One of the essential components of an emotive brand is a brand promise. Yes, we’re always talking about emotional responses and getting people to engage, but people don’t engage with fluff. They engage with something they relate to, and that comes from a driving idea.
You can quickly test whether you have a brand promise – and a potentially emotive brand – by asking two questions.
First, what is the brand promise? This should be the easy one. If you’re Zara, it’s fast fashion. If you’re Pepsi, you’re “living for now.” If you’re Starbucks, you’re the world’s café.
The second question is a little harder: who in your company is driving the driving idea?
The meaning of “drive” changes here. The driving idea uses the meaning of propulsion: something that creates momentum in a certain direction. Engines drive cars and planes. No engine, no drive.
The second question uses the meaning of guidance. Cars and planes need someone to steer them. No driver, no direction.
Starbucks offers a great example of how this works. CEO Howard Schultz had the original inspiration that Italian cafés don’t just sell coffee, they sell community. He believed that Starbucks could bring that quality to the most mobile society in the world – the United States – so that people would have their neighborhood café no matter where they go.
Then he stepped away as CEO in 2000. The driving idea was still in place, but the driver was gone. Starbucks became more like a train, which has an engine driving it but is stuck to the track it’s on. In 2008, Schultz had to get back in the driver’s seat and remind his team that a café – especially one for the whole world – had to evolve with, or even ahead of, people’s experience of community.
So maybe you can guess the best answer to the second question. The person driving your brand promise should be a whole lot of people. When you’ve really got an emotive brand, the driver is known as “everyone.”
If your answer to the question is “the CMO” or “we have brand managers for that,” your brand promise needs a lot more drivers – at all levels of the company.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy firm.