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The Five Pillars Of Brand Likeability

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The Five Pillars Of Brand Likeability

As brand marketers, we are conditioned to think early on in terms of attaining loyalty and advocacy for our brands. We even recognize that some brands achieve cult-like status thanks to the extreme passion of their consumers. To be sure, all of these coveted brand devotees are at the core of brand success and serve as the foundation on which to build even more market share, increased sales volume and greater profitability for the brand.

But how does a brand cultivate these devotees in the first place? Best selling author Rohit Bhargava provided an answer in his presentation at The Un-Conference: 360˙of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, based on his book Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior and Inspiring Action. Essentially, successful people and brands are well, “likable.”

The one thing we all have in common, as Rohit explains, is that we all want and need “to be liked.” Isn’t this obvious, you may ask. Of course it is. Even Rohit acknowledges that. But unless you really understand how to cultivate likability, you can’t begin to leverage “Likeonomics” in your brand strategy. Being liked can and does make the difference, especially in a world filled with human beings who all act on emotion, where believability and trust are in short supply, and near equivalency among brands is commonplace.

Rohit discovered this principle as a teen when his father sent him to a summer camp for young future engineers. While Rohit’s dad had dreams of his son becoming a success in the engineering field, Rohit had neither the desire nor the inclination (as his fellow campers soon realized) for this. But what Rohit lacked in mathematics and physics, he more than made up in his likability. Soon, he was the center of everything in camp life, making friends with everyone, and enjoying soaring popularity and admiration. Rohit came to the realization that in the midst of equivalency among his fellow young engineering campers, you can stand out – and even be in demand – just by being well liked.

Throughout his college education, his internship at the ’96 Summer Olympics (where he began a lifelong passion for the Olympic Games), his work at Ogilvy & Mather, and the start of his own company Influential Marketing Group, Rohit has seen the principle of Likeonomics confirmed time and again. In 2012, he published a book on this treatise and it soon became a best seller.

The cornerstone of Likeonomics is trust, because without it as Rohit explains, being liked is impossible. T.R.U.S.T. also serves as an instructive acronym for the five essential qualities that build trust itself, which leads to being likeable, which leads to being a differentiated, coveted and ultimately a successful brand. Here is a very brief summary of each of the trust-building essentials that Rohit details in his book:

T = Truth. Rohit reminds us of two breakthrough campaigns – one a classic, the other from recent history. The AVIS “We try harder” campaign launched in the early ‘60’s when the brand was a distant #2 to HERTZ was a daring exercise in telling it like it is. Such truthful honesty was unheard of in the “Madmen” era of advertising, but effectively closed the gap and helped AVIS prosper. In 2009, DOMINOS was beset with poor product quality and bad YouTube publicity that critically threatened the pizza delivery company. In a dramatic move, DOMINOS admitted the truth and set about correcting it—all of it playing out in a national ad campaign that totally reversed the brand’s slide. In both cases, truthfulness was both proactive and plainly presented. Truth (often referred to as “transparency”) is priority. Without it, the rest of the trust essentials don’t amount to much.

R = Relevance. This essential centers on a deep understanding of your customer, beyond the statistics and metrics. As Rohit states, “Relevance starts with insight into what the people you want to influence care most about right now and why they care about it.” It’s all about having empathy. It’s also about brands communicating their stories in order to relate to their customer, creating an emotional bond. But as Rohit cautions, relevance “requires listening in order to achieve understanding and having something meaningful to say in the right context.”

U = Unselfishness. In this age of social media and sharing, the notion of unselfishness should resonate with many marketers. As we know, the best and most effective use of social media is to “give it away” in terms helpful, useful content to customers. Rohit cites a case study of the Shangri-La Hotel brand of how even an ultra-premium hotel can make a difference by treating guests unselfishly … like family. Whole Foods, Patagonia, TOMS Shoes, Starbucks, Timberland and Costco are also recognized as being among the most unselfish major brands, both with their employees and their customers. And here’s the surprising fact: Studies show that such brands have a consistent edge for being more profitable, according to Rohit. Unselfishness also involves empathy — to give freely and offer good value to your customers – and expecting nothing in return.

S = Simplicity. Think for a moment about the people you trust most. Chances are good that you would characterize them as being “plain spoken.” They keep their words simple and to the point. For that reason, Rohit identifies “simplicity” as an essential to trust. By making brand promises, features, benefits, claims and advantages easier to understand, their ability to be trusted increases dramatically. Simplicity is behind Google’s strategy and Apple’s devices. As Rohit observes, simplicity could be the ultimate competitive advantage – eliminating potential confusion and amplifying clarity. And we all remember, as Rohit does, the entertainingly creative demonstration of visual storytelling in the UPS white board ad campaign from 2007 … simplicity for the customer at its best.

T = Timing. How often have we heard it said, “Timing is everything.” That’s because it is true. And timing even plays a strategic role in building trust in your brand. Timing is connected to relevance, because poorly timed ideas or communication will lack the necessary relevance to customers in urgent need of a solution. But as Rohit points out, “timing can be tough.” The marketer can control a lot of things when it comes to his/her brand, but timing is often dictated by circumstances beyond anyone’s control and becomes particularly problematic in areas like Public Relations. And in campaign planning, the perfect timing for you is likely the perfect timing for your competition, leading to enormous media clutter around major sporting events or political campaigns. It’s difficult for your brand to build trust when you can’t be effectively heard or seen.

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