Want to keep your customers happy? Want to keep them coming back? Infuse some soul into your brand. Toms Shoes knows how to do it. So does Southwest airlines. They have taken the top-down branding model and turn it sideways. So instead of being in a hierarchical relationship like manufacturer/buyer or airline/customer, they have created a reciprocal relationship with their customers, or as I like to call them, their “tribe”. This brand mind-shift can happen when you infuse some soul into your brand.
What do I mean by soul? Seeing your customers as partners instead of someone to sell to. Becoming “one force with a common goal”. This mind-shift opens a whole new world for brands. This, in turn, helps you become meaningfully different in the marketplace. But remember, this is not a brand strategy or tactic, it’s a paradigm shift.
Here are 5 ways to begin.
1. Serve don’t sell
When I started my career on Madison Avenue, I worked for one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. I was a young copywriter in the creative department working on brands like Brim Coffee, Vicks vitamins, Zest, Ivory Shampoo, Tropicana and the list goes on. The agency’s motto: It isn’t creative unless it sells. Every commercial had to have 8-9 “copy points” crammed into a 30-second spot in order to sell, sell, sell the brand. The result: A culture that’s sick of getting sold to.
Smart marketers today know how much that can be a turn off to their customers. So instead of the sales pitch, they find ways to serve them instead. How can I really help you? What can I serve up to make your life easier or solve a problem? What can we do together? When a brand reframes their relationship as service, instead of selling, soul happens.
2. Give to give – not to get
This is a hard one for marketers. We were trained from the beginning that “if we give you this, we want that in return”. But just like in a relationship with someone you love, if there are strings attached, they know it. Now I am not saying that you give it all away all the time. What I am saying is when you give, let it be just that. Giving. That creates soul. And that’s a customer turn on.
The beverage company, Naked Juice, created a campaign asking their tribe to take a photo of themselves with their favorite fruit or vegetable and post it on social media. In turn, they would donate 10% of produce to charity. No strings attached. This campaign was wildly successful and engaged over 56K fans. Soul is good.
3. Engage, engage, engage
Social media has changed the game. Brands that stand on their ivory tower and drip out corporate messages in a silo, will be obsolete. Customers want to engage with brands. And the brands that create a community-like space to encourage that, get big benefits.
From the get-go Growstone, a growing medium made out of recycled glass, did that. They engaged with their tribe by asking them for help with naming products. Or giving away free t-shirts and encouraging growers to take a photo of themselves wearing it in cool places around the world. In under 3 years, their Facebook tribe went from 0-40K passionate fans. Why? Every communication we created was about eliciting a conversation, an idea, feedback, or a better way to do something. Our customers became brand advocates on their own. What could be better than that?
4. Commit to a cause or purpose
A Global Research Study called Brand Sustainable Futures polled over 30K people and revealed that 80% of consumers expect companies to play a significant part in resolving societal problems, from jobs to donations to minimizing pollution. Yes, people want brands to contribute to a meaningful purpose.
Now drive that home by taking this to a whole new level and become a purpose-driven brand. That means purpose, the “Bigger Why” you exist in the first place, is built right into your company’s culture. There are 7 essential questions to ask yourself to get to your Bigger Why. Stay tuned for that in right here in this column.
5. Let love lead the way
Now this may sound like the most unbranding thing to say, but it’s not. If you want to create committed, passionate, happy customers, love them up.
When I started my online community called Women Of Green, the Marketing Director of a green guide that showcased over 5,000 green brands asked me how I grew my tribe so fast. I immediately said to him, “Because I love them and they know it.” When your voice and heart are true, people know it. And that goes double for your clients or customers. They are human beings and can feel the difference between being talked at or talked with. Infuse your communications with a “feeling” of belonging, and you will infuse your brand with soul.
Carolyn Parrs is the CEO and Founder of Mind Over Markets, a strategic marketing communications and design company that builds brands and a better world. For over a decade, she has helped emerging and established green, sustainable, healthy, wellness and purpose-driven businesses and organizations excel in messaging, brand presence, social media, marketing communications and more.
She is also a certified Marketing, Business and Life Coach working one-on-one and in groups with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and small and large companies to make profound change in their worlds.
Carolyn is the founder of Women Of Green, an robust online community and multi-media blog dedicated to “Turning Up the Volume” of the feminine voice in green.
She is the mother of two and lives with her daughter and pups, Heart and Soul. Carolyn loves to play hooky in the winter months to snow ski in the magical mountains of Santa Fe.