Successful brands don’t thrive on innovative products or effective marketing alone. It takes a strong dedicated customer base of fanboys hell bent on claiming their brand to be superior to survive in the world of social media. So how do you find your fanatics? You don’t. They find you, and with a little brand charisma pared with consistent marketing you’ll find you have an army of champions helping your brand stay alive in the competitive marketplace.
The drive to belong to a group starts in middle school and follows us into adulthood as we choose the brands we love. The brands we interact with help identify the tribe we belong to. It’s how we connect to the groups that are similar to us, and for some it’s how we define ourselves. Aside from having a beard, a person who drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon is likely going to have a different lifestyle from a person who enjoys a Samuel Adams. What’s important to realize is that your marketing department, design firm or even your CEO can’t determine your clan. THEY pick you, and the more honest and consistent you are in the way you represent your brand, the more loyal and die-hard your fans will be.
Your product or service doesn’t necessarily determine how popular you’re brand will be. In many overly saturated markets you just need to be perceived as not as crappy as the other guys. The wireless carrier market has been tuned into this for years. No one likes their carrier, but few of us ever make the switch because the other guys are just as bad if not worse. It used to be that AT&T was the only company that carried the wildly popular iPhone. Since the iPhone has become available for Verizon and Sprint customers AT&T has seen little churn despite iPhone users constantly complaining about AT&T. The truth is that no wireless carrier is really that great, so we stick with the poor service that we’re familiar with and complain happily.
Contrary to what advertising has taught us over the decades, customers rarely leave their brand of choice for a better product, more targeted messaging or fresher visual identity. Just like any relationship, we give the brands we love a lot of leeway to make mistakes. As consumers, we strive to find brands that represent us, and we stop shopping in that category. In a sense, we marry the brands we love. The Gap seemingly enraged it’s core customer base with a redesign and later a repeal of their logo in 2011. While there was much outrage over the new design from the community, sales both online and in-stores remained relatively unaffected. In fact, the public outcry revealed just how many people are dedicated fans of the brand. Generally, people who don’t care about your brand are not going to take the time to tweet or blog about how much they hate the new logo. It’s not to say that your customers won’t leave you, but it does take a lot more serious mistakes to create churn with your fanboys.
So, in the big picture, you have no control over your brand. Your customers pick you, and they even define the culture associated with your brand. To keep your brand healthy, and satisfying your fans you need to be in touch with who your core audience is and what they think your brand represents. Listen to them, and deliver beyond what they expect. After all, it’s not a brand for your dedicated customers, it’s a lifestyle.