Steal These: The 5 hacks Your Favourite Brands are Using to Build a Following

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There are some brands that build rapport, create a cult following and have their loyal followers hanging on their every word. And, there are others that don’t seem to have that audience connection, despite their best efforts. So what makes us want to support a brand? Here’s what we can learn from some local and international cult brands.

1. They know their ‘why’

When you know what you’re all about, have a strong vision, purpose and values, and use these to inform your work, you’ll find that you attract people that share the same attitudes as you. There’s no use saying ‘we care about the environment’ or ‘we want to facilitate healthier lifestyles’ if you’re not taking steps to raise awareness or contribute to this vision. If there’s a disconnect between your vision and your actions, you could be seen as inauthentic.

Toms Shoes knows their ‘why’ and have used it to build a cult following. The ‘one for one company’ promises a pair of shoes donated to children in need for every pair purchased. Not only does this tell an emotional narrative, it engages people directly in it. Whenever someone purchases a Toms product, including their eyewear, bags and coffee products, they are giving back to people who need it most. Toms customers feel good about supporting the company and continue to share, promote and align themselves with the brand.

Another company a little bit closer to home, who also has a strong vision and brand, is insurance company HBF. Their vision is to ‘create a unique community where members are renowned for being healthier, happier people.’ They do this through their annual ‘Run for a Reason’ fun run and by running free fitness classes for their members.  

2. They are unwaveringly consistent

Imagine if every time your friends saw you, you’d changed. In personality, looks, values. They would probably see you as being a bit unpredictable and unreliable. They might think you weren’t sure of who you are and what you wanted. People love to categorise, so we look for predictable patterns in people. Keeping your brand consistent whenever your customers see or hear from you will add familiarity and memorability to your brand, and will ensure that your strong vision is reflected in everything you say and do.

Anyone who’s vaguely into fitness (or anyone who loves the idea of looking like they are active while they scoff a salted caramel doughnut on a Saturday morning) has probably heard of the Vancouver-born activewear giant, Lululemon. Lululemon is much more than gym gear, it’s a lifestyle. They run community events that support their values, like marathons and free yoga classes. And it’s a worldwide phenomenon. I have shopped in Lululemon stores in the US, Canada and Australia and the shopping experience and style of gear is always very similar. Their marketing and communication channels are also consistent— from logo use to photography style, font choices and tone of voice, every touchpoint is delivering consistent messaging. This consistency has contributed to a distinct brand that can be recognised the world over.

Images from @lululemon

3. They aren't copycats

It’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to be like others, especially when you’re starting out. You might still be figuring out exactly who your company is, and others’ formula for success seems like it could work for you too. Get inspired by others, appreciate what they do, but always try and make your own mark. Magnetic brands tend to put their own spin on things, and that’s what makes people sit up and pay attention.

Radio hosts Hamish and Andy are original, honest and authentic. It’s these attributes that have engaged listeners in their community and distinguished them from their competitors. Their genuine, self-deprecating and authentic style, coupled with their focus on building a community through ‘The People’s Show’ that has created loyal followers.

Hamish and Andy know how to engage their audience with a great story and, because they are genuine and relatable, they feel less like radio presenters and more like friends. They have created ‘characters’ out of themselves and their family, friends and colleagues to form a show that is uniquely theirs.

Images from @hamishandandy

4. They know their people

Aligning your brand to a set of values, having a clear and unique voice and ensuring consistent brand experiences is essential. But is that enough to build rapport between a brand and a person? Sometimes, to understand what a brand is all about and whether we fit into their community, we need to see who is engaging with it already.

Often, great brands are built with great brand ‘characters’ or ‘ambassadors’. These may come from paid sponsorships or celebrity endorsements, for example Jennifer Hawkins and Megan Gale for Myer and David Jones, respectively. Other times, the endorser is lesser known but ‘famous’ within a certain community or industry, for example Emily, the blogger who created the popular fashion and lifestyle blog Cupcakes and Cashmere. Sometimes the best ‘brand character’ is the business owner themselves, for example Richard Branson or Gary Vaynerchuk. And finally, sometimes brand ambassadors are simply your best customers or brand evangelists.

Brand characters are so valuable because they help to align a brand with the attributes, values and lifestyle of a particular person or community, giving people a face to associate with a business, rather than just a logo. I will note that it’s critical to find the right person or people to represent your brand, or the association will look forced. We’ve all seen or heard those cringeworthy endorsements, so avoid that at all costs.

‍‍Images from @myer @emilyschuman @richardbranson

5. They have created a community

Magnetic people and brands invite you into their worlds, they create conversations and ask you for your opinion. They listen to ideas, contribute to their community and bring people together with a shared consciousness.  

After model and founder of Slinkii Athletic, Pia Muehlenbeck came on board as their brand ambassador, WarPaint, the natural toothpaste company that promises white smiles, encouraged their customers to make like Pia and post similar photos of their pearly whites on instagram. The signature selfies, featuring black ‘warpaint’ stripes on people’s faces and sometimes containers of ‘Warpaint’ are re-posted on the company’s instagram feed. Warpaint have formed a community of loyal followers and, in the process, have found many more brand ambassadors in each of their users who have all shared the Warpaint product with their connections.

Bloggers, vloggers and podcasters are other great examples of the benefits of building communities for your brand. Some of success stories include design podcasters the Deeply Graphic Design Cast, or food blogger the Minimalist Baker. These brands regularly create consistent content for their loyal communities, listen to their feedback, answer questions and respond to comments.

Images from @armedwithwarpaint

Great brands are built over time

Great brands aren’t created overnight. It can take time to find your niche, figure out exactly who you want to be and to build a likeminded community. You’ll make mistakes along the way, make decisions that aren’t aligned with your brand and there may be times where you’ll question your entire brand strategy. The longer you work on building, refining and applying your brand the easier it will become to direct course to building the brand you want to be! Start with a great product or service that you are confident in, work hard and be patient.

Your brand includes your logo, but it's so much more. It’s the composite of everything that your customers can see, hear, and experience about your business. Ultimately, it’s how it makes them feel. Your customers will be attracted to you because of your authenticity, how you look and what you stand for. They’ll use or buy from you again and tell their friends because you’re reliable and consistent, and they’ll become loyal customers because you create a shared consciousness and involve them in your community.

Would you add any must-haves for a magnetic brand to this list? Or do you have great examples of brands that are killing it? There’s heaps out there! Share them in the comments below.

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Steal These: The 5 hacks Your Favourite Brands are Using to Build a Following

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