Recently I penned a book entitled “Bigger Than This” in which I studied commodity brands that people go nuts for in today’s age of disruption and innovation. It fascinated me to think that companies are offering commodities — products that people don’t necessarily need more of in the marketplace, and that see no innovation in functionality or design — were flourishing. All of these companies had two things in common: they possessed fantastic brand thinking and a truly authentic story to tell.
There’s a lot to learn from these brands, for any entrepreneur at any stage of their journey. Here are quick insights into seven of the eight traits I saw in these companies and how they can be reinfused into any brand that wants to connect more deeply with its tribe:
Telling a brand’s story is key to branding and has been a fundamental element of any marketer’s playbook for decades. Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, once famously said, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope.” Stories can change brand perception more than anything else, but they have to be authentic to truly resonate.
Rewrite your brand’s story by going back to its roots. You have to feel that passion that initially formed the brand, then work your story from there. People love visionaries, problem-solvers, and DIYers. They love passion and, in return, they will become passionate about your brand.
One of the biggest brand rules of all time is “Do not talk politics.” This all went out the window, sparked by a divided America in the 2016 elections and the resulting controversial leadership of Donald Trump. Today, brands take a stand in support of the values they share with the core demographic they serve.
The only way to deeply connect with your tribe through a shared belief is by deeply understanding your members. This is well worth the effort as shared values will always have a bigger impact on your tribe than your products alone. Passionate beliefs, if voiced in an honest, empathetic and bold manner, can become the driving force of your business. Shared values and the expression of passionate beliefs will also likely play a significant role in sparking sales and increasing the value of shares as an added benefit.
We have been “cause-washed” by hundreds of startups jumping on the “buy one, give one” bandwagon started by the TOMS and Warby Parkers of the world. There is a reason why they are successful. According to a survey, almost two-thirds of respondents said they actively seek out brands that support certain causes, and they’d be more likely to purchase from a brand that supports a cause they agree with.
Instead of writing a big year-end donation check or blindly giving a product away for every product purchased, fully integrate the cause into your brand’s messaging so that it can only be seen as truthful. Base it on a logical product/cause proposition that will create an immediate emotional connection with your audience. Then plan for it to be expandable as your service or product offering diversifies.
We love to connect with places we’ve been to, call our home or dream of visiting one day. We sense an immediate feeling of connection and sometimes belonging.
Formulating a brand story based on heritage can be an extremely rewarding proposition if you can connect your product with the desire of consumers to formulate a deeper connection with the place your brand will be known for. This is establishing its “brand aura.”
Connect with (your) heritage and let it speak. It will create conversations that will have your brand as the centerpiece. Just think of how Shinola made Detroit the heart and soul of their entire brand.
If heritage becomes your brand, “buy/support local” may turn into an obvious and sometimes an immediate added benefit to your brand.
Lately, I stumbled upon a slew of successful startups where the small delights they offered were bigger than the actual product. A great example is the pet supply company Chewy, which takes delighting its customers’ love of their pets to heart. The brand sends out handwritten cards, including the customer’s pet’s name and provides a 24-hour hotline for customers to ask pet-food-related questions. How impactful can this simple brand trait of customer delight exactly be? Well, Chewy got acquired by PetSmart.com for $3.35 billion, which was a record for an e-commerce company.
The core idea of consistently providing small but thoughtful delights to your audience is often the only thing setting brands apart.
If you’re operating in a rather mundane segment, think about which part of your audience is not having fun, then catch them when and where they least expect it and shake them up through small, delightful surprises. Start with email and then slowly work delight through your entire communication chain. Your brand will be more loved, one interaction at a time.
You might have heard when Avis, which held the No. 2 spot behind market leader Hertz, famously launched its 1963 brand campaign with the tagline, “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder. Or else.” Translated into a full “We try harder” campaign, it was sheer brand transparency gold.
In a world where we feel cheated by politicians and big brands day in day out, transparency can go a long way.
Especially if your brand falls into a category that aches for transparency, such as financial services and fashion, go ahead and tell all! Customers will instantaneously trust your brand as a whole and prefer your products over your competitors.
Aligning a brand empathetically with someone else’s dream is a move I saw many of today's smart startups use. Often going after an initial niche audience, their entire messaging was aligned around their tribes’ point of view. They exclude everyone else and by doing so they thrive.
Planet Fitness is my favorite case study for a company leading with solidarity. “We don’t judge” is the fitness center’s motto, and “judgment-free zone” is the verbal brand glue that holds its 1,600-plus franchise locations together. Occasional free donuts at the entrance and tweets about sweets connect more than 6 million members that would otherwise not have easily found their tribe in any traditional gym.
It may be time for your brand to wholeheartedly support your tribe’s feelings and actions and, in turn, become one of them. Forming, not forcing, a friendship with your audience is the best way to create long-term brand love – on any budget.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."