Consumers To Brands: 'Make Us Love You'

Consumer spending was down even before the recession. Branded offerings have exploded in the marketplace, quickly becoming commoditized. How many are unique? Brand trust has rapidly eroded as one company after another engaged in unethical behavior. As a result, consumers have become jaded.

Add to that shifting priorities, and consumers have decided most brands don't matter! So is it surprising that the "same old" marketing approaches are failing to reach consumers?

Let me suggest that for brands to matter -- to be loved -- new thinking must permeate entire companies from top to bottom. It's time to:

  • Disrupt and get creative.
  • Generate excitement.
  • Create positive energy.
  • Engage.

These are the qualities consumers are responding to now. The brands that don't meet the expectations of today's consumer are being summarily dismissed. But the ones that do are loved.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen explains the value of disruption. Disrupters think of a better way to offer simpler, better-performing or problem-solving products for consumers. They create excitement in the process. Excitement leads to buzz. Buzz leads to customer engagement.



People enjoy brands that deliver in an unusual, exciting and creative manner. That's an invitation to engage. These brands -- they are fewer and fewer -- command attention in the marketplace. They are fluid and dynamic; they respond to our culture and adapt to changing markets with seeming ease. The consumer enjoys interacting with these brands. It also explains why a preponderance of brands are ignored or dismissed: they simply don't fit within these parameters.

Brands can't simply launch one exciting product and sit back. They have to continue to create energy. If that sounds tough -- not every company can be like Apple, right? -- it may not be as hard as it sounds. Disruption, energy and innovation feed on themselves. Take a look at smaller brands and get inspired:

  • Method cleaning products. Strong point of view: "A Cleaner Clean." Unconventional, see-through packaging; unlike the rest of the cleaning category. Inferred message: we offer eco-friendly cleaning products; we have nothing to hide. Method's mantra: "efficacy, safety, environment, design, fragrance." Result: consumers enjoy using Method -- in increasing numbers.
  • Stonyfield Farm. "Cause" branding a commodity -- yogurt -- and taking it from specialty to mass distribution. Mantra: "Health for you. Health for the planet." The brand: unflagging commitment, passion and vision to ideals that consumers can trust and believe in. The packaging? The iconic cow and Stonyfield Farm banner with the word "Organic" beneath it are highly recognizable -- and enjoyed by many brand loyalists.
  • Green Mountain Roasters. This company gets more Internet searches than the largest purveyors of coffee. Surprised? High quality, good corporate citizenship and Fair Trade practices have created consistent energy for this brand. The packaging's dark green cartouche and the brand identity within it, with its signature coffee bean in the "O" in "Mountain," are distinctive. Artwork depicting a steaming cup of coffee against a backdrop of mountains reminds us about the pure enjoyment of a good cup of coffee.

Renewed vision and a new approach can add significantly more value to brands over their competitors in consumers' eyes. The brands cited could easily have become commodities, but they didn't fall into the ho-hum, business-as-usual brand management trap. They chose to brand their businesses with more creativity and energy than the norm. Moreover: they stuck to their vision and continued to generate positive energy. They are loved by consumers as a result.

Isn't that the ultimate? To have consumers fall in love with your brand?

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