Whether it's more sales, industry accolades, or recognition from their peers, every entrepreneur wants their business to be successful. However, few businesses can reach the upper echelons of their growth curves and become truly successful without one thing: customers that are emotionally invested in their brand.
While it's unrealistic to expect that every single one of your customers will become raving fans (sometimes, people don't give a damn about your brand and they just want to use your product to monitor their heart rate), companies that strive to develop an emotional connection with their customers are far more impactful than those that don't.
The idea of creating an emotional connection between brand and consumer isn't a new one; for years, marketing textbooks have referred to this concept as "brand loyalty" or "brand affinity."
But while these words may technically refer to the same thing, they have a habit of oversimplifying what it truly takes to get customers emotionally invested. Emotional bonds between a brand and a consumer aren't formed by a good product or incredible customer service alone — in my experience, there are 5 key principles that companies need to follow in order to fostering meaningful, lasting relationships with their customers.
Similarities attract us, and there's no more powerful similarity than a shared vision of the world. It validates our existence and makes us feel at home. However, don't think you can push your worldview on someone else and magically convert them to your cause — it's incredibly difficult to change people's minds. Instead, offer a vision of the world that your target market will naturally and effortlessly gravitate towards.
Your aforementioned shared vision should be worth defending. In other words, something has to be at stake — whether it's the health of the ecosystem, a productive workflow, or even something as vain as personal reputation. By raising the stakes, you create an opportunity for customers to get emotionally attached to your brand.
Show people something they've never seen before (i.e. cutting-edge web visuals or a novel brick and mortar store concept) to inspire awe in your company and its brand. Unimaginative / low-quality marketing experiences communicate one thing to a potential customer: "There's nothing special here. Let's move on."
Develop a workplace culture that ensures your marketing materials are consistent across all marketing channels. All too often, companies get lazy and forget the importance of brand uniformity. Before you know it, Brian is sending out proposals with the wrong typeface while Suzy is writing blog posts without respect to the company's brand voice. Discrepancies like these suggest your business is disorganized. Eventually, fissures in the mind's of your customers will form, and the branding "spell" you've spent so much time and money creating will break.
Encouraging people to pick a side (think Ford vs. Dodge or Microsoft vs. Apple) is one of the oldest tricks in the book. While this may sound somewhat exclusionary, the reality is that humans are tribal creatures by nature. Consciously or subconsciously, we want to pick a side.
The added benefit of encouraging people to pick a side is that you encourage communities to form around your product / service. And while you should never try to force community upon your customers, you can help it grow naturally through a weekly blog post or a monthly newsletter.
Good branding is about more than finding creative ways to sell overpriced sneakers. At their best, brands motivate us to be better, challenge us to do more, and in some cases, even give us a reason for being. These are the kinds of brands that time and again outperform their competitors — and it all starts with finding a way to make people emotionally invested.