Hi, I'm Isaac.

I'm a consultant and advisor  for social enterprises - using business to change the world.

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Brands I Admire

Brands I Admire

Nike Value Proposition

In my recent post on Technical Competence vs Compelling Philosophies, I mentioned the book Lovemarks and the idea of “Loyalty Beyond Reason”.

Kevin Roberts’ book talks about brands that captivate us at an emotional level.
We’re drawn to a brand for reasons we can’t explain, to the point where we don’t want to switch to something technically superior.

He quotes Donald Calne:
“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”
In other words, heart trumps head.
You can prove that a certain brand is the best of its industry, but we’ll still pick the one that speaks to us at an emotional level.

These are hard to define, but you know them when you see them.
For some people, it’s brands like Disney, The Beatles, IKEA, Adidas, Head & Shoulders, Louis Vuitton, Guinness, Volvo or Lindt.
Their fans wouldn’t consider other options.
To them, there’s no substitute for the blue Tiffany’s box.
No discount will make them switch from Twinings to Lipton.
No advertisement could tempt them to fly Virgin instead of Qantas.

Lovemarks are an important reminder as to how your customers behave.
You’ll want to create your own Lovemark, whilst keeping in mind how reluctant people are to trying unknown things.
I’ll tell you about some of mine.
Not because I want to persuade you, but to show you the irrational thought process of your customers.

Under Armour Brand Lovemark

Under Armour
Under Armour are particularly good at two things.
The first is that they make the best underwear in the world.
The second is the mythology they’ve created about athletes and performance.

Compression clothing is really unflattering on me, and I have no reason why I need their gym clothes.
That does not stop me from whatever I can – it’s like I want an excuse to participate in what they’re doing.
How many brands have customers actively searching for ways to buy in?

MacBook Air
I have a very strange and fragmented view on the Apple brand.
On one hand, I don’t like Apple fans, iMacs, iPads, Apple TV, or the iTunes store.
They would never register in my mind as being options of things to buy.
They seem overpriced, greedy and vain.

On the other hand, I have a lot of love for the MacBook Air and iPod Classic, more than any tech products I’ve ever owned.
I had a Panasonic discman, an iRiver MP3 player, an IBM computer and an ASUS laptop – all functional tools that each did a job.

The iPod and MacBook Air are something else altogether.
In my mind, they’re “The Best”, without any hesitation.
I know there are much better computers available for less money.
I know there were better MP3 players with more features and storage.
That may well be true, but nothing else could be “The Best”, that role was already taken.
They’re elegant, sophisticated, well designed, reliable and easy to use.
In that regard, they’ve taken on a brand of their own, one which I am loyal to beyond all reason.

Sennheiser Brand Lovemark

I’d describe Sennheiser a brand that gives people what they think people will love, rather than what people asked for.
They’re simultaneously tech wizards and customer focused – a rare combination.
For example, their headphones sound incredible, a league above the rest of the mass market like Sony or Skullcandy.
They’re priced incredibly fairly, well below the “high end” brands like Shure or Bose.

They have the best warranty I’ve seen, a two-year replacement guarantee, usually done on the spot.
I know first hand, because I’ve had about 8-9 pairs of earbuds die on me within 18 months.
So why do I keep coming back to a company who have let me down so many times?
Because they feel like they have my best interest.
They make great products with a great philosophy; pay a little more and you’ll be so glad that you did.

Coca Cola
“Everybody owns a piece of Coke.
What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest.
You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too.
A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.
All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good.
Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
– Andy Warhol

To me, Coke is affordable luxury.
Be it at kids parties, teenage sleepovers, nightclubs when I’m driving, social events or hot summer days, Coke is synonymous with energy and excitement.
It is absolutely terrible for you, and yet that never enters my mind.
Pepsi does not have the same attraction, despite the fact that I like Pepsi Max so much more than Coke itself.

Nike Brand Lovemark

I understood Nike as a lovemark when I read Shoe Dog by founder Phil Knight.
Nike is about passion and excellence, two words that every company claims to revere but very few actually do.
They’re genuinely obsessed with performance and improvement, and make no apologies for being relatively expensive.
Nike have shrugged off years of bad publicity through a very impressive product and a tremendous brand identity.
They also happen to produce some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned.

In Australia, nobody goes to Starbucks.
The coffee is expensive and underwhelming.
But when I’m overseas, something changes.
Starbucks feels like home.

When you break down the elements (the music, the coffee, the staff, the cups, the furniture, the bathrooms, the wifi) there’s nothing remarkable.
But put them all together?
You create a sanctuary, either in an airport, train station, shopping centre or airport.
Starbucks feels like an indulgence, somewhere to relax and recharge in a way that no other café can match.

JB Hifi Brand Lovemark

JB Hifi
Going into JB Hifi used to feel like treasure hunting.
The store is designed to feel like a big factory outlet – plastic sheets for banners, handwritten recommendations by the staff, fluoro yellow stickers slapped onto DVDs.
Tony Martin called it “The Roulette Wheel” – you’d have to go in every few weeks to see what was on special.
For example, The Wire was $74.98 per season, but then would drop to $24.98 every few months.
You’d have to keep rolling list of things you were interested in, then snap up the bargains as soon as they emerged.

Meanwhile, stores like Sanity had similar prices but without the thrill.
Guess which store is still in business today?

Penfolds Brand Lovemark

This one is crazy – I don’t like wine, but I love Penfolds.
Something about the elegance and heritage of their brand.
Something about the Bin Numbers.
Something about Grange.
Penfolds oozes class, in a way that no other Australian label does.
To me, wine is for drinking, but Penfolds is for saving.

Queenstown Lovemark

Queenstown in New Zealand has a mystique that is impossible to describe.
It’s located in a stunning part of a stunning country, people are friendly, liquor laws are relaxed, the infrastructure is designed for tourists, and it just feels magical.
I’d never considered it as a holiday destination until some friends insisted we go there, having recently been there themselves.
We all came back as raving fans, as do most people.

The city has a brand unlike many others – certainly none in the rest of New Zealand or in Victoria.
Kevin Roberts describes a Lovemark as having Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy.
Queenstown is one of the only examples where I really understood what those could look like.

Pukka Brand Lovemark

Pukka make delicious herbal teas – I’d previously thought that was an oxymoron, but these are so rich and distinctive.
Their branding is colourful and engaging, and the boxes look particularly good as a set.
I was upset to see that Pukka were acquired by Unilever.
Hopefully they stay true to their promise to not change anything.
You get the sense that Pukka take their customers seriously, and ensure that you’re getting great quality ingredients.
If a larger brand copied their flavours and style of packaging, I still wouldn’t be interested.
It’s completely irrational, but to me Pukka are so more than the sum of their parts.

You can prove that there are other companies out there who are technically better than my favourites, and maybe I’ll agree with your points.
And yet, I won’t try on the Adidas shoe, or order a Pepsi at the bar, go to Gloria Jeans or try Skullcandy headphones.
Yes, that makes me weird and irrational – just like everyone else.

You might have noticed that there are no social enterprises here.
There are plenty of brands I like, but not to the point of being Lovemarks.
That’s why this is so crucial for social enterprises to build brands that intentionally create a sense of intimacy with customers.
If you want loyalty from your audience, give them a reason to keep coming back – one that doesn’t have to do with price or technical features.

What are your Lovemarks?
Which brands inspire your loyalty beyond reason?

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