Do you want to build a great brand? Steal these secrets from Patagonia, yeti,

When digital advertising emerged more than 20 years ago, most companies made the mistake of assuming that it was merely a replacement for analog advertising – that the difference was a delivery system and not a fundamental change in dynamics.

Rather than seeing an opportunity to use new techniques to create a great brand, most companies simply adapted the shiny new tools to their cumbersome old strategy of disruptive marketing. 32-second TV spots became 30-second pre-rolls. Print advertisements became advertising banners. Junk mail became spam. Soon after, brands shifted their focus to social media, offering us cat memes and ice bucket challenges, little realizing that the fundamentals of brand building had completely changed. The secret ingredient most brands are missing is empowerment.

With every new advance in technology — artificial intelligence, augmented reality, the metaverse, to name a few — companies keep reeling and missing the big picture: Big brands are making people’s lives better, one small step at a time. Big brands use every tool at their disposal to empower people. Mediocre brands squander these tools on interruptions and frivolous messages, never changing their underlying strategy to acknowledge that technology has completely transformed how people relate to brands.

Shift the relationship from transactional to emotional

As brands make the shift from disruption to empowerment, they fundamentally shift their relationship with their customers from transactional to emotional. Transaction brands offer the right product at the right price at the right time. If someone needs this product and the price seems fair, they will buy it; but they will not be a loyal customer and certainly will not actively recommend. They experience the brand as a short-term, rational business.

Emotional brands, on the other hand, create irrational relationships – in the most positive sense of the word. They generate irrational enthusiasm. They can charge irrationally high prices. Your customers ignore the competition. Many become evangelists, promoting the brand on their clothing, on social media, in online reviews and in passionate conversations around the dinner table. The power of evangelists reveals one of the most important rules of modern business: the more evangelists you have, the fewer ads you have to buy.

Think beyond interruptions and superficial messages

Patagonia is the flagship of this approach, invest a lot in events, online content and documentation to protect the environment. At one point, the brand even used its homepage to say “don’t buy this jacket” to educate people about the harmful effects of consumption. But empowerment doesn’t always have to be a Patagonia-inspired nonprofit initiative that promises to save the world. While such efforts are great, most people don’t expect brands to hug the trees and save the manatees. They simply want their own lives to be improved, one small step at a time.

Fender, for example, has focused on empowerment through education. The company came under pressure when young musicians changed from traditional instruments to electronics and computers. In response, the brand has created a platform called Fender Play, which offers bespoke video-based lessons that use data, technology and creativity to help aspiring musicians become better guitar players, whether they own a Fender guitar or not . These efforts ultimately cast a positive light on the brand generate interest in their products.

Inspiration is another powerful tool for empowerment. Yeti is the obvious example as the brand grew exponentially by writing immersive stories about people experiencing some of the world’s most amazing adventures. Smaller brands in highly competitive industries have also embraced this mantle, including 805 Beer, which has made a number of films about people living the brand’s chill culture. These videos have turned their customers into brand evangelists who share the links on social media and behave like walking billboards covered in hats and clothing adorned with the 805 Beer logo.

Give customers what they want

Perhaps the most overlooked form of empowerment is simply making shopping easier and more informed. Like businesses, people want a positive ROI on their purchases. Helping potential customers understand product features and functions might not be as sexy as creating cool 30-second ads, but it’s a great tool to empower customers.

Warby Parker became famous for breaking the monopoly in the eyewear category. Not only did they make it easier to try on glasses from the comfort of your own home, they also donated a pair with every purchase. Much of their current success, however, stems from the brand’s incredible customer service that ties their mobile app, website, and stores together. This connection was so important that management reviewed dozens of different point-of-sale technology platforms before making a decision build by yourself from scratch to meet their exact needs, to understand each customer’s eye care needs, style preferences and purchase history.

The common denominator of these brands is that they have found an authentic and valuable place in their customers’ lives. They create immersive experiences that sit at the intersection of what matters to the brand and what matters to their customers. When brands create content that improves people’s lives, they no longer have to worry about whether enough people are watching their 30-second ads. You can get fans to invest 30 minutes or even 30 hours by engaging them with immersive, compelling content they actually want to consume. Do you want to build a great brand? Steal these secrets from Patagonia, yeti,


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