Creating a connection between brands and consumers

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Shannon Curtin and Dan Mack

Creating a connection between brands and consumers

By Seth Mendelson - 10/24/2019

How can brands connect with consumers? Have a soul, said Shannon Curtin, CEO of New Word Natural, and Dan Mack, founder of Mack Elevation Forum, during a presentation on “Purpose Driven Revolutionary Brands” during Total Store Expo in Boston in late August. 

The presentation highlighted the ways in which many successful brands, both legacy and up-and-comers, have a driving purpose that informs everything they do. 

Mack opened the presentation sharing, “Purpose-driven brands, according to Kantar Consulting's 2020 report ‘Inspiring Purpose-Led Growth’ are growing at twice the rate compared to median growth brands,” Mack said during his opening remarks. “Their secret is that they connect ‘emotionally’ with today’s skeptical consumer. Brands such as e.l.f. Cosmetics, Olly Vitamins, Harry’s Shave, KIND, Zarbees, RxBar and Zevia have transformed their respective categories, embracing a compelling set of leadership behaviors.” 

Mack and Curtin shared five behaviors that the top purpose-driven brands utilize to build connecting with their trusted community. 

Create movements, not products 
Almost eight of 10 brands could disappear and the majority of consumers would not miss them. Most organizations have a purpose, but it’s estimated that only 1-in-10 have an activation plan to bring it to life. Companies such as Tom’s Shoes, Sundial Brands and Traditional Medicinals live out of a well-defined blueprint and operate with a social mission, fueling their purpose. The DNA and purpose of their culture attract consumers to join their mission; turning them into zealous advocates.

Extreme alignment 
Most companies are not internally aligned. This hinders how they show up with their partners and their customers, and an intimate relationship cannot exist. Forrester Research discovered that only 8 percent of companies have strong internal sales and marketing alignment. Organizations that are aligned create a culture of trust which is a catalyst for growth. Wahl Home Products drive sales & marketing operations as a unified front, cherishing the “Made in America” origin of their offerings and affirming oneness with the customer and retail partners.

Co-create everything 
Products cannot win anymore unless they are co-created, co-assembled, co-conspired. Companies must be adept at getting to the root of their customer’s needs; co-designing the solution with the customer and their top retail partners. A best in class example of this has been Method Brands and Olly, both companies started by Eric Ryan. Eric is a master of co-developing brands with designers, partners and his favorite retailer, Target - a winning combination. These companies understood that co-creation is not an opportunity, it’s a necessity for long-term growth. 

A contagious story 
It now is possible for small brands to win by building a zealous community. It’s estimated that 50 percent of sales time is wasted on unproductive discussions. Facts don’t persuade – stories do. Some of the most contagious stories help others connect emotionally to their mission, and few are better than Craig Dubitsky of Hello Brands. He’s a storyteller — the self-proclaimed “Friendly Founder” of Hello Brands. Craig is different because he’s always in a mode of creating natural, friendly oral care products, while sharing his infectious brand story with the world. The most loyal consumer brands are not afraid sharing their contagious story.

We buy values, not products 
Today’s consumers are increasingly buying values, not products. Nearly half of consumers who are disappointed by a brand’s words or actions on a social issue complain about it and 42 percent walk away from the brand in frustration. Purell hand sanitizer is a brand that chooses partners with mutual values, amplifying their vision of “Saving Lives and Making Life Better Through Well-Being Solutions.” They look for partners with values that assist them in placing Purell in health clubs, restaurants, hospitals, schools, workplaces and top retailers. Few brands ask the question “how can I place my product everywhere it needs to be to make life better?” Purell does. 

The purpose of a brand is not to increase shareholder value; it’s to create a monogamous relationship with the consumer through an infectious purpose. Consumers don’t purchase brands, they “join them.”