Brand Matters

Last week, Orman Guidance had the privilege of attending Brand Matters, a fantastic speakers’ series focusing on how companies can build a recognizable and worthy brand. The series is offered by our good friends at Yamamoto, as well as the Carlson School of Management and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Orman’s interest in the topic is key due to our ongoing study of consumer engagement preferences and the role that brand plays.

The guest speaker for this round was Patrick Hanlon, Founder & CEO of Thinktopia and author ofThe Social Code. Orman is in the midst of its own re-branding effort, and we found Patrick’s talk sharp, engaging, and remarkably insightful. We can’t do his presentation justice, but we’ve crafted a summary of his important lessons that we are planning on applying at Orman.

Marketing professionals of all stripes place a lot emphasis on making brands “go viral”. Think of viral content like “Gangnam Style” or the Left Shark at the Super Bowl. What marketer wouldn’t want their brand to trend worldwide on Twitter and receive millions of views on YouTube? But the viral party can’t last forever. In fact, most viral content won’t last out the week. It’s important to remember that virality alone is not the goal. The goal is to create a brand for your company that doesn’t just last for a few hours or days, but many years. For a brand to last, Patrick says consumers need to really believe in it and have a positive emotional attachment to it. These are the elements that create an effective and lasting brand.

To illustrate the power of effective branding, Patrick used two similar looking shapes. What’s the difference between the two black shapes below? The circle on the left evokes no emotional response. The shape on the right, however, stirs our emotions and fond memories of childhood. There’s a certain level of trust we have with the Disney Logo.

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So how do brands achieve this level of intimacy with consumers? Patrick warned about the futility of marketers who try to “be the next” Apple, Google, etc. While there’s a lot to learn from the major players in the marketplace, every company has its own story to tell, and that’s the only story it cantell.

Patrick outlined 7 defining characteristics every company should know and share with consumers in order to have an effective brand. These characteristics help tell the company’s story and give the brand longevity and meaning. Using these 7 traits, here is how we might tell the story of Apple Computers.

  1. Creation story: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak building a computer in Jobs’ garage.
  2. Creed: Think Different.
  3. Icons: Apple Logo.
  4. Rituals: Listening to an iPod, downloading a song, talking to Siri.
  5. Nonbelievers: PC users.
  6. Sacred words: Apple, iPod, Macbook, innovative.
  7. Leader: Steve Jobs, initially. Now Tim Cook.

Today’s consumers use the brands they buy to reflect their personal beliefs and values. Simply telling the consumer your company’s story can be more beneficial for your brand than a marketing campaign touting a new product. There’s a reason people introduce themselves at parties before launching into conversation. The same should apply to companies and brands. Ensure consumers know a little bit about your company before asking them to buy your product.

Going viral for a few hours can be beneficial for obvious reasons, but it won’t give your brand the story it needs to create an emotional connection with consumers. Telling your brand’s story and creating that connection is the task before all marketing professions who want their brands to be lasting and meaningful.

Orman is in its fifth decade of studying and engaging the consumer. We recognize that the industry must change in fundamental ways to continue providing the highest-level of service possible. We’re cracking open the consumer engagement nut and giving the market research industry a much needed shake up. Orman is shaping our brand to reflect our knowledge and talents as industry leaders and our never-ending pursuit of excellence.