We Are All Brand Whores

Brand Affinity it’s something we’ve all got a lot of – whether you admit it or not. It’s that innate pull to grab a cold Coke over a Pepsi. Or
to pay twice the price for running shoes as long as they’re Nike. Need I mention iPhone vs Android fans?

Brand affinity is an emotional response to a brand. It’s warm fuzzies, watering mouth and deep loyalty towards objects that help you define yourself in a world full of choices. Think about it – you group people into social stereotypes due to their affinity to Converse All Stars vs Prada heels. You can spot a hipster, preppy, square or goth from a mile away – all of these styles are down to brand affinity.

So how do brands convince the public (us, the all knowing, sheepish, brain washed human throng) to become lifetime advocates, and therefore purchasers, of their products? I reckon it more than marketing. A clever campaign that elicits an overwhelming emotional response is a good start – but it’s not the way to keep the ball rolling. Creating brand advocates, and then rewarding them is important.

For kids is starts young with things like a free toy in your happy meal. From a young age we reckon McDonald’s is a great place to go because, not only do we get to eat something special, we get a toy, too! The idea of creating an army of die-hard brand advocates is best done, in my humble opinion, by Disney. Growing up in Southern California meant that I was able to go to “the happiest place on earth” (Disneyland) 3 or 4 times a year.

At 31 years old I’ve been more times that I can count and still get a little tingle of joy each time we hit the road and head off for a day of fun and adventure at Disneyland. Beyond the park itself, Disney has always had a very forward thinking view of the brand and how it can be used. This was the genius of Walt and those who perpetuated the brand after his death. From ground breaking technologies in the early 1900’s around feature length cartoons, to action figures, to Broadway shows – Disney’s always done it right. They’ve made loving the brand easy, shareable, and part of every American kid’s childhood experience.

And there we have the magic word: experience. Brands that people become and stay loyal to offer us more than a product – they offer us an experience each time we interact with the brand, their product or even our peers and social groups who are advocates as well.

I have 4 brands that I ALWAYS go back to, I’ll come clean and admit here that I tell people about the amazingness of the brand, their message and their products…and I tell people again and again and again. And herein lies the beauty of creating advocates, word of mouth. If I tell someone I love a product, they will be (according to latest figures) more than 4 times more likely to give that brand a go.

Word of mouth is the holy grail of marketing – of brand campaigns. And, with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter making online word of mouth immediate and with the simplicity of information being able to reach unimaginable numbers, finding your most keen and verbose advocates (and those with large audiences who engage with them) becomes a key way to create brand advocates and cement affinity in the minds of new converts.

Back to my four favorite brands, here they are:

1. Disney

2. Coca Cola

3. Apple

4. Air New Zealand

I had to think about these and have a truck load of other brand I love and use often, but these are my “core four”. Each offer a wholly individual and all immersing brand experience. For me, I’ll pay more for each as long as I know they’re the real deal. It might cost me more to fly home on Air New Zealand, but my experiences with the company across channels online – and those dealing with a helpful, friendly and efficient staff mean I’ll fly with them whenever I possibly can.

Coca Cola makes me smile – I don’t actually drink Coke (occasionally I’ll have a Coke Zero) – but I will chose it over any other soft drink. It reminds me of carefree childhood summers, smiles with friends as teenagers and that iconic logo is just hard to go past. Apple & Disney both are all about the experience for me. They’re both magical, they’re both groundbreaking and there’s an element of discovery in all that they offer.

So there you have it, we are all brand whores. And that’s a good thing – but brand affinity is more than just a clever head of marketing. It’s about asserting our independence, fitting in with a group of like-minded folks and (yes) being cool.

While I head out in my Ray Bans and lace up my Chuck Taylor’s to head out for a Patron cocktail, I’d like you to think about your favorite brands. What makes them special to you? What memories & feelings do you associate with them? You might be surprised by what you find out about yourself!