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Why Do Brands Become Irresistible?

May 21, 2020


Why Do Brands Become Irresistible?

As we hit “play” again on daily life and routine, many of us are asking some hard-hitting questions. Turns out that turning the entire world upside down can really make you think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

For a lot of us, that has meant getting back to basics, digging down to the roots of our companies. Looking back can teach us a lot—about where we came from, how we’ve grown, and even where we’re growing in the future.

We should look beyond our own brands here too, especially if we find ourselves struggling to really connect with our customers lately. Other companies’ success stories can help us discover our own.

As we look at these other success stories, we need to ask certain questions—mostly the tough ones, the “why”s. Why do people love this brand? Why has this brand been able to keep connecting and grow this way?

In short, we need to ask why brands become irresistible—and then we can those answers and discover our own success stories.

The Roots of Brand Success

It’s easy to look at a successful brand like Coca-Cola and say their success is in their marketing (campaigns with some serious staying power) or their product or even just how big they are.

All of those things play a role in a successful business, but the core of Coke’s branding—and that of any company, really—is deeper than that. Some research suggests there are actually 8 key features of an irresistible brand. Expertise and forward momentum are two of those, but even more important are the factors that strike at the emotional core of a brand. The brand has to mean something to people.

Let’s take a look at Tim Hortons. The coffee chain might have slipped from the top spot in Canada in recent years, but you’d still be hard-pressed to find a Canadian who didn’t have some kind of emotional relationship with the coffee chain.

For a lot of us, Tim’s is almost synonymous with community. Maybe you’ve never drank their coffee, but your kids played on a Timbits team or went to a Tim Horton’s summer camp. You might even know someone who works for Tim’s. For others, Tim’s evokes memories of time spent with family, with friends on road trips, or of special moments and events.

That message of community is often backed up across products. Tim Hortons is involved in plenty of minor league sports and activities involving kids. On certain days, buying a coffee or a cookie at Tim’s helps you support kids’ activities, in your community and across Canada. Even recently, there was a campaign to support Nova Scotia in the wake of tragedy—a reminder of how connected our Canadian community can be.

We can see some of the other factors that make a brand “irresistible” here: alignment, symbolism, and nexus. The different elements of the Tim Horton’s brand—minor league sports, support for community initiatives, affordable coffee—connect to create this idea of a community. The language used around the brand reflect this idea too; messages about fresh pots of coffee and friendly staff remind us that ordering our “double-double” and a cookie make us all part of this community.

The last factor is differentiation. Many people think this means your brand must “stand out” in the crowd, but I think it helps to look at it a little differently. You’re not trying to be different for the sake of being different. We want our brands to stand up for what we believe in. In the case of a brand like Tim’s, that’s community—this isn’t a slick West Coast café full of hipsters (that’s a different set of loyal customers).

Building Brand Authenticity

One thing I always notice is that almost all of the factors involved in making a brand irresistible have their roots in emotion. Your brand’s symbolic language creates an emotional reaction in the customer. Alignment means those emotions are consistent; you’re not saying “community” with one ad and “exclusive club” with another.

The emotional core of the brand is its essence. Coca-Cola is a beverage company, sure, but its brand is built around joy—enjoying a refreshing drink is a simple pleasure. Nike is a sports equipment company, but it wants its athletes to push their limits and “just do it.” And Tim Horton’s invites us to be connected and part of a community. These emotions speak to the brands’ higher purpose—their very reason for existing. It’s not just selling running shoes or cola or coffee.

We have to be careful to make sure that the brand is aligned though. It’s easy to “pick a purpose,” slap it on, and say that’s what you do now. But that’s not enough to make a brand irresistible.

Your purpose has to be authentic. Your brand has to deeply embrace that purpose—it has to live and breathe it. Nike says “just do it,” then funds special projects like breaking the marathon world record. Their R&D department is always looking for ways to push products, to help people “just do it” and achieve their athletic goals.

Their purpose informs how they relate to their customers and everything they do. And it comes from a place of authenticity. It’s easy for me to believe Nike wants me to succeed, even if I’m not a pro marathon runner. And that belief in me never, ever feels fake.

The same is true of Tim Horton’s. It’s easy to see that the commitment to community runs deep; it’s not just lip-service.

So, what do we learn from this? We have to be authentic about our purpose. We can’t just make up goals or values and hope they stick. Saying we’re involved in community or we believe in our customers isn’t enough. They have to be able to feel that, and that means we have to believe it. That’s what makes a brand authentic.

The Core of Irresistibility

From where I’m standing, I see irresistibility flowing from that emotional core or purpose. When you know what your purpose is, it’s easy to make the brand “add up” (nexus). Alignment comes more naturally. The symbolic language of your brand evolves from the purpose: Nike’s check mark, their slogan—both simply, elegantly speak to the purpose of this brand.

We can even see the purpose driving know-how and brand momentum for a company like Nike. I mentioned their R&D department working on new products to push athletic achievement forward in different ways. Thanks to this, and Nike’s long history, we as consumers can trust their innovations are backed up by science. And we can see the brand pushing forward, taking athletes to exciting new heights.

When all these factors align, it just makes sense to choose this brand. And that’s what brand irresistibility is all about. We gravitate to irresistible brands because we know they fulfill our needs—not just for a shoe or a coffee, but for meeting our changing goals or growing with our communities.

And it all starts with the why!


Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing

Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.

Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.

And it all starts with why!

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