In Al Wittemen’s recent article for The HUB, he explains how he came to realize that the virtues that make us good people and friends are the same virtues that help build great brands.
One of my favorite books is William J. Bennett's The Book of Virtues, a collection of stories about self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, loyalty and faith.
At some ‘aha’ moment in recent years, I realized that these virtues, which make us good people and good friends, were the same virtues (set of best-of business practices) that help build great brands. I realized that they—a rose by any other name—were in fact often embedded in the DNA of great brands, that they guided marketers in making better choices, maintaining stronger relationships, and realizing the increased results that transform their brands from good to great.
Little has changed. Marketers today have the same goals they’ve had for years: relationships and results. Whether consciously or unconsciously, today’s great brand leaders are succeeding by implementing virtuous strategies that develop meaningful relationships with their consumers and net superior, quantifiable results.
Relationship-driven brands add value to consumers’ lives. Obviously, relationships between marketers and consumers are symbiotic. Marketers need strong relationships to earn long-term loyalty and repurchase, and consumers rely on them to help make smarter, faster purchase decisions. When the dynamic between the two breaks down, the brand has a problem. Great brand leaders address this problem proactively and position their brands with a purpose that adds value to their consumers’ lives.
Marketers that create relationship-driven brands understand they are responsible for both adding value to consumers’ lives and telling honest stories of how they act on those commitments.
They succeed at creating meaningful relationships with consumers because they build upon foundations already centered on adding value to consumers’ lives. Many of these brand programs are linked with charitable causes, which can obviously be a fantastic place to build relationships. Others succeed just as well by defining compelling interactions between products and users. In all instances, relationship-driven brands are defined by why and how they involve and serve consumers with compassion.
Great, relationship-driven brands empathize with their target consumers. Their marketers focus on a specific consumer with a need they can meet superbly, offering products that not only add value to their lives, but have stories that drive the experience over and over again.
A great example is Pillsbury, which applied the virtue of compassion in the mindset of its consumers by defining its role as a making brand. To re-energize its image and sales, Pillsbury placed itself in the consumers’ family time with the purpose of making great food and memories with an experience that brings everyone together despite their hectic lives.
Pillsbury moved its focus from single products like crescent rolls and entered consumer conversations about new takes on classic treats and co-creating recipes. The brand evolved to better satisfy the needs of its consumers—to become a making brand that understands a busy family’s needs and compassionately wants to help satisfy that need with value-added alternatives. Pillsbury also succeeded because it told stories and shared its process with consumers—actively engaging with them across multiple channels.
Tell the story of your purpose and experience. Another brand generating buzz for purpose and storytelling is Warby Parker, an eyewear designer and retailer. Warby Parker applies the virtue of responsibility by linking its core purpose of selling stylish, affordable glasses consumers love with charitable partnerships that support the ‘gift of sight.’
Warby Parker also flawlessly executes on honesty. Impassioned by their product and its experience—both in shopping (five-day at-home trials, virtual try-ons, in-store browsing) and in use (multiple pairs, repurchase, myriad styles)—they communicate a sense of responsibility and honesty, and then add sincere delight to their storytelling at critical touchpoints with consumers (website, blog and custom retail stores).
The company was launched by a quartet of Wharton Business School students. One of them, David Gilboa, was frustrated after losing a $700 pair of eyeglasses. Classmate Neil Blumenthal happened to know something about the high cost of eyeglasses, having been director of a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring eye care to impoverished communities in developing countries. The four entrepreneurs together identified waste in the supply chain (largely designer licensing fees and retailer markups), and created their own designs starting at $95 a pair.
In supporting its purpose and virtues, Warby Parker communicates excitement for its glasses and beyond with stories about how they positively impact the lives of both their consumers and recipients of charitable donations. These stories are revered by their consumers and passed along to others in their networks.
As a result, their consumer base, once a niche following, has grown exponentially, netting both enormous increases in sales and expanded reach both online and offline. Originally envisioned as a pure-play e-commerce venture, Warby Parker quickly recognized that truly paying off its promise required opening stores that added the all-important personal touch to its relationship with its customers.
Share your brand story with consumers to expand into their networks. To get customer-wowing attention like Pillsbury and Warby Parker, marketers not only must develop brands that encompass the virtues of compassion, work, courage and friendship, they must actively embrace consumer contributions to their stories by encouraging interactive experiences and personal relationships.
It requires a lot of courage to invite customers to have a relationship with your brand, and it can be intensely hard work. A brand has to be present at every touchpoint customers are using to ensure that conversations are authentic, meaningful and productive. Experiences must reflect the brand purpose and story or consumers will use these touchpoints to call out inconsistencies. Brands must always answer concerns honestly and authentically—to be ‘friends’ to their consumers and to set things right whenever possible.
Tell, share, expand and repeat. Once a brand is established as a friend to consumers that is capable of compassion, honesty and responsibility, it has to persevere and never slow down its efforts. It must be present at every relevant touchpoint and interaction; always reaffirming its purpose, value and experience. And it must remain loyal in its relationship with advocates so they continue to recommend the brand to their networks. The best way to do this is to go beyond sharing the brand’s story, and tell and share consumers’ stories as well.
A fantastic example of a brand storytelling is Patagonia’s Worn Wear: A Film About Stories We Wear that captures the personal stories of consumer adventures and relationships with Patagonia products. Using the virtues of courage and friendship to insert the Patagonia story into the landscape of their consumers’ experience (personal tales of mastering trails, motherhood, father-daughter ski trips and caring for organic crops), Patagonia’s short film transcends marketing to create a vignette of human truth about why we keep, share and pay forward our treasures.
Another great example of the power of storytelling in building relationships is Julep Beauty, a beauty-supply company that consistently encourages its consumers to call the shots on its products and experiences. In the beginning, Julep relied on a small chain of beauty parlors to engage with its niche following. Julep asked its customers to test products for input and then used the interactions and insights to update its offerings to better fit consumer needs and amplify their delight.
Later, the brand established an online ‘Idea Lab’ that enabled it to share and co-create products and stories with consumers in real time. Very loyal to the ‘friendships’ they’ve forged with both in-store and online consumers, Julep has been rewarded with a significant cult following and thousands of subscriptions. Embracing perseverance, loyalty and inclusion, they’ve earned more than $56M from venture capital firms and celebrity backers, and are developing new products and expanding into new markets.
As Julep, Pillsbury, Warby Parker and Patagonia know, relationships are key, but certainly not the only piece of the puzzle when it comes to connecting with consumers in meaningful ways that add value to their lives. Results are critical to these relationships, and managing both is critical to build and sustain growth.
The Ultimate Result: Loyalty
Stating the obvious: Results are what keep consumers loyal and the company lights on. Without results, a brand will struggle to remain true to the virtues and relationships that define and make it successful.
How do we get results in today’s marketing world using not only our virtues, but also analytics? According to the March 2013 edition of Harvard Business Review, “many of the world’s biggest companies are now deploying analytics 2.0, a set of capabilities that can chew through terabytes of data and hundreds of variables in real time to reveal how [communications] touchpoints interact dynamically. The results: 10% to 30% improvements in marketing performance.”
HBR continues: “The move to advertising analytics 2.0 involves three broad activities: Attribution quantifies as the contribution of each element of advertising; Optimization uses predictive-analytics tools to run scenarios for business planning, and Allocation redistributes resources across marketing activities in real time.”
Agent-based modeling is, in my humble opinion, the single best way to use attribution, optimization and allocation for better results, especially when addressing specific problems or objectives for your brand. It’s a great way to measure results because it accounts for both Rs: relationships and results. It uses data on the results of your relationships with consumers to ‘model’ them as ‘agents’ in a hypothetical marketplace, and how they interact and make decisions in their social networks. These ‘agents’ are used to test various scenarios that explore the boundaries of the brand relationship and potential outcomes of new means of solving their problems and building those relationships.
Because agent-based modeling examines consumer behavior within the context of social networks, it accounts for factors beyond marketing, such as their assessment of product quality, competitors and responses to any changes in the usage experience and ‘saturation’ points in which investments plateau in effectiveness.
Most exciting, agent-based modeling accurately accounts for social media communication, experiences and influence on purchase and re-purchase decisions. Social networks, once considered a fun add-on rather than crucial touchpoint because it lacked data to reflect its results, has never been so accurately attributed to long-term loyalty and purchase than with agent-based modeling.
Daytona International Speedway is among those that recognize social networks as an opportunity to apply attribution, optimization and allocation to achieve superior results. Daytona consistently monitors fan engagement and customizes content to meet fan needs across event logistics and at on-site celebrity sightings. By monitoring and calibrating responses, Daytona stays alert, active and effective in both enhancing the fan experiences on-site and delivering value-adding, inclusive experiences for fans following online.
Daytona also consistently attributes its results to discover opportunities in engagement that will improve performance. For instance, discovering its fans were eager to create and share their own branded content, Daytona started sharing more fan photos, actively responded to event conversations and kept fans updated on current and upcoming events in real time.
Daytona’s tone grew more conversational and experience-focused, and its results were incredible—a 427 percent increase in fan engagement on Facebook during Budweiser Speedweeks and 1.1 billion impressions for #Daytona500, a 122 percent increase year over year.
With attribution of results and perseverance, inclusion at critical touchpoints, responsiveness to its loyal fans and the Daytona experience, the brand has continued to wow its consumers, build better relationships and achieve great results. This is helping the brand effectively reallocate resources to both support its relationships and grow its story’s reach, and the results cannot be understated.
When all is said and done, marketers — especially those struggling with their brands — may want to reevaluate their business models according to the virtues they have (or lack) by asking: Are the virtues that sculpted the brand’s purpose and DNA still being applied? Do we support a purpose-driven commitment that’s relevant to the consumers’ lives and needs? How can the brand reclaim its value to consumers by creating inclusive, meaningful relationships that win their loyalty? Does the brand have the measurement tools needed? And, how soon can I get a copy of The Book Of Virtues?