MyMinnetonka gallery invites customers to upload photos showing how they make Minnetonka’s styles their own. And, their blog has a number of categories for their posts including Culture, DIY, Style, Heritage, and Adventure.  All the stories feature their Minnetonka shoes.

The company is traditional in its values, but is continually embracing new and exciting ways to reinvent itself and stay relevant, while sticking to its core values.

7.  thinks long-term. Brands that are loved play the long game.  They don’t go after short-term wins in order to win some more customers or sales.  When making decisions, their focus is on a customer’s lifetime value.  That means companies that invest in their customers will generate a bigger return than those looking to score a big ROI today at the expense of customer goodwill.  Here is where customer service and quality products help generate brand love.

8.  makes life better for humanity and the planet. Any company that is not putting the well-being of people and the planet at the heart of its values, goals, strategies and decision will not be around for long.  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.  Last week, we talked about Patagonia and other companies that embrace doing good.

9.  builds community. 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.

Case in point.  On Monday, July 21, 2021, David Nay, a Fintech Recruiter at Fintechstaff.com, posted on LinkedIn about his experience with Chewy.com.  He wrote, “I had to cancel an order from Chewy on Monday for my dog’s pain medicine. Reggie’s been battling cancer and his pain has gotten to the point where it’s time to let him go.  Richard, the Chewy customer service rep I spoke with, was extremely helpful and shared his heartfelt condolences with me. Overall, it was a great customer service experience. I couldn’t have asked for more.  On Tuesday, the doorbell rang. I found a nice bouquet of flowers sitting on the front porch from Richard at Chewy.  I’d spent a total of $82 at Chewy in my lifetime.  I’d never met Richard before. This was my first and only experience, so far, with Chewy’s customer service department.  To say they went the extra mile for one of their customers is an understatement.  The amount of gratitude I felt from this experience had me in tears and I’ll never forget it.  It’s so sad to say goodbye to Reggie and it will take some time to move past our family’s loss.  But when the time comes to get a new dog, you’d better believe I’ll be shopping exclusively at Chewy.”  Nay went on to add, “Maya Angelou said it best, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel.’  Well done, Chewy.  Well done, Richard.  I can’t thank you enough for the way you made me feel during a very sad time.”

A mere four days later that post had gone viral.  It had been read and liked by 104,042 people, and generated 4,894 comments.   Many of the comments included stories by other satisfied Chewy customers, including similar stories as well as countless tales of customers — whose dogs had not liked their dogfood and asked to return it – were given full refunds but instructed to donate the food to a local pet shelter as a way of giving back to the community.  With one kind gesture — one bouquet of flowers — Chewy had not only converted a perfectly happy, satisfied customer into a raving fan, but had reaffirmed its brand love with thousands of loyal customers.

But the flowers that Richard at Chewy sent to David Nay was not a fluke or a one-time gesture.  It was actually a part of their corporate culture and directly contributed to Chewy’s success.  Chewy is one of the fastest-growing e-commerce companies in the world not only because the convenience of online shopping but also because of their approach to brand building and growth. One of Chewy’s goals is to identify internal brand champions in their PR, talent management, branding, social media and customer service departments.  They lean on their internal Brand Champions to help with activation and engagement.  Their customer service department has made a name for itself among pet owners with their thoughtful, personalized approach to customer care.  In addition to flowers to customers who’ve lost a pet, the team regularly sends out pet birthday cards, pet portraits, and a host of other small gestures.  Their attention to the personal pervades Chewy’s culture beyond its customer service strategy. Team members aren’t “employees” but “Chewtopians,” and Chewy’s operating principles include statements like “Act like an owner.”  That is how Chewy has won massive brand love.

Companies need to stop thinking about how to sell or market or even define their brand.  They need to think about making their employees and customers fall in love with the company brand.  That love is what will make companies grow and grab market share in ways that will make everyone happy.

Quote of the Week

“Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.”
Jonah Sachs

 

© 2021, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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