There are those moments when somebody says something so succinctly and simply it catches you off guard. That is precisely what happened when Tara Tan, the founder of Grin, took the stage at the Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute in Auckland, New Zealand a few weeks back. At one point during her pitch, she said, “We are trying to bond, not brand.” I felt like leaping up and yelling, “exactly!” Instead, I showed the appropriate restraint, or it could have been my recognition that my knees and back don’t allow for any leaping.
It was such a concise way of expressing what is missed too often by natural product founders. The goal shouldn’t be to brand. Instead, it should be to bond with your consumer, to build your tribe.
Branding is the activity of aligning what you want people to believe with what they actually believe about your product. On the other hand, bonding is about making an emotional connection, creating a tie between your product and the consumers’ sense of self. The best brands bond!
The number of Instagram followers is not the measurement of social media success. Rather, it should be measured by the engagement of your followers and your ability to leverage Instagram to build a meaningful 2-way relationship with them.
I sense that we lose sight of this relationship aspect. We keep score counting our followers, likes, impressions, aided awareness, but none of those tell us if we are developing a deeper connection between our products and those who consume them.
One of the decision points that a category manager is likely to evaluate is the switchability of a product. They question what happens if they replace one product with another. When the answer is very little, they can make a simple economic decision. But when there is the potential for upset customers sending emails or complaining at the store level, they think twice. This kind of reaction is your best protection in this business. It comes from building a bond with your consumer.
I am sure; by now, you get my point. So, the question is how to bond? For those long-time readers of my stuff, you probably know what is next; empathy. I get on this soapbox a lot, but I believe empathy is a superpower. Look through the eyes of your consumers. Try to understand their aspirations, struggles, wants, and needs because that is what becomes the mortar that connects your brand to them.
Today, we have so many more ways to build relationships with our consumers online and offline. If your goal is to build a sustainable brand, then you must create a real bond with those who will buy your products. There is an expressed reciprocity in any healthy relationship. It requires both sides to listen, to understand, and to share. There is no difference between brand and consumer and person to person. We don’t connect with people who talk at us or about themselves. We do with those that care, are interested, and want to learn about us. I’ll ask you; how can you build a bond, not a brand?