Emotional connections can be measured at the register

How do you sell more products and services? That's the simple question every marketer poses. Years ago, one approach rose above the pack - it was called the "challenger brand" strategy.

How do you sell more products and services? That's the simple question every marketer poses. Years ago, one approach rose above the pack – it was called the “challenger brand” strategy. I'm sure everyone remembers: “We're Avis; we try harder.” It made marketing about showing why you were better than the No. 1 company.

Today, an evolutionary approach to the Challenger Brand concept is taking hold – one that focuses on the customer, not the competition. It's called the “Breakout Brand” strategy and it recognizes that emotions are driving purchases like never before. What is an emotional attachment? It's the passion of those who line up for new Apple products that some say are not even as good as other brands. Its why - while Dunkin Donuts is the bulk leader - Starbucks fans make 20% more visits per month than Dunkin Donuts fans, and have 29% higher average spend.

Not convinced that emotions are driving brand success? Consider this: according to a survey by the polling firm IBOPE/Zogby International for rbb Public Relations, of the 2,000 adults surveyed, 83% say that they are willing to spend more on a product or service if they feel a personal connection to the company. One-fifth of respondents say they would pay 50% or more if they felt the company put the customer first.

How do customers know you are putting them first? Breakout Brands create powerful customer experiences. Consider Zappos.com and its free return policy backed by a fun-loving customer service approach that delivers “happiness.” Or, how many of you believe the holidays begin when Starbucks' limited edition menu options, like the Pumpkin Spice Latte or Peppermint Mocha become available?

There are three specific steps to adopting Breakout Brand strategies to make your cash register sing:

  1. Don't chase, lead: Breakout Brands shoot to be No. 1 in mindshare within a certain space or among a distinct audience. They don't ignore the competition but they don't copy it either.
  2. Create the future: Be open-minded and anticipate customer needs. No focus group in the world would have yielded that adults wanted to pay $100-plus for circus tickets. But Cirque du Soleil stretched to recognize that consumers did want new forms of entertainment to astonish and delight them. Who knew that we needed to tell the world every detail of our lives until Facebook told us we did? Always customer-centered, Breakout Brands aim to do more or make life easier for their audiences.
  3. Communicate with soul: Integrate the communications platform into the business plan from day one. Don't expect communications teams to come in after the fact and sell an artificial image or benefit. Consider how many companies try to promote customer service as a differentiator but are loathe to give out a customer support phone number in favor of pushing online FAQ. Companies need to be sincere and consistent.

Today, thinking outside the box is a very inside-the-box concept. Instead of comparing ideas and deliverables to a competitor, organizations of all sizes must prove themselves to be unique and connected in ways that their customers never saw coming.

Christine Barney is the CEO of rbb Public Relations, a marketing public relations firm. She can be reached at christine.barney@rbbpr.com.

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