November 29, 2005

Excerpts: Married To The Brand - Part II

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 3:54 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Chapter Eleven
The Emotional Pinnacle: Brand Marriage

Confidence, Integrity, and Pride constitute a brand edifice of which any CEO should be justifiably proud. Yet, as with every building, there are the finishing touches that separate the temporary from the permanent, and that represent the difference between a functional dwelling and a greatly cherished dream home. The difference between "like" and "love" in a customer relationship is Brand Passion.Consumers who are passionate about a brand are convinced that it's absolutely perfect for them. Moreover, they've come to believe that their world would be somehow incomplete if that brand were no longer available.

There are products that seem irreplaceable. These include essentials, like refrigeration or antibiotics and other wonder drugs. They also include more mundane products and services that have carved out unrivaled niches in the everyday lives of consumers: The television remote, cell phones, microwaves, and e-mail fall into this category. We can't live without them.

However, brands also inspire Passion:
"I couldn't live without ... Shredded Wheat. I have it every day. It's part of my daily routine, and without it my day isn't complete. It sounds silly, but when my husband went to eat the last bowl yesterday, I bit his head off."

"Without that brand? I would feel as if I'd lost a good friend."

"For me, it's Casual Corner. When I go there, they know who I am. I have a sense of comfort there, and I'm always happy to pick up the phone (when they call)."

"Singapore Airlines. They have great customer service. Once, when I was sick, they took care of me. I felt really taken care of. They went the extra mile."

Even business-to-business customers express their passion for some brands:
"Frankly, I just don't know what we'd do without them. They've always been there for us. They don't just react to our emergencies, and we have plenty of those. They keep coming to us with ideas. I think they care as much about our success as we do."

Passion is at the apex of the brand attachment pyramid. It's the ultimate emotional bond for any brand, one manifested in the customer's dedication to supporting and even evangelizing its merits.

While hardly widespread, brand Passion is evident in some surprising places. We've found it not only in the land of luxury vehicles and resort hotels, but also in the presumably dispassionate world of mortgages, gas stations, and packaged cheese. It's there, waiting to be stoked -- and to be understood.

Wherever there is brand Passion, there are also rival brands that fall short of their competitors -- and some that don't even come close. These latter brands suffer as a result; they have weaker emotional links with customers, and they're also vulnerable to the negative business consequences that follow from a flimsy customer relationship.