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I spend a lot of time thinking about company brands. I also enjoy talking “shop” with friends and family – I am always curious about the brands they love and why – particularly at certain points of the year when marketing activity really heats up. Like now, for instance – it’s all about back-to-school supplies, and learning about brands that are hot with kids and what stores have the best deals.

For Chief Marketing Officers, these conversations are invaluable – regardless of whether you operate in the consumer or B2B space. Understanding how people choose brands is important – without this understanding, your company risks being irrelevant, with downstream impacts like missed sales. By reflecting on the brands you use in your personal life, you can shape your thinking around how to build a strong brand and value proposition.

I often use myself as a baseline – and ask, “What draws me to certain brands?”

Deliver a Dynamic Experience


First, their products and services ‘wow’ me. I am always on the go, so I need brands with a digital platform that is intuitive and supports me no matter where I am located, or what time it is. Apple’s app community is a great example of this – I can pay my bills, track my exercise and download games to keep my kids entertained. Uber’s app allows me to know instantly how quickly a car can pick me up. And I can book and pay all at once so I can just jump out and go when I get to my destination. And then there’s Disney World. Will you ever visit again without making sure your MagicBand is loaded up with FastPass+ reservations?

Foster an Emotional Connection


Next, I have an emotional connection with the brands in my life. When I walk into a Starbucks, I immediately feel good. There is a buzz in the atmosphere that is happy, warm and inviting. I get anxious for certain seasonal offerings – think Pumpkin Spice Latte! It triggers fond thoughts of activities with my family during the fall when I usually have one of these in hand. While I always feel exhausted after a long day at Disney, remembering the look on my children’s faces when they see a princess or plummet down Splash Mountain, makes me want to head right back to the parks. These are moments I’ll always remember.

Stand For a Cause

And finally, I am drawn to brands associated with a cause aligned to my values. When I made my first TOMS purchase, it was less about the need for a new pair of shoes for me, and more that my purchase would allow for a new pair of shoes to be given to a child in need. You can’t miss TOMS’ One for One mission all over their shoe boxes – instantly connecting you right back to one of their core brand attributes, while, at the same time reconfirming your commitment to a brand that makes good products and does good for others. Similarly, when I shop at Whole Foods, their Whole Trade Guarantee is marketed throughout the store indicating their focus on ethical and social standards in sourcing. I know I am buying products from suppliers that have gone through intensive quality standards that align to my values.

Statistically, many consumers feel the same. In a recent study of millennials by Pinpoint Market Research, 88% percent want to see brands “effecting real change” in the community. And corporate social responsibility proves to be a powerful differentiator – according to the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study, 90% of U.S. consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality.

As marketers and leaders of companies, we need to think like an end user – what is it that we expect in our personal lives? How can we shape our company’s mission, products, services and brand strategy to reflect the same? Companies have to be clear about the purpose they serve and value they create to deliver differentiation. And we must focus on creating a seamless experience for customers who, like us, need to juggle effortlessly between work and home.

Perhaps most importantly, I believe companies that ultimately win have created brands that deliver an emotional connection with their customers, aligned with shared values. We want brands that make us feel good, and that we enjoy being associated with, whether it be a business or personal brand.

How do we achieve this?

If we look at what we as consumers and users of brands expect, I suspect the answers will be there. Go ahead – ask the question at your team’s upcoming 2016 planning session or your next Saturday night dinner with friends and family. The results will be worth it – and will set you on a path to make your company brand and value proposition even stronger.

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