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The brands Americans love: outlaw bikers, overpriced coffee and tacky t-shirts.

April 13, 2014

Why does a big, burly man tattoo a company’s logo on his arm? Why does a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of a surfboard manufacturer sell for two to three times the amount of a plain white shirt? And why on earth would anybody pay $3.00 to $5.00 for a particular cup of Joe? The answer is adoration. That’s right. When a brand is adored, its happy end users will pay a premium price, promote the product or company willingly and evangelize their chosen brand to anyone who will listen.

Many Harley Davidson riders are way more than a weekend enthusiasts. Typically, he or she will also wear the official licensed “Outlaw” clothing, (while riding or not), put a Harley decal on their car or truck, drink from a Harley mug and, in some cases, even tattoo the Harley logo on their bodies. What brand wouldn’t love to have that kind of loyalty?

So how does a brand become adored? It’s not always easy, and today it’s even harder to remain loved or even highly thought of in the hearts and minds of a fickle, over-saturated consumer. And, it’s nearly impossible for the company that places shareholder value before customer wants and needs. (Name an oil company that is adored by even its most loyal customers)

I believe adoration is born out of shared values.

I learned a valuable lesson in adored brands a while back on an agency visit to DGWB in Santa Ana, California. Jon Gothold, the “G Man” at the agency, was asked what the agency’s distinction was. Jon responded immediately: “Our shared values.” He went on to list them as independence, creative, resourcefulness, trust, and loyalty. He said that the partners, managers and some rank-and-file employees brainstormed for nearly two years to find consensus on what were the five values they all shared. And what ideals they could consistently uphold. With these values in place, he said, they then look for clients who actually share their shared values. The outcome has been better work, more appreciative clients, and a staff of agency folks that really work well together and stay longer. In my mind, I rationalized that not only did DGWB’s clients adore the agency, but the agency adored its clients too – witness a list of customers that have been with the shop for twenty, thirteen, ten, eight and six years. And yes, each client has official (non-licensed) DGWB t-shirts that they really do wear.

So is this the same reason Mac users are so loyal to Apple, and will buy brand extensions like iPod’s and iPhones? Or why Mini Cooper drivers love to “Motor” in their Mini’s? Or why, after more than a hundred years, people still buy and wear black and white, Converse All Star basketball shoes? I think the answer is yes. In each case, the audience shares the brand’s values, and those values are the brand’s distinction.

The question is, of course, how do we arrive at our brands shared values (without a two-year brainstorming session) and when we do find agreement – will any prospective consumers share them?

We help clients accomplish this very thing by starting with an internal review. The Brand Establishment agencies have a proprietary online survey designed to measure the understanding of a company’s vision, strategy, structure and execution. Among other things, this survey is designed to help clients discover: 1. Why they are in business; 2. Who they are, and; 3. Who they aspire to be.

The results are always eye opening, because without any formal investigation like this, most companies just operate under the assumption that everyone is on board with the C-level executives. That’s rarely the case – you’ll find gaps, not only in understanding, but in levels of importance as well.

Second, we facilitate a brand discovery session – we boil all of the discovered facts down to three to five unique and deliverable selling points. These USP’s are the foundation of a company’s core competencies and brand capabilities and can be easily translated into values. At this point, the CEO, managers and employees all have complete agreement and buy in. Now, we can validate our outcomes with existing customers and identify prospective audiences that potentially share these newly formalized brand principles, ideals and values.

Advertisers will now find it quite easy to communicate who they are, what they do differently and what they stand for – now that they finally know themselves. Oh, and we would not suggest doing it any differently for an agency either.

About The Brand Establishment

The Brand Establishment perfected the first contemporary brand development process specifically for small to mid-sized advertisers more than two decades ago. These tools and procedures have been utilized by companies in virtually every business sector – hundreds of times.