How to be a brand that people love to own / by Chris W. Hubbard

Sometimes the easiest way to understand brands is to think about them as people. There are generally three types of people in your life: People you don't like, people you are indifferent to, and people you love.

The people you love are the ones you should be spending all your time with. They're the ones you should talk about. They're the ones you should introduce to your other friends. They're the ones with the qualities you look for in new people. 

Everything in our lives—including brands and their products—can be put into these three simple categories. Like people, the things we own should be getting the lions share of our time, attention and praise. Unfortunately, it's not hard to find yourself surrounded by things you are indifferent to, and even dislike. Most of us have, at some point, asked ourselves how we "ended up with so much stuff."

"Stuff" is simply products we own, by brands we don't love. No owner of a Harley Davidson ever referred to his motorcycle as "stuff." People don't buy a Harley Davidson just because it's a good motorcycle. They buy a Harley Davidson because the brand embodies the things they love and value in life.

In her best-selling book "The life-changing magic of tidying up" Marie Kondo suggests that we should only own things that we love, and discard the rest.

So how can brands be things that people love to own and not discard? In my opinion, it comes down to three things:

1 - Make super high-quality products

Things I own—that I love to own—are always super high-quality products. I might have flinched when I saw the price tag on my Lululemon yoga mat, but the experience of using it overcomes that. 80% of my experience is enabled by its super high-quality. And no salesperson at Lululemon needed to convince me with brochures or a pitch. It was obvious. When something is super high-quality, it’s easy to love. If you’re a brand, make that a goal.

2 - Tell a new story

How is your current brand story? Do you feel good telling it? Do others appear to like hearing it? If not, then stop telling it and craft a new story immediately. Brands that people love to own always have good stories because they know that a good story is retold. The Lululemon brand name comes from the founder who simply wanted to create a name with as many "L's" as possible. Does that make any sense at first? No, but it's a damn good story, and I love to tell people about it. If you don't have a good story, start crafting a new one right now. If you need help, ask me.  

3 - Seek to build a community, not a customer base

Brands that people love to own don't have customers, they have communities and people who support them. I don't know this for a fact, but I seriously doubt a brand like Nike would ever use the word customer. Customers don't buy Nikes, athletes do, and they love the brand because they can see it clearly supports the things they love—so they love it in return. Ask yourself if you have a community. If you don't, then you only have customers, and they don’t love you.

To be a brand that people love to own, you need all three. People might love a product you make, but that doesn't mean they love your brand—there's no promise of support in the future. For example, I love my Philips mini blender. I use it almost every day. It's a high-quality product at a good price. But do I love Philips as a brand? Nope. I have no idea what their "story" is. There doesn't seem to be any blender community that I know of yet. (although it’s not a bad idea. Philips, get on that.) If I needed another beverage related kitchen appliance I wouldn't necessarily look to them first. But those are things that they could start to change.

Brands, like people, can improve. Those you disliked or were indifferent to yesterday have the ability to become super high-quality, tell great stories, and participate in communities that will love and support them. When they do, they will be brands that people love to own too.