The emotional connection people have with brands they love does not happen by accident. What separates great brands from average brands is that great brands are authentic, and their customers can feel it. They interact with their customers in ways that are beyond being simply transactional. A transactional brand may have a great product or service, providing customers with what they want, when they want it, but it ends there. You don’t see people taking selfies with their new bottle of Dasani water.
Look internally and externally. A connection needs two points. This translates into connecting internally with what you stand for to the external customer need or desire. Great brands ask themselves the hard questions. They think about their purpose, why they exist, and most important, how can they make their customers lives better.
These brands go beyond the fundamentals of what it means to be in business and find ways to understand their customers, not just giving them what they want, but also helping to improve their lives in some small way. For some, that means being part of something bigger.
Be philanthropic. Example brands that create strong emotional connections are Bombas and Yeti. People who love these brands often don’t think of looking at competitors. Bombas does an exemplary job of marrying product with purpose. It makes great products and has a powerful story their customers can be a part of.
For every Bombas item purchased, the company donates one, such as socks, underwear, or T-shirts. It has donated over 75 million items after launching in 2013, was profitable by the third year and generates over $250 million in annual revenue. It started out with a philanthropic mission as part of its purpose and never lost sight of doing good as it grew — and that is what customers want to be a part of.
Yeti similarly has an extremely loyal customer base but through a different approach. Many companies make products that will keep your beverage hot or cold. A search on Amazon for “tumbler” yields more than 20,000 results. A similar product from a competitor is half the price. Yet, Yeti makes up 7.5 percent of the U.S. market share in the $3.6 billion drinkware segment.
How did Yeti do that? It created great content about amazing people that people search for and watch. Other companies create 30- or 60-second videos and hope their metrics are better than some industry average. For Yeti, people watch their films and associate themselves with the heroes or are inspired by them. It’s beyond advertising.
Take Yeti’s short film about Tootsie with Snow’s BBQ. She’s an 80-plus-year-old BBQ pit master in Texas. People drive for hours to visit rural Lexington, Texas, arriving by 5 a.m. or earlier. By 9 a.m. the line stretches a quarter mile. And after that long wait, as you see the smoke billowing out of large pits, you see Tootsie, just like in the Yeti film.
The place is filled with locals and visitors from around the globe who form bonds and share stories. By the end of the day, you realize it wasn’t just about the BBQ but about being part of a large diverse community and having an experience. The BBQ is gone quickly, but the memories live every time you use your Yeti.
Get to know your customer and make that connection. Start by talking with your customers. Get to know them. It may sound like a roundabout way to develop your marketing and messaging strategies, but this is the path to discovery that will identify ways your brand can interact with your customers in more meaningful ways. Consider this an opportunity to get to know your customers and have them join in with passionate brand loyalty. ●
Dean Ilijasic is Co-founder of Long & Short of It