Brands growing love by standing for something

Good brands are built on more than just products or services. They’re built on easily identifiable (and relatable) values. Patagonia is a good example. Their dedication to sustainability and hardline ethical stance give them an appeal that can’t be replicated. Because, as Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks said, “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

So how do brands become known for standing for something? After all, every brand has ‘values’. But the ones that are most successful demonstrate their values (rather than just talking about them), which reinforces their authenticity and forges a deeper connection with their audience. In other words, they walk the walk.

This is crucial because it radiates integrity and creates trust. Think about a person who talks about their own generosity (often loudly). Now compare that to witnessing someone carrying out a generous act. Two completely different experiences. You can imagine rolling your eyes at the first, whilst being really stirred by the second. Customers have these same feelings when experiencing a brand.

In the age of greenwashing and consumer fatigue, standing for something needs to hit a couple of notes.

Firstly, acts that express brand values must be meaningful (even more importantly than being useful). Customers can sniff an empty gesture a mile away and will be turned off by anything generic or trite. Jumping on the bandwagon and paying lip service are a couple of things sure to curl customers’ lips.

Secondly, acts must be courageous, in choosing the right way over the easy way. This may seem a strange idea, but it’s really about risk. When a brand makes a decision to do something risky —financially or culturally — people sit up and take notice. Even people who are not necessarily existing customers. Acts that are risky, such as Patagonia investing in documentaries, tell customers that they believe the cause is worth it. It’s a declaration of values and a powerful way to reignite a sense of passionate loyalty in your existing customers, and attract new customers who feel the same— AKA bring in some of that good lovin’.

Right now, COVID19 is prompting some acts of brand generosity. Foxtel has unlocked additional channels for subscribers at no extra cost, to help ease the challenges of self-isolation and social distancing. Similarly, Google announced free Hangouts Meet advanced video conferencing features to all G Suite users, helping businesses transition to remote working.

These big brands are taking a financial loss to provide some really useful services at a particular time. Locally, an OohMedia/Junkee campaign is taking a hit to the hip pocket to instil calm and kindness in the midst of COVID19 anxieties, a highly meaningful act of service for the community that gives people much-needed warm and fuzzies now, and will likely be remembered fondly in the future.

Brands can also take a stand politically. Atlassian has been vocal in politics fora few years now, stepping in where they believe government has failed to, like at the UN climate summit last year or during the bushfire season earlier this year.

The risk in getting involved in politics makes their actions more meaningful, as they have something to lose. Taylor Swift made a similarly powerful stance when she publicly endorsed Democrat candidates in her home state of Tennessee two years ago. Whilst it posed a huge risk for her (cut to Netflix doco MissAmericana scene showing her team advising against it), she went ahead and demonstrated her values, prompting almost 65,000 registrations to vote in the 24-hour period following her social media post.

The result of a brand standing for something is attracting and securing the kind of love that can’t be bought — as well as the possibility of making real change in the community beyond customers. It can only be earned by taking a sincere risk. And the payoff of that risk? Priceless.