These are [insert preferred adjective here] times.
What did you go for? Challenging, surreal, mad, unprecedented?
The world is in turmoil and there’s no clear end in sight. And yet, amidst the disillusionment, chaos and negativity, we’ve seen far more than just a glimmer of good and hope. Generally we are being nicer, kinder, more supportive of one another. We’re putting others first, or at least thinking more about others than we might have previously in a selfie-obsessed culture. Small gestures and bigger ones in support of individuals, communities and society as a whole, are happening all the time in the face of collective adversity.
Not just at a personal level either. Businesses are putting people before profit and making sacrifices for the greater good.
We’ve seen countless examples of businesses pivoting their operations and channelling their resources and know-how to help where it’s most required. The corporate face of business has been replaced by a human one. Brands acknowledged and applauded not based on the products or services they provide – but how they behave and what’s behind that behaviour.
A powerful spotlight has been well and truly shone on what it is to be human and the value of being more human. We are being reminded that as human beings we connect through emotion, that emotion trumps logic, and that we need to talk to the heart because the head ain’t listening. The world is waking up to this, and so too must businesses, if they are to survive now and thrive tomorrow.
This idea sits at the very heart of Brand Magnetism – a perspective on long term business success we’ve been exploring and developing for some time.
What is a Magnetic Brand?
Magnetic Brands possess an uncommon level of attraction, loyalty, trust and resilience, and as a result, consistently outperform their competitors. The source of that enduring appeal are certain common characteristics – a particular mix of human magnetism qualities and behaviours unrelated to what the business does. The significance of this – and the exciting bit – is that these characteristics can all be practised, developed and improved. Which means becoming magnetic is within the reach of any brand.
The Muscles of Magnetism
We’ve identified four ever-present characteristics in the most successful brands. Because they can all be honed with discipline and flexed at different times, we call them the Muscles of Magnetism.
Here’s a top-level look at each…
Without exception Magnetic Brands are purposeful. They stand for something. They are crystal clear in what they believe, value and are ultimately trying to achieve. That raison d’etre transcends profit making. They possess an air of confidence, born of their sense of purpose, that instils confidence in others too. As with the physical properties of magnets, polarisation comes with the territory as well. If you have strong beliefs, not everyone will agree with them. But those who do have the potential to be fiercely loyal and will wave your flag for you.
Nike is a classic example. An organisation that has always understood the power of emotion in communication. Their mission is clearly stated: bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world (*if you have a body, you are an athlete). It’s inclusive and it’s about people not products.
Nike has never been afraid to take a stand for what it believes in either – their use of Colin Kaepernick in advertising a fine example.
Different scale, different space, we worked closely with Preservica, B2B pioneers in digital file preservation, to better articulate their purpose, previously obscured by a focus on technology. The result? A re-energised organisation, greater engagement from clients, prospects, and employees, and an increase in the number of high-calibre applicants.
Magnetic brands zig when others zag. They flex the human super-power of creative thought.They question the world, ask why and what if, and as result draw others towards them. They think differently and so do differently.
They’re curious by nature, often seeking to disrupt and challenge, in search of ways to make lives better, to make things happen, to make the world a better place. Think of how AirBnB reimagined an entire industry.
Magnetic Brands are disciplined in their use of imagination, from how they solve core business challenges, to the way they present themselves to the world and express what they stand for. They apply imagination to be remarkable, hard to ignore, and create cut-through. Creativity is at the heart of their attraction.
Going deeper, they often use humour and wit to powerful effect – quick to find ways to create a smile in the mind. They recognise and understand the close links between humour, creativity and engagement – the need to stimulate an emotional response. And if you’re thinking this doesn’t really apply to B2B, take a look at this. Van Damme, two big trucks, and Enya. Tell me that’s not imaginative.
Magnetic Brands are generous in the way that magnetic people are generous. Generous with their time and energy, even if they don’t have a lot of the former and like everyone their energy is finite. They give a lot of themselves. They make others feel listened to, important, valued, and good about themselves. So too, Magnetic Brands recognise it’s a two-way street. They seek to give more than they take.
The net balance of their contribution to society is positive, lives are improved and the world is a better place for their existence. Brands that think and behave in that way draw people in their direction – customers, employees, partners – all stakeholders. We’ve seen so many examples of generosity recently, too many to pick just one, but Brewdog’s rapid switch in use of alcohol at a time when hand sanitizers were in desperately short supply illustrates the point beautifully.
Arguably the foundation of it all, Magnetic Brands are authentic. We’re drawn to genuine people. It’s a simple trust thing. And we spot very quickly when people aren’t genuine, and our reaction is in the opposite direction, we’re repelled.
It’s the same when it comes to the power of magnetic brands. They walk the talk. Hollow words have no place. There is substance to their story. They evidence what they have to say with actions and behaviours and build trust as a result.
Patagonia epitomises the Magnetic Brand. Purposeful, Imaginative, Generous, Authentic. They demonstrate all the muscles of magnetism in spades, but their response back in 2017 to changes in US corporation tax says everything about Authenticity.
Being authentic also means not getting everything right all of the time. And when you don’t, it means being prepared to put your hand in the air. Magnetic Brands earn respect and create deeper bonds as a result. They are also careful not to take themselves too seriously in the game of business. They understand the appeal of imperfection.
A quick note of caution. ‘Authenticity’ can be a fine line. The worst thing brands can do, and we’ve seen plenty of this recently, is virtue signalling – superficially jumping on the back of causes or movements, for the sake of being seen to do so, as opposed to supporting in any meaningful way.
Gillette took a lot of flack for their referencing of the #metoo movement in their ‘Best a man can be’ campaign. And charging more for women’s razors than men’s. Lots of high profile brands have come out in support of BLM, some coming under fire with accusations of a lack of substance to the support or suggestions that they should get their own house in order first. Even Nike with it’s ‘Don’t Do it’ in support of BLM has been questioned with respect to its own lack of ethnic diversity at board level.
To finish (for now at least)
So there you have it, a whistle-stop introduction to Brand Magnetism and what underpins it. And I’m guessing you’ve spotted what unifies the muscles? Aside from all being human qualities that can be developed and improved, they are also ‘good’ qualities. And that’s because Magnetic Brands are good brands – in every sense. They make a difference as well as a profit. Magnetic brands make the world a better place. So if you’re not yet on the path to magnetism, it’s time you were. And if you need a guide, you know where to find us.
This post is intended as an introduction to Brand Magnetism. At mark-making*, we believe in business as a force for good and are passionate about unlocking potential. Magnetic Brands has been conceived to help marketers and business leaders understand how to create stronger and sustainable appeal, build loyalty and trust, and ultimately achieve greater business success. As we continue the Magnetic Brands series, we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and getting practical and specific around how to build Brand Magnetism. If you’d like to be kept up to date with all the latest on Magnetic Brands, plus other sources of inspiration and insight, subscribe to our monthly round-up here and we’ll deliver it direct to your inbox.