Using The Power Of Imagination As The New Brand Currency

“Ultimately, the only way to create real profit is to attract the emotional rather than the rational customer by appealing to their feelings and imagination.” — Dr. Martyn Newman, doctor, consulting psychologist, expert in emotional intelligence and leadership; author of Emotional Capitalists -The New Leaders

Toy and entertainment brands specialize in creating universes filled with a tapestry of rich details. These fantasies fuel imaginations, creating dedicated fans of all ages. Many consumer product brands would be wise to take a page from what they’ve done. Some have, of course. Consider Harley Davidson. Jack Daniels. Martha Stewart. Under Armour. These brands are master storytellers that trigger the imaginations of millions.

Many marketers consider the power of these brands to be aspirational. I would go further than that. As Dr. Newman points out in his quote, these are successful brands because they enable consumers to engage their own imaginations. Their brand stories are eagerly adopted by fans whose own stories become intertwined with them. Their fans live a lifestyle that these brands inspire.



Given this, consumer product brands that tap into consumers’ imaginations, or that offer fantasy and escape from reality, could pack more emotional punch than appeals to consumers’ aspirations, sense of humor and nostalgia. The strategy: to create a brand backstory that fans are invited to join and encourage them to create a community around it to share with each other. There is immense power in that.

Creating the imaginative brand

Visual branding assets and verbal brand communication can present the brand story in an exciting manner to spark the imagination of each consumer that it draws in in a manner that is highly personal. As design principal Nancy Duarte points out, the imaginative brand presents itself with a sense not of “what is” but endless possibilities of “what could be.” It tantalizes us because “what could be” is up to us and our own imagination and vision. It makes us willing to push boundaries and step into exciting new worlds that we help to create. 

A well-told brand story has a point of view and unfolds gradually. There’s a sense of mystery; unknowns that draw us in. A compelling story is like a puzzle; the pieces are given to us gradually but we must put them together ourselves. We put ourselves into the story and become part of it. It’s deeply connecting, eliciting a powerful emotional response; a terrific concept to leverage within the realm of marketing.

Still don’t believe it?

How could a snack bar brand leverage imagination as its core to avoid the dreaded “commodity” tag?

Kindis a wholesome, good-tasting snack. It’s also a brand with a social core—to make the world a kinder place by doing good and by inspiring consumers to do good—while unabashedly being in business to make a profit.

Many brands aspire to “doing good.” Others slap on the badge of philanthropy because it creates a positive image, but founder Daniel Lubetsky has dedicated his life to building bridges. He began his career selling a sun-dried tomato spread made collaboratively by Arabs and Jews in the war-torn Middle East. When he launched Kind in 2004, the brand started a community and a movement; taking the lead in donating to worthy causes, then inspiring its fans to committing their own acts of kindness. 

In April 2015, the company blog announced: “Together with the  Kind community, we have performed, facilitated and celebrated 1,000,000 kind acts. When Kind first got started in 2004 one of our goals was to inspire kindness through acts big and small. And 11 years later, we’re more committed than ever before.”

This is a brand that makes rabid fans of consumers; that dares us to imagine what could be. This is a brand that tells its story and invites us all to join our own stories to it. It’s deep, compelling and meaningful; it resonates on an entirely higher level than most brands will ever do. I would submit that this is what consumers are hungry for now. So go ahead: spark imaginations.

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