Building a loved company

Back in November of last year, MarketingProfs’ Marketing Smarts podcast featured marketing expert Brian Sheehan, author of “Loveworks: How the world’s top marketers make emotional connections to win in the marketplace.” Sheehan discussed how companies make the transition from organizations that simply serve a purpose to brands that are truly loved.

Specifically, according to Sheehan, loved companies embody the following eight characteristics:

1) They are driven by purpose, with a clear idea of what they do and why they do it
“If you’ve got a really strong sense of purpose, consumers will really latch onto that, because purpose leads to authenticity,” said Sheehan.

Indeed, most firms are created to fill a need, which leads to Sheehan’s second point.

2) There is a reason behind their existence
Companies should have stories that explain how and why they came about in the first place, as well as inspire people to use their products and services in new and exciting ways.

3) Customers develop an emotional connection to their products and services because they offer competitive benefits
“When products give you really strong emotional advantages, you feel really strongly about them,” Sheehan explained. “A good example of that is Apple.”

4) They aren’t content to rest on their laurels; they uncover the truth
It can be easy for companies to bask in their current success and only focus on what their most loyal customers have to say.

“Most marketers have a very warped view of what the average consumer thinks about them,” Sheehan said. “People spend millions of dollars to research their consumers. In many cases, it gives them the exact wrong image of where they stand with the average consumer.”

On the contrary, loved companies put time and effort into determining why some consumers only use their products and services occasionally, and others avoid them altogether.

5) They build movement among their customer base with the goal of cultivating forward motion, which will in turn lead to expansion
“You need to recognize that if you want to grow substantially, your most loyal customers are probably using as much of your product as they’re ever going to use, because they love you,” Sheehan pointed out. “If you want to grow 15 percent a year, 20 percent a year, you need to either get new customers or lots of non-loyal customers to use your product more often.”

6) They position themselves as creative leaders
Brands that establish themselves as creative ultimately set themselves apart from their competitors, thereby attracting the attention of consumers.

7) Customers and employees are united by a rallying cry
A rallying cry encapsulates what a company is all about. This typically starts behind the scenes as a means of uniting employees, but some rallying cries go on to become advertising slogans in their own right. Sheehan presented the example of Lexus, whose “Relentless pursuit of perfection” is one of the longest-running tag lines in advertising history. Nike and Apple’s famous slogans – “Just do it” and “Think different,” respectively – are two other good examples.

8) They aren’t afraid to cultivate a little mystery
Rather than presenting all their products and services upfront, loved companies establish a mystique to help draw in customers. However, Sheehan was quick to note, this isn’t the same as dishonesty or not being sufficiently transparent.

“Mystery doesn’t mean that we’re not being honest; it’s about storytelling,” he maintained. “If you tell really interesting stories, there’s sort of a mystery to you because you’re … a brand who consistently comes up with these really interesting stories. A good example of that would be GEICO.”

The employee component
Employees are a central part of every firm, and they can be instrumental in turning a business that simply chugs along into one that stands out from the crowd and inspires passion from its customers. Indeed, a recent report released by Achievers and Harvard Business Review Analytic Services offered insight into the connection between employee engagement and positive business results.

Among the more than 550 executives who took part in the study, nearly three-quarters (71 percent) said employee engagement was very important when it came to achieving overall organizational success. However, fewer than one-quarter (24 percent) reported that their own workers were highly engaged – suggesting, as Achievers CEO Patrick D. Quirk said in a statement, that “employee engagement needs to be a top priority for executives in today’s changing workplace.”

Ultimately, executives eager to turn their companies into loved brands should start by looking close to home, examining aspects of the corporate environment that hinder employee engagement. These might include components such as high turnover, low productivity, absenteeism/presenteeism and more.

About Caldwell Partners

Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 40 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America and in London, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

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