Summer of Love (and Brand Loyalty)
Sometime during my first summer in North Carolina, the cashier at the grocery store stopped mid scan to ask me, “What is this?”
In her hands was a sun-yellow box of Topo Chico.
“Water,” I said. “Mineral water.”
Sparkling mineral water, I thought.
“You really pay this much for your water?” she said, a bit too comfortably.
“Well yeah. But….”
For the uninitiated, Topo Chico is just a sparkling mineral water. But for anyone who’s had it, they know it’s a whole lot more.
It dawned on me then just how subtly powerful a brand can be.
I say brand because Topo Chico the product, while excellent, isn’t exactly offering anything special. It’s sparkling water that boasts a little more bite than something like La Croix or Perrier.
Topo Chico’s brand, on the other hand, is distinct and impressive. Aztec princesses. Mystical waters with legendary healing powers. Warm summery color schemes. A tastefully designed, brilliant glass bottle that rivals the best the craft beer craze has to offer. These are the standard associations of the Topo Chico brand.
For me, there’s another: home.
Nearly six years ago, I moved away from my home state of Texas, where Topo Chico is based, to attend graduate school in North Carolina. Until that day, no one questioned why I would pay a premium on water. In Texas, Topo is king — your go-to choice when looking for an alternative to beer or soda. Drinking Topo was a way for me to connect to my roots while thousands of miles away.
Why a Brand Is Business Love
At Common Giant, we say, “a brand is business love.” Cultivate a connection between the consumer and the product and both parties “feel the love.” The business gets a loyal customer, the consumer receives a product or service that has become an integral part of their life.
Such deep emotional bonds are the lifeblood of a brand and a brand is the lifeblood of any successful business. At their most effective, brands link themselves so tightly to one’s identity that giving up that brand is like giving up a piece of that identity. It’s the reason people make irrational decisions as consumers. It’s why you hear colleagues or friends speak of Apple as if it’s a religion, and the reason people pay hundreds of dollars for designer purses or shoes. It’s the reason my wife can say “Hey, we’re out of Topo,” and I—much to the disbelief of North Carolina’s grocers—will tack on an extra fifteen dollars to my grocery bill. For water.
Branding’s purpose is to create a story or narrative that connects the brand’s identity to the identity of the consumer. This is what drives sales, earns brand loyalists, and propels a company to full potential. Establishing these bonds and creating that brand story is the big challenge for marketers and agencies. There’s no perfect formula to do so given that each brand should be—and must be—unique. There are, however, some foundational questions that, when answered, go a long way to developing the narrative and emotional power that defines a great brand.
Who are you? What do you do? Who do you do it for?
When answered thoroughly, these questions get at the heart of what your business does, who you’re targeting, and the impact your business has on lives. Answered honestly, these questions proudly display what makes you distinct.
Don’t Be Afraid to Put Yourself Out There
For those in the service or B2B industry answering these foundational questions is crucial since you’re essentially commoditizing yourself and not a specific product.
Uncovering these answers requires a great deal of self-examination and reflection. These questions aren’t easy to answer. Anyone who’s been on a first date and asked to describe what they do, can attest to the challenge of talking about themselves. This is where working with a branding agency can offer a significant advantage.
One of the first steps Common Giant takes when working with clients is to offer a Brand Matrix Workshop where we work closely with a team of company leaders to discover the answers to these questions. We use these to build the foundation of the brand; the emotions, benefits, message, and aesthetic clients will associate with their business.
Essentially, we help discover a company’s identity so we can project it outward. Then, consumers who recognize these traits in themselves connect with it.
That’s brand love.