Soul Brands: Consumers Don’t BUY Brands, They JOIN Them!

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Soul Brands: Consumers Don’t BUY Brands, They JOIN Them!

The Idea: Have we all been sold a lie? Maximizing shareholder value is not the only purpose of a company. The healthiest companies are purpose driven and operate with a holistic scorecard, serving a diverse group of stakeholders including the consumer, partners, employees and shareholders. The most compelling brands today are purpose driven and connect fervidly with today’s consumer. They have a soul.

Purpose driven brands, according to Kantar Consulting’s 2020 report “Inspiring Purpose-Led Growth” are growing at twice the rate compared to median growth brands. Their secret is that they connect “emotionally” with today’s skeptical consumer. Brands such as e.l.f. Cosmetics, Olly Vitamins, Harry’s Shave, KIND, Zarbees, RxBar and Zevia have transformed their respective categories, embracing a compelling set of leadership behaviors. What do they do differently? 

Create Movements, Not Products  

Consider this: almost 8-of-10 brands could disappear and the majority of consumers would not miss them. Most organizations have a purpose, but it’s estimated that only 1-in-10 have an activation plan to bring it to life. Companies such as Tom’s Shoes and Traditional Medicinals live out of a well-defined blueprint and operate with a social mission, fueling their purpose. The DNA of their culture attracts consumers to join their mission.

Launch, Learn & Iterate 

Senior leaders who are adaptable and skilled at conflict management are over six times more likely to succeed. Many of today’s biggest winning companies are in a constant state of change and experimentation. Their flexibility allows them to “perfect” the product while it is in the marketplace. Sundial Brands – the makers of Shea Moisture hair care, lotions and personal care products – is one such example. They constantly listen to their community, offering the consumer the opportunity to share uncommon consumer insights and co-develop the next generation of product innovation. How is your company at adaptation?

Extreme Alignment 

Most companies are not internally aligned. This hinders how they show up with their partners and their customers, and an intimate relationship cannot exist. Forrester Research discovered that only 8 percent of companies have strong internal sales and marketing alignment. Organizations that are aligned create a culture of trust which is a catalyst for growth. Wahl Home Products drive sales & marketing operations as a unified front, cherishing the “Made in America” origin of their offerings and affirming oneness with the customer and retail partners.

Exploit Changing Consumer Trends

There is an abundance of sameness (in most categories). A great example of true differentiation is Rx Bar. They broke all the rules, building their brand in Chicago health clubs. The founders wanted a clean, nutritious product and their brand positioning cut through the noise. Rx Bar packaging screams out nutritious product: “3 Eggs, 6 Almonds – NO BS.” True differentiation is rarely easy to ingest – it’s often unbalanced and radically vulnerable. The most disruptive brands are not afraid of being different.

Co-Create Everything

Products cannot win anymore unless they’re co-created, co-assembled, co-conspired. Research detailed in the book “The Challenger Sale” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, determined that 53 percent of customer loyalty is driven by the purchase experience. Companies must be adept at getting to the root of their customer’s stated and unstated needs. A best in class example of this has been Method Brands and Olly, both companies started by Eric Ryan. Eric is a master of co-developing brands with designers, partners and his favorite retailer, Target – a winning combination. These companies understood that co-creation is not an opportunity, it’s a necessity for long-term growth.

A Contagious Story 

It’s now possible for small brands to win by building a zealous community. Research by B2B Lead uncovered that 50 percent of sales time is wasted on unproductive discussions. Facts don’t persuade – stories do. Some of the most contagious stories help others connect emotionally to their mission, and few are better than Craig Dubitsky of Hello Brands. He’s a storyteller – the self-proclaimed “Friendly Founder” of Hello Brands. Craig is different because he’s always in a mode of creating natural, friendly oral care products, while sharing his infectious brand story with the world. Is your brand story contagious?

We Buy Values, Not Products 

Today’s consumers are increasingly buying values, not products. Nearly half of consumers who are disappointed by a brand’s words or actions on a social issue complain about it and 42 percent walk away from the brand in frustration. PURELL hand sanitizer is a brand that chooses partners with mutual values, amplifying their vision of “Saving Lives and Making Life Better Through Well-Being Solutions.” They look for partners with values that assist them in placing PURELL in health clubs, restaurants, hospitals, schools, workplaces and top retailers. Few brands ask the question “how can I place my product everywhere it needs to be to make life better?” PURELL does. 

Competitive advantage is now achieved through an infectious purpose. The purpose of a brand is not to increase shareholder value; it’s to create a monogamous relationship with the consumer.

Consumers don’t purchase brands, they “join them.”

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