We all have beliefs.
We believe in sports teams (Go Caps!), we believe in religion, we believe in our causes. We believe in our passions and what we one day want to become. But one thing that we all do – sometimes unknowingly – is believe in brands.
We all have it – that list of aspirational products. Maybe it’s a Yeti cooler; maybe it’s a Porshe 911. These things we want, or seemingly need, feel so significant because brands have a way of entering our lives. They show us a piece of who they are. They create connections that make us feel important, special, younger, cooler – like a better version of who we are today. They inspire us. And when that spark that has been lit, that is what we call branding magic.
And that is where brands become more than just a product. They tell a story and bring us along for the ride with the hope that they will one day become part of our story.
Below is a list of brands doing it right, and why they’re successful in creating a loyal fanbase of believers, not just consumers.
First, their product is good. Not a bad place to start. Second, they’re purpose-driven. Patagonia pledges at least one percent of sales or 10 percent of pre-tax profits—whichever is more—to environmental groups. In the past, they’ve deliberately stunted growth of their company in order to better service the environment and they continue to advocate for reusing and recycling old clothing via a program they created called Common Threads.
By educating us about their process and putting their pledge first, Patagonia actually makes us feel more connected to them as a brand. It becomes something more meaningful than the products they sell. They actually care, and as a result, we do too.
Transparency. Transparency. Transparency.
At first glance, Everlane looks like just another ecommerce clothing outlet. The modern web design, conservative style, and solid t-shirt patterns might fool you. But beyond that is a level of transparency few retailers dare to reveal, particularly in pricing. Customers can see material, labor, and shipping costs. Everlane executes compliance audits to evaluate factors like fair wages, reasonable hours, and safe environments for their factories.
They are groundbreaking (in terms of fashion companies), and are leading the charge along with companies like Reformation, People Tree, and Modernation. Telling consumers how the product is made, from A to Z, and providing pricing breakdowns puts the customer, and not the company, first.
Is the product actually better than similar brands at a similar price point? Debatable. But sometimes a brand that makes us feel young and confident can be more important than quality. And a brand that was born from an organic story of beauty blogging and inclusive values can definitely be more important than quality.
Glossier is famously diverse in their model casting, claiming “inclusivity” as their number one priority. They’ve connected with the millennial female by creating products that strike the right balance between glamorous and humble; between “buy our product” and “but not too much, because you’re beautiful the way you are.” That feels like a refreshing view, and one that millennials can get behind.
The story of Nike isn’t about the story of Nike at all. The story is about you – your goals, ambitions, and triumph over self-doubt. Just. Do. It.
…Yes, we’re still talking about shoes. Nike is known for Jordan, Back to The Future, and Tinker Hatfield. They basically own the footwear market (and literally own the basketball sector), but that’s half the battle in building brand loyalty. Nike markets empowerment. They market a better you. They market seemingly bespoke (and, with Nike ID, literally bespoke) products that reveal your character, while simultaneously representing a colossal company. Nike believes in you, which likely means you believe in Nike.
There’s nothing sexier than an indestructible vacuum-insulated stainless steel cooler, right?
Yeti might just be a superior product; one that doesn’t need effective marketing to create brand belief. But they’re expensive (starting at $250 for their smallest cooler). It’s not easy to convince new markets to make such an aggressive investment. The solution: sell the story of the hardcore outdoorsman. There are very few Yeti owners that need to keep anything ice cold for a week, or store anything that is “Grizzly proof” (literally a certification they have). But that aspiration and alignment with the rugged outdoors is what they’re selling; the potential for adventure, risk, and spontaneity.
In conclusion: quality isn’t cutting it.
We don’t just believe in brands – or their products – because of the quality. It’s a huge selling point, but in a world with real-time reviews, social media, heightened expectations for corporate social responsibility, and increased competition, quality just isn’t good enough. We believe in these companies because their brand stories are great – they connect with us in a way that we don’t always realize. It’s something we as humans want to take with us and integrate into our own story. No, it’s not religion. But brands possess the power to inspire, impact, motivate, and do serious good for the world. And to those that live up to that power, we salute (and believe in) you.