Developing brand passion is all about creating a journey of engagement with your customer. It’s a relationship built over time as consumers’ thoughts and feelings about a brand are positively reinforced.
As marketers, we covet brand passion and do everything we can to unearth it. Sometimes the best advice, no matter how painful, is to practice patience and honesty.
People need to develop their own one-on-one relationship with a brand for that passion to even begin. Personally, I’m a big automotive guy, and I’ve had Ford trucks all my life. My engagement with Ford was built upon my experience with their trucks. Originally driving them for summer jobs, then with a growing family, they have always been reliable and tough, taking me to places I want to see in any weather, carrying all my stuff and playing a big part of many positive experiences. These experiences create and reinforce my positive feelings toward that brand. It’s an emotional connection, really. But that passion didn’t instantly develop. It was created over time.
I’ve worked with a number of brands in the past that understand how to reach their consumers and establish and maintain that passion. For instance, Kohler hits on the zeitgeist of how people connect with their products. Some people view faucets as a commodity item. However, by supporting artist communities and artists in residence at their facilities, Kohler is able to see how people engage in the development and design process of their products, and are able to better understand how to connect with the consumer. It’s not just about the product for Kohler, but the connection with the people and their lives. That’s genuine long-term investment.
Coca-Cola is another one that has the brand passion thing in the bag. People have a passion for Coke, not because of their ads, but because it appeals to a core audience in a way that reinforces that passion. Right now, the surging popularity of Mexican Coke, or MexiCoke, isn’t solely due to any advertising campaign or promotion, but from a consumer passion and desire for something that they believe is more flavorful and perhaps seemingly less artificial than traditional soft drinks from the U.S. MexiCoke has a broad emotional connection for many, from the glass bottle to the natural cane sugar. That’s something that can’t be contrived.
Unfortunately, that’s where brands can go down the wrong road, trying to rouse that passion inorganically. You can’t force it.
You can’t go to market with an idea that you think will drive passion because the market will see right through anything that doesn’t seem natural. One technology company that I worked with for a number of years couldn’t catch on to this. Rather than embrace the attributes that people liked about them, they tried to copy attributes and designs that people liked about their competitors’ products. Those attributes drove passion for the competitor’s brand but couldn’t be transferred to their brand. Although they had a solid foundation in what their product stood for, they constantly tried to chase something they weren’t themselves and never received the kind of lift in the brand measurements they expected.
To get to brand passion, you have to be consistent in meeting client needs, but you have to be attuned to what the marketplace sees as value for your brand. If not, you’re going to be artificial, and yes, people see right through that. Awareness is important, and that loyal base of innovators and influencers are what everyone’s looking for. You just have to let them surface. Only then can you cultivate brand passion.