Marketers already know about share of voice and share of category. These important metrics tell marketers who is talking about them, how often, and how they compare to the competition. Unfortunately, these numbers don't tell the whole story. Another measurement, one focused on your connection to culture, is far more influential.
"By choosing a particular brand, a person reaffirms both her own and her tribe's perception about her desired identity," says Gavin Johnston, chief strategy officer at Bradley and Montgomery. "As a result, people use brands both to reassure themselves and to signal others what kind of person they are."
Bradley and Montgomery, an independent creative agency, coined the Win Share of Culture approach, which defines a metric of influence that extends beyond the basics of likes and shares. "In other words," Johnston explains, "the brands we choose send a message about who we are in different contexts. The brands we choose are communication tools we use to express our different personas."
Consumers rely on relationships with brands to help define their identities. To them, brands are more than makers of preferred products -- they are extensions of personality. The companies that understand that relationship and leverage it to their advantage are better able to position themselves as part of the cultural landscape.
Influential Brands and Consumer Identity
To insert themselves deeper into the lives of their target audiences, brands must identify what differentiates them from the competition and communicate that to consumers.
According to research published in Harvard Business Review, 64 percent of consumers say "shared values" are the top reason they enter a relationship with a brand. That backs up research from Cube, which found that 48 percent of consumers expect brands to know them and recommend products they would like. The more personal the brand relationship, the stronger the connection becomes.
Boosting your cultural connection doesn't just feel good. Brands that become part of consumer identities enjoy higher profits and increased loyalty. Research from Kantar Consulting and BrandZ shows that brands that have a "high positive impact" on individuals' lives have far greater brand value than those who do not, with one study setting the value at 2.5 times greater than the low-impact competition.
Transforming Brand Recognition Into Cultural Influence
Although every marketer would love to inspire increased brand loyalty, only a few succeed. To increase your share of culture -- and your chances of turning happy customers into true brand loyalists -- follow one of these strategies.
1. Market as an activity.
Try transforming the consumer's association with your brand into a journey of self-improvement. No brand does this better than Fitbit, which leveraged its reach in the consumer world to become the go-to provider of office wellness plans.
Fitbit does more than provide its signature wristbands to business clients. The wellness company owns the culture of healthy living at work. From webinars to employee support to shared dashboards, Fitbit handles it all. That reputation as a partner invested in the healthy lifestyles of its clients empowers Fitbit to define the culture of corporate wellness (and rake in the revenue as it does).
2. Market as an identity.
Some people define themselves by taking sides in brand wars. For instance, Pepsi became a heavy hitter in the soda business when it created "The Pepsi Generation" in the 1980s. And when Avis took on Hertz with its "We Try Harder" campaign, it turned a profit for the first time in more than a decade.
Brands in every industry have fan bases, but no brand has inspired a consumer identity quite like Apple. Apple customers aren't just people who buy Apple products. They are Apple people. Someone with a Samsung phone might have a Dell laptop and a Lenovo tablet, but an iPhone owner probably uses a MacBook and an iPad, too.
This loyalty remains strong because Apple puts its consumers at the center of everything it does. The "Shot on iPhone" campaign is a great example: Users felt like part of a community as they shared their videos, and Apple received free advertising for the improved camera on its new phone. The campaign accomplished what every identity marketer aspires to do -- bring consumers together with the brand acting as the common denominator.
3. Market as an ideal.
Identity and ideal are not the same. Apple inspires people to live a certain lifestyle, but brands like TOMS inspire people to impact the world alongside them.
The TOMS brand remains at the top of the hip shoe market because of its mission. For every pair of shoes purchased, the company donates a pair to someone in need. It's a simple, effective model, and TOMS keeps the initiative at the forefront of all its branding to remind consumers why this brand deserves their business more than any other. Because of the mission, it's never about price or quality: It's about doing what's right, side by side with the brand.
These three strategies provide separate paths to the same destination. Each boosts your cultural connection in its own way, inspiring consumers to follow a brand for reasons beyond products. By leveraging activity, identity, or ideals, marketers can demonstrate to consumers why their companies deserve loyalty.