The internet offers up endless opportunities to build community around the people and things that we love, concentrating that passion until it burns white-hot.
Brands understandably want a piece of the action. After all, what marketing team doesn’t want to cultivate fans who line up for product releases, pass glowing recommendations onto their friends, gush online about their favorite purchases, and then fill up their carts again?
You don’t have to be an iconic brand to inspire this kind of devotion. We work with clients every day who are successfully building those connections, using our technology to understand what their customers are passionate about and consistently meeting them there.
The formula for a brand-love potion
How do people talk about beloved brands? Esquire wrote this about skating-apparel giant Vans a few years ago:
“The brand has become a staple of American footwear culture, on the level with iconic brands like Converse (which is twice as old) and Nike (which is nearly 10 times as large). Vans are worn by celebrities and fashion influencers, the jeans and T-shirt crowd who rarely pay attention to what's stylish, teenagers and toddlers, alike.”
As with most marketing concepts, there are many differing opinions on what builds brand love and how to even define it in the first place.
In their 2012 paper on the topic, three University of Michigan researchers broke the concept down into seven core elements. In the context of cultivating passionate fans, positive emotional connection and self-brand integration are the two most relevant elements for building brand love through your marketing messaging.
“People care about what they already care about”
The above quote, from Steve Bryant of Article Group, is really relevant to the idea of brand love, and especially the two elements I just mentioned. Because we spend so much time thinking about our brand and products, it’s easy for us to have a warped idea of what our audiences will find important or interesting.
That’s why market research is so important. It’s much easier to reach people and inspire brand love when you meet them where they are, but only if you can find the overlap between their interests and your brand.
In that overlap, you can foster the positive emotional connections that build brand love, but consistency is key.
We mentioned Vans above as a brand that inspires devotion, and we also found that the Hispanic consumers in Vans’ target audience are especially engaged with the brand’s social channels. Keeping with that hypothetical example, Helixa can provide the context necessary to engage that audience in more meaningful ways — all in the time it takes for you to read this post.
Find common ground with your audience
To give you more options when looking for points of overlap between your brand and the interests of your audience, Helixa can break out a substantial list of interests for any segment and rank them by affinity.
Our psychographic offerings provide a look at broader interests through lifestyles, while our interests drill down to specific brands, products, media preferences and more.
We discovered about a fifth of Hispanic fans in Vans’ target audience are gamers, with a high affinity for that specific lifestyle and adjacent interests. The brand is no stranger to the world of gaming, given its partnership with Nintendo.
However, while it’s true this segment is interested in Nintendo, we dug deeper and found that these consumers actually favor first-person-shooter games like Call of Duty: Black Ops and adventure games like Assassin’s Creed.
Build influence that goes deeper
With the right approach to influencer marketing, you aren’t just buying eyeballs for your content — you’re also gaining access to the communities they have helped foster. That’s the type of brand love that brands are chasing after.
For a historically skate-centric brand like Vans, it might make sense to partner with a skateboarder who is popular among the Hispanic audience segment. On the other hand, Vans would be speaking mostly to people who already have some connection to their brand.
Instead, I took the gaming angle a step further and looked at influencers in our platform to determine this segment’s favorite gamers.
For instance, a partnership with El Rubius could be successful if Vans planned another, more eSports-oriented foray into the world of gaming. He is a strong influencer for the Hispanic segment of Vans’ target audience, speaks Spanish in his videos, and has deep ties within the Hispanic gaming community.
These are all elements that could help Vans build credibility among Hispanic gamers who aren’t already fans — influence that goes deeper than vanity metrics.
Speak their language
And no, I don’t mean Spanish (though it probably wouldn’t hurt, with 40 percent of this segment speaking the language, according to our platform).
I’m talking about informing the messaging and adopting a manner of speaking that would resonate with the target segment. It’s another element of meeting them where they are.
While most marketers understand their core audience really well, things can get murkier as we move into more niche segments, who may respond differently to our usual messaging style. The trick is finding the overlap (there’s that word again!) between the overall audience and the specific segment we’re speaking to.
A lot of this may come down to trial and error, but Helixa can provide a head start through the psychographics in our platform — this time using personalities.
This personality chart for the Hispanic segment of Vans’ target audience shows that they are highly analytical but still inventive and curious. Vans can pique that curiosity but will probably want to use language that isn’t overly flowery. It’s best to be straight to the point.
The Vans marketing team could leverage that knowledge across an entire media strategy around this Hispanic segment. Paid efforts to reach this audience could reflect that matter-of-fact tone, which should also be carried into owned and social channels where there are no middlemen.
Brand love requires a human touch
At Helixa, a human touch is so important to our platform and the artificial intelligence efforts that drive it. We also realize it will take the touch of a talented marketing team to create brand love from its audience’s interests, influencers, and personality traits uncovered by our platform.
DDB chairman emeritus Keith Reinhard, wrote that brand love, too, relies on more than just algorithms. He used the Spanish phrase, “tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are,” to make the point that the brands you rep tell a story about who you are.
And vice versa, brands send strong signals to their customers based on what they share and the conversations they choose to start. Use Helixa to take out the guesswork along the way, to communicate the right messages, connect in more meaningful ways, and tell the strongest story possible.
Ryan is the Marketing Communications Manager at Helixa, where he leads content strategy from the NYC office. He believes in a lot of things, but never ghosts, guilty pleasures, or his Florida Gators’ offense.