Why is it that Martin Luther King Jr.’s famously quoted statement, “I have a dream…” has remained firmly in the minds of so many people? It’s because he managed to make us feel his story, rather than simply know it. He didn’t choose to say, “I have an idea.” That would’ve made it more distant and detached. Logic wasn’t needed in that moment. Emotion and beliefs were directly connected to his words. His audience could feel it; in fact we can still feel it today when we hear his words again and again. His passion was conveyed so powerfully that his words have never been forgotten.
When you think about brand, it’s necessary to look beyond the imagined confines of business. That’s why it’s so important to examine someone like Dr. King, to work out what made his message so powerful. Why do we remember his words over 53 years later after he spoke that phrase on August 28, 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom? It’s the belief, the story and the conviction with which he said, “I have a dream.” Whether in business, politics, or social movements, the most successful people have had a strong, clear brand. A common set of beliefs conveyed through a story to build a lasting connection.
To write your own story and find connection, start with the anatomy of you. Turn inward to discover why you do what you do! Passion is the root of everything. Logic and facts can only take you so far. Humans are emotional beings. If you can identify your deepest desires, you can build on that to create a connection with customers. Then you form a bond that goes beyond the point of sale. It leads to loyalty, because both company and customers believe the same thing. You develop a community of believers because they hear you and they believe.
Don’t discount the role that your employees, whether low- or high-level, play in this as well. It starts with hiring. When interviewing someone, find out what they’re passionate about. Where do they want to go in life? Why have they chosen this career? Do their goals in life align with the beliefs of the company? Be smart about how you hire people. Then you’ll have a strong foundation to continue to build on. They’re the backbone of what you do. They are also your brand ambassadors to represent you and your company. Employees are one of your most valuable resources not just in delivering your product or service, but also in delivering your belief, your “why” you do what you do. Ensuring that your employees invest in your vision, your belief, your passion will create more than a company – you will create a movement!
Your self-examination wouldn’t be complete without attempting to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Turning inward to architect your brand is important, and equally important is walking your customer’s path. What is important to them? What does a day in their life look like? What role can you play in helping them achieve their goals and dreams? What role are you trying to play now? Should you consider changing? What value can you bring that will delight your customers? This will not only fuel your marketing and branding strategy, but also can fuel your reinvention and innovation for the future products and services you can deliver.
There are many ways to get into the hearts and minds of your customers, but first you must understand them. You can survey, call, ask, but one of the most powerful ways is to literally invest your time in doing what they do. Go to the stores they go to, see what they buy, and ask yourself, “What are the challenges they face?” Put your products in their hands and watch what they do! Watch them at your point of sale, or if you provide an online product or service then review their behavior online. Invest in research and tools to help you understand them better.
One company that does this well is Nike. Nike created its famous “Just Do It” tagline in 1988, and has consistently used it since to convey that aligning with their Nike brand can help you achieve greatness. They reinforced their story with the personalities that helped them tell the story from regular people to star athletes so that anyone can “Just Do It.”
In 2013, Adweek said it might be “the last great tagline in advertising history.” Why have these three simple words resounded in the hearts of so many consumers? Dan Wieden, who coined the phrase, wanted to find a unifying message in Nike’s marketing. In the process, people found that they could apply the principle of the tagline in more ways than just health and fitness. No matter who they were, where they lived, what they did, or how much money they had, they could all find a way to just do the things they wanted to do. Now that’s a powerful brand message!
Will you be able to create a tagline that embodies the hopes, aspirations, and dreams of your audience? That is hard to say. But once you understand your own brand’s beliefs, passions, and value, you can go a long way to conveying these to your audience. Once you have done a self-introspection and you have a good theme to build on from the inside out that identifies your strengths and beliefs, you can build your story. Be consistent. Tell your story over and over, and enlist your employees to tell your story. At the core of this story is your brand promise.
Once you understand your customer’s then you build your story around them. Include your customers in your journey. Done correctly, you will win not only customers and market share measured in dollars and cents, but you can also achieve something more lasting – you can win their share of hearts.
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