Chad Hurley, one of the co-founders of YouTube, which was named the most intimate media brand in 2019. Image source: Flickr
Look around you. Do you recognize the current marketplace? Possibly not. Five market forces have changed the way that we communicate, interact, buy and sell.
These include: the proliferation of brands, greater consumer control, the obsolescence of a linear sales funnel, technological advances and a deeper understanding of how emotion affects decision making. These forces suggest that the prevailing traditional models, constructs and methodologies that we have used for decades to drive our marketing and communications efforts are not designed for today’s realities and are not as effective as they could be.
We need a new marketing paradigm, one that is designed for this modern marketplace and one that leverages emotion. Advances in neuroscience tell us that decision making, including what we purchase, is based on emotion rather than rational thinking. Brands that master the use of emotion possess a significant advantage over those that don’t. We call this idea Brand Intimacy.
This not only makes marketing sense, given the changing landscape, it makes business sense. Top intimate brands consistently outperform standard financial indices, across revenue and profit, even in this shifting marketplace.
So how can you create a more intimate brand? To achieve this connection with consumers, you must address three separate but interrelated aspects of branding: essence, story, and experience.
Think of each of these as nested and encapsulated within the next. Start by crafting a single-minded and purposeful essence. Continue by developing a powerful series of narratives, and then orchestrating memorable moments. Analyze, adjust and repeat as necessary. Always look for ways to build emotional bonds and establish reciprocity with users—how can you build relationships vs transactions?
In more detail, building the essence of a brand is constructing it for greater impact by creating a strong foundation or core. Create an ownable force of attraction and connection. Your brand should be oriented toward customers, positioned to foster an emotional bond and designed to be distinctive.
With the foundation in place, then build a series of emotionally driven narratives and stories that connect the brand's purpose with the needs of customers and differentiate it from competition. This level plays an increasingly important role in today’s omni-channel universe, as brands engage in more reciprocity and social marketing.
Once essence and story are in place, now orchestrate unique brand experiences. Focus on the most important channels for your stakeholders to truly connect. Experience includes all the physical, environmental and digital worlds where a brand exists. These experiences can be tactile, digital or environmental. No matter what the medium, an emotionally engaging brand experience anchored in essence and story helps stakeholders build emotional bonds with each new encounter.
By focusing this way, the outcome will be a powerful, purposeful intimate brand capable of creating strong emotional bonds with stakeholders. Your intimate brand will need continuous care and attention. Brand building is a difficult exercise and requires a significant amount of internal alignment. A brand needs to be communicated and accepted internally first before its public release. Keep in mind that consumers' emotional bonds with a brand mimics a human relationship. They change through time.
Here are ten questions to help you build a more intimate brand:
William Shintani is the Managing Partner for MBLM.