Brand Matters: Brand Dreaming
This summer, we all knew one person's dream quite well. Michael Phelps had his heart set on achieving something that had never been done before: winning eight gold medals in one Olympics. We all watched as he did just that and achieved yet another dream for himself, his relay teams and team USA—all the while breaking many of his own world records in the process.
As marketers, we must think about what customers dream about when it comes to products and services. How will you go about discovering your customers' dreams this upcoming year?
What They Want Before They Want It
Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, had a dream, too. He wanted to recreate in America the leisurely coffee experience he had while traveling in Milan, Italy more than 25 years ago. "Who wants a dream that's near-fetched?" he once said. By now, we all know how that dream turned out. But underneath Schultz's personal story of his own dream come true is an important lesson for brands of all shapes and sizes.
Schultz tapped into his potential customers' dreams. The dream of having a place to hang out—day or night. The dream of a small indulgence that doesn't break the bank but provides a little reward each day. And the dream of a product that's accessible. Schultz set a world record of his own and made something happen that had never happened before. He hasn't stopped this process, either. As of this writing, the company is launching "Starbucks signature hot chocolate" and "Piadinis," Italian square sandwiches.
The smart advertising folks at Saatchi & Saatchi insist this is exactly what brings success: "If you only give people what they already want, someone else will give them what they never dreamed possible."
Fashioning Dreams for Your Customers
Disney is another brand in the dream business. From the Magic Kingdom to blockbuster movies to the Hannah Montana phenomenon, Disney always knows how to make magic for its customers. But recently, Disney took its making-dreams-come-true business to a whole new level. DisneyBridal.com resurrects every little girl's princess fantasies, with dress names such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. According to the site, Disney is "proud to introduce an exclusive bridal fashion line created by couture designer, Kirstie Kelly. With her Bridal and Maidens gowns, Kirstie Kelly creates a look that connects to every girl's inner princess. Kirstie Kelly's fantasy collection continues with enchanting accents and jewels—and the perfect wish to let your fairy tale begin ..."
Walt Disney reminded us, "If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse."
Listen to Build Dreams
Customers can't always articulate their dreams in precise ways that translate into marketing and merchandising plans. But they can tell you about their wishes and desires and things they wish could be different in some way. Every brand manager's job is to be a very active listener and a good "read-between-the-lines" synthesizer and translator. This is not just for large companies—every brand shares this responsibility.
John Vitek, president of Saint Mary's Press, a nonprofit Catholic publisher, did just that. When this brand expanded into the college market, it learned that professors didn't want off-the-shelf textbooks. Instead, professors often patched together articles from various sources and chapters from a few books to create specialized curriculums just for their students. Saint Mary's Press listened closely to the professors' desires and gave them just what they wanted: Professor's Choice, Custom Theology Books. Vitek states, "Customization—the ability to meet any individual customer's wishes without delay—is an extraordinary competitive advantage. Suddenly, you become a value to a whole segment of the market that never saw you as a value before. In the world of customization, the customer is in the driver's seat."
Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers is another company that listens closely and responds to customers' dreams in several creative ways. In business for 36 years building beautiful, handcrafted fine furniture, Thos. Moser has always been in the aspirational business. Marketing Manager Scott Wentzell shares that "many people discover us at one stage of their life and may spend years getting our catalog, visiting our showrooms and visualizing the pieces of Moser furniture they want to own ‘someday' before actually making a purchase. We let them dream!"
In 2007, Thos. Moser let its customers take dreaming a step further. It began a Customer in Residence program. Wentzell explains it: "Customers come to our shop in Maine and build a piece of furniture alongside one of our master craftsmen (or craftswomen). It really is the ultimate brand connection and has been quite successful. It also has had the added effect of reinforcing our brand values with our own people, when they see things through the eyes of a customer."
Without this intimate knowledge, how will you delight your customers and stay relevant to their needs and desires? Who will be your brand's chief dream creator?
Andrea Syverson is president of IER Partners, a strategic branding and merchandising consultancy based in Colorado. She may be reached at (719) 495-2354 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrea Syverson is the founder and president of creative branding and merchandising consultancy IER Partners. For 20+ years, Andrea’s joy has been inspiring clients with innovative approaches to branding, product development and creative messaging. She’s the author of two books about brand building and creating customer-centric products that enhance brands: BrandAbout: A Seriously Playful Approach for Passionate Brand-Builders and Merchants and ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators. You may reach her at email@example.com.