Musicians and bands embody the perfect brand. People feel an emotional connection to their music, thus empowering the musicians who produce it. These musicians command the loyalty and devotion that every company wishes they could attain. This is why celebrity endorsements are so popular; companies try to latch on to the sense of admiration that consumers feel towards famous musicians, athletes and other celebrities. However, instead of trying to leverage someone's interest in a particular celebrity, the brand should be trying to earn that loyalty and build that devotion on their own.
It's not a coincidence that Facebook uses the term "fans" for a page's supporters; that's exactly what every company wants: fans. Likewise, Twitter "followers" are analogous to a band's following. Maybe a company's fans won't rent a bus and follow their tour around the country, but they are interested enough in the brand to engage with it on a regular basis. Apple may be one of the best examples of a company creating true fans. Customers will wait in line for days to get the new iPhone or iPad. They watch Steve Jobs' product announcements with a religious fervor. They speculate on new products and new product features months if not years before they are released. The question is how to turn a customer into a fan, part of your following. It all comes down to relationship building. I've said it before and I'll say it again: invest the customer, not just financially but emotionally. You want the customer to feel a personal connection to your brand just like they do to their favorite bands.
Brands should tell a story; they should project a carefully crafted "brand image". Look at Jeep, which has successfully aligned itself with the outdoor lifestyle for decades. Clothing companies are another prime example of this, aligning their brand with a particular market segment. The goal is to have your customers want to be identified with your brand. You want them to make it part of their own persona. Brands associated with a particular activity such as snowboarding or skateboarding are able to do this with ease because the activity is already something that the individual wants to broadcast as part of who they are. Companies like this enjoy the benefit of their customers wearing t-shirts and sweatshirts with their logo, and plastering stickers of their company's logo all over their car, locker, etc. Their customers are proud to display their support of these companies in order to align themselves with the activity itself.
Even if your brand isn't related to a particular activity or lifestyle, your company can still tell a story that a consumer wants to be a part of. Just like different genres of music, find a niche in your market and capitalize on it. Give your brand some personality and your customers will react positively. Your advertisements are the perfect place to start. Consider the success of the "Old Spice Guy". Deodorant isn't exactly the most interesting product to sell and it's certainly not a product to which many people would say they have an especially strong affinity. Despite this, the "Old Spice Guy" ad campaign effectively created a persona for their brand that has enabled it to attract customers, and more importantly, fans. Sticking with deodorant, Axe body spray is another company which has been able to successfully stand out from the crowd in a previously undifferentiated industry. When it comes to crafting a story for a brand, Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World" ad campaign is a prime example. Corona is another alcoholic beverage which tells a story in its advertisements; their ads intend to make you associate the beer with a tropical locale.
Your website is another ideal outlet to give your company some character. A corporate site doesn't have to be filled with PR jargon; write conversationally and even throw in some humor. You'll be surprised at how much of a difference this will make. Most people will find this refreshing and it will encourage them to engage with your company. For an excellent example of this approach, check out www.moosejaw.com. Every page of the site, every email newsletter they send, every page of their catalog, is overflowing with personality. Their witty and sometimes off-the-wall musings have earned the website a sizeable following. They have coupled this approach with a robust loyalty program (with generous bonus points awarded to their fans). The site does benefit from being aligned with the outdoor lifestyle, but by inserting their personalities into the brand they have taken this position and run with it much more successfully than many of their competitors.
A brand image should be created to lay out the general narrative of the company, but each customer should be encouraged to make it their own. This is another reason why people have such an affinity to particular musicians and bands: they have their own experiences and memories with the music. Allow your customers to create their own experiences with your brand and share these stories with friends. If possible, transform your customer base into a community, similar to Deadheads and other band-centric groups. A sense of community further reinforces your fans' love for the brand, especially when they can share their experiences with other like-minded individuals. This is the reason why forums are so popular, it enables people to discuss their experiences with others. There are countless forums for technology companies (Apple, Droid, BlackBerry, etc.), auto companies (Corvette, BMW, Porsche, etc.), and many other industries in which the consumers have created a community to discuss their personal experiences with these brands. The "Wall" of your company's Facebook Page offers a perfect outlet for this type of group interaction and is unique in that it allows you to actively join the conversation. Some company's have even gone so far as to develop an entire social network for this purpose, such as Nickelodeon's "Parents Connect".
In virtually all industries there is already a generic brand. They may do well; in fact, they may even be the industry leader, but I guarantee that they don't have many true fans. Take risks to differentiate yourself, to show your personality. Don't try to compete with the generic brand by being equally as boring. Just like different people have unique tastes in music, your brand may not appeal to everyone. You need to be willing to sacrifice some of the casual listeners who may be turned off by this approach for the die-hard fans who will love you for it.
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