How to create a brand that feels personal
- Content: Article
- Date: 16 July 2022
People connect with brands when brand purpose aligns with customer values–making them feel understood and on the same page. Consumers want to feel like their needs are intuitively understood and like they belong. When a sense of personal connection is high, consumers feel more close to a brand's purpose (distinct from a brand's mission and vision). Human connection is an innate human experience, and the more brands can engender connection, the less resistance they face.
For this reason, controversy can be strongly linked to personal connection. If a brand has an alternative opinion or differing social narrative, consumers may feel a kinship and a sense of belonging to that subgroup of outliers – and will flock to these brands as loyal and passionate lifelong consumers.
In a recent BERA survey about the importance of personal connections in branding, a respondent said that a “brand that can make my life easier, make my life and body healthier, saves me time, and makes me feel better because I trust the personal connection.”
When connected, your customers will feel more heard, understood, and included in your brand’s purpose, and are more likely to be loyal. There are several strategies you can employ, and we’ll get into why building personal connections are so important when building a stronger brand.
What is a personal connection for a business?
Personal connection (or a sense of belonging) is one of Maslow’s five hierarchy of needs that motivates human action. Personal connections include things like life-long relationships, friendships, family, and a sense of connection. This can apply to our relationships with organizations and brands as well. In order for people to feel happy and confident about their decisions, they must feel connected to the action.
Brands come into people’s lives at specific times and have positive, life-changing influences. A product or service can enable someone to be more productive. It can bring them joy in difficult times. Your brand can empower customers by aligning with their social causes and beliefs. By actively pursuing a personal connection through your brand, you can win over their hearts and wallets.
Whether your brand has a special narrative or message that connects with consumers and enables meaningful change in people’s day-to-day lives, there are a number of ways to make personal connections with customers that will lead to an increase in customer loyalty and a more positive brand image for your organization.
Before we dive deeper into strategies around building closer personal connections, let’s look at why establishing a personal connection is so important for branding.
Why it’s so important to focus on brand personalization
Studies about the psychology of personalization and brand connection have been around for decades, and their findings are pretty revealing: the most valuable customer you can have is one who feels connected to your brand. And it’s not just about creating lifelong connections; brand connections -- whether for personal brands or company brands -- bring in paying customers.
This Harvard Business Review study shows how the personal connection to a brand is even more valuable than customer satisfaction. Customers who feel connected to your brand will be 50 percent more valuable than satisfied customers.
Another study cited in Forbes found that brands that establish an emotional connection with customers outperform their competitors by 85 percent. These numbers show that while quality products and service is important, customers also care about being loyal to brands they connect with. They want to personally identify with brands and will spend more on brands that they have a personal connection.
But you don’t need a degree in psychology to master this brand attribute; think of How to Win Friends and Influence People, or how you would like to be treated when forging relationships and you can establish best practices.
Quick tips you can leverage:
Personalization: People feel more connected when you use their name
Interest: Show genuine interest in consumers' behavior and interests
Pick your battles: Don’t try to change too many consumer opinions or behaviors
Praise: Consumers love fanfare, find ways to make them feel special
Storytelling: People love brands who engage them in stories
How to promote personal connection with your customers
Below are three concrete strategies you can start implementing today to build a personal connection with your customers.
Communicate on the right channels
One way to connect with customers is to meet them on their preferred channels. Social media strategies are difficult to pinpoint because of how varied expectations are on each platform. Both Ryanair and Duolingo are huge TikTok successes because they aren’t trying to sell to their customers. They’re creating experiences and generating excitement around TikTok meme culture. They understand that TikTok users prefer light-hearted, frivolous content and are able to connect with consumers on their own terms. The same campaign, however, may not be as successful as a platform like Facebook, which tends to have an older demographic.
There’s a big difference between being authentic and trying to be authentic. The fastest way to turn off customers is to feign authenticity and values. If you’re running ads or sharing content centered around environmentalism, make sure your values align with that marketing campaign–or at least partner up with a charitable foundation that supports the environment. The best way to be authentic is to start with your mission statement and brand purpose. How can your purpose as a company connect with consumers? Lean into those strengths and connect with your customers in a way that comes intuitively to what you do and who you are.
Listen and understand your customers
You can’t build a personal connection with your customers if you don’t know who your customers are. Offer surveys to your customers. Follow their comments and posts on social media, and take note of their product/service reviews. Leverage data through your CRM and other customer management tools to understand your demographics. From there, you can engage with customers in a way that appeals to their interests, values, and habits.
Examples of personal brands
Below are three different brands with three very different approaches to personally connecting with their customers.
Toyota’s “Brother’s” ad
This Toyota ad brought tears to many viewers’ eyes when it aired in the 2022 Super Bowl. It features the childhood and special bond of two brothers, Brian and Robin McKeever, who accomplished the impossible together. After Brian was diagnosed with a retinal degenerative disease at the age of 19, he and his brother chased their gold-medal dream to the Paralympic Winter Games. The story is compelling and made an instant emotional connection with millions. As one of nine major Paralympic Games partners, Toyota was in a good position to align itself with the incredible story of the brothers’ success and did justice to their story.
Wendy’s Twitter presence
Wendy’s, like Duolingo and Ryanair on TikTok, took a different approach to connecting with customers. Its sassy Twitter exchanges are no secret in 2022, and the fast food chain was able to connect with consumers through whit, humor, and light-heartedness. Rather than sell their food, it sells an experience that customers can relate to. Meme culture was invented by and for the internet, and Wendy’s understood the value of that when they took Twitter by storm.
Ben & Jerry’s polarizing brand campaign
Ben & Jerry’s has never been shy to express their opinions on the most topical social and political issues. In fact, they have a whole page on their website that shows their progressive values. This is a tricky thing to pull off because, on the one hand, Ben & Jerry is polarizing its customer base. At the same time, it’s creating a more loyal customer base for those customers who identify with their political/social stance. There’s always a risk of politicizing your brand, but Ben & Jerry’s shows how even something as universally loved as ice cream can still make a strong personal connection with customers.
The most important thing to understand about personally connecting with customers is that there isn’t one right answer. If you’re in an industry that has a natural social narrative (public health, environmental efforts, and the arts are all good examples of this), then you’re positioned to simply lean into your mission statement and values to connect with customers. Other companies, like Wendy’s and Duolingo, had to be a little more creative to connect with customers.
Can you measure a brand’s personal connection?
Wish you had a way to measure your brand’s personal connection to your customers? With BERA, now you can.
Personal connection is just one of 13 purpose attributes that BERA tracks and factors into a brand’s BERA Score. With BERA you can effectively measure, manage, and maximize your branding campaign.
Grow your customer base, connect with customers, and predict your branding efforts with BERA today.