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Brand Management

The Seven Markers Of Passion Brands

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Building Passion Brands

The topic of passion brands is particularly important to consider in difficult economic times. When pressures mount on companies’ bottom lines, they typically look first to the expense side of products, both in their development and marketing. The opportunity that a brand passion creates is the opportunity to conscript willing and enthusiastic consumers to spend their financial and social currency on those brands, exhorting friends and family to follow suit.

In my book Passion Brands, the leading passion brands identified in our research for their “life force engagement” include:

Apple, Sony, American Express, Starbucks, Folger’s, Target, Nordstrom, Craig’s List, Whole Foods, Toys “R” Us, Camel, Absolut, Kraft, Cadillac, BMW, Acura, Infiniti, Jeep, and Arizona Iced Tea.

There are seven accelerators of Passion Brands, which represent a consumer syntax, a step by step process that marketer’s must honor and follow with the goal of forging a passion brand. The following steps describe how each element must be sequenced to develop an evolving and deepening consumer relationship.

1. Work the Worldview, not Age, Race, or Gender

The passion brands I studied rarely seem to target consumers in a traditional way, as in women eighteen to thirty-four. More often, they identify shared values about the world and how it works and then illustrate how the brand also shares in that vision.

2. Differentiate on Design

Consumers respond to clever, intuitive products. Great design engages. There’s a joy in a well-designed idea that can trump other performance features. We just want to get our hands on it.

3. Hire Passionistas as Brand Stewards

Nothing brings a brand down more quickly than an interchangeable parts philosophy in the recruitment, hiring, and rewarding of the people behind it. Careerists who jump from one company or industry to another on their way to ever more senior posts may be building their own brand, but they will neither feel nor fuel the passion. Passion isn’t static, in brands or in people. Once people have become passionate about your brand, it takes true passionistas to ensure that the brand continues to grow and evolve in exciting, relevant ways. Don’t take your consumers or their passion for your brand for granted.

4. Know They Know You Need Them

We are in a tremendously aware marketing epoch. Our vocabulary and our humor are shaped by an “insider’s” sensibility to marketing and the co-dependence of the brand/consumer liaison. As I tell my clients, “there are no un-focused group of people left in the country.” It is part of the reason I use hypnosis to get beyond the sheer “been there, done that” savvy of modern consumers. So, get out and watch people in bars, malls, grocery stores, movies, sports events, regardless of the category you’re in. Talk to them. Follow them while they shop. Engage them. Notice that you are one of them.

5. Democratize the Brand

Brand monoliths don’t live and grow. Real engagement comes from mutating because you’re responding to the beat of the people who love you. Let them in. Easier said than done, if you’re a physical product sold in a physical store and not a web-based entity, but still. The ability of the consumer to have it “my way” is a tremendous engine of ownership. Starbucks with its “mocha-cappuccino-double-shot-skinny” ethos is the poster child of this tactic for $5 and so is the Scion with its personalization of everything from engine horsepower to pin striping to stick shift knobs all for $17,000.

6. Mine the Mythos

Passion brands have a heritage and they respect it. They know what is in the DNA of the brand and how far they can and should go without putting their genetic code at risk. This doesn’t mean they are old and stogy, just that they know how their personality can legitimately evolve.

7. Brand the Buzz

In saying this I don’t mean that companies should hire a bunch of twenty- somethings to dress in black and ask for your product by name in clubs. This is about being genuinely interesting and engaging, being a brand that people want to talk about, gossip about, and share with friends. What would they do on Sex and the City?

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2 Comments

AnaRC on April 25th, 2009 said

This is a great post! Corporate involvement in Social Media revolves around fostering consumer’s passion of the brand. Bloggers, Twitters, Fans are now stakeholders and no longer observers.

Claudiu Ludosan on April 25th, 2009 said

Interesting article, I think buzz marketing should be the first and last thing when you want to create a brand. First tease, then please! 🙂

One rule I learned is that you don’t create a brand the people do. You can try to transmit some ideas, but finally the people decide what the brand represents.

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