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“In a world where all products are increasingly the same, marketers have to appeal not to consumers rational decision making processes, but to their emotional ones. No stronger emotion exists than the need to belong” Douglas Atkin The Culting of Brands

In late 2010 I ranked the UK’s leading brands by how effective they were at marshalling a brand movement. I did this by measuring how active their advocates were – how often their  advocates recommended them to others. We then studied the top performing brands and  found that they displayed four key characteristics that we concluded are necessary to create a vibrant brand movement.

1. A Cause.

At the heart of any brand movement is a cause. This is the belief system that an audience buy into and champion. These belief systems tend not to appeal to everyone, but for some they create an intense sense of belonging.

Lifebouy soap is a great example of a brand cause. How do you create a great sense of belonging, amongst mums, around a bar of soap? Unilever’s solution, noting that hygiene standards in the third world was the primary cause of child deaths, was to develop the cause of helping to halve these deaths in the world. What mum wouldn’t want to support a cause like this.

2. Communities

Around the cause, successful brand movements foster, build and support vibrant communities. On and offline they encourage regular contact between members, develop shared experiences, co-create agendas, build their own symbols and most importantly actively encourage peer to peer recruitment. Kelloggs do this well with Special K

There are four different community segments that influence brand movements – Personal (friends,family, work colleagues), Expert (doctors etc.), Social (Mumsnet, Woman Institute), Media (newspapers, magazines etc.). These can be easily measured for impact and influence to identify those who will deliver the greatest return.

3. Contagious Stories

Research has shown that stories stick better than facts and figures. If you were raising money for children in Africa, a real boys story would raise twice as much as the cold facts and figures behind any plight. Leaders of brand movements need to become expert storytellers, sugar coating their messages with stories that will get retold. Great stories have a structure and many blue chip organisations use this as a framework for their external communications.

4. Campaigning

Movements die if they are not constantly fuelled by new thinking and disruptive content. Our 24/7 world has increased the ‘wear out’ of brand ideas ten fold since the dawn of the internet. A great multi million pound advert today, can be viewed a million times on Youtube tomorrow and then forgotten by next week. Unless it starts a conversation,that is further fuelled and re-energised, the movement will wither and die. Brands today need to campaign for their Cause, taking the threads of conversations that appear  each day in Newspapers, on Facebook or around the Coffee machine and inject their point of view. As Seth Godin says, if you stand still you become invisible. It’s why many brands today are setting up campaign teams, editorial teams and newsrooms.

Movements are the future of brands. Bain & Associates have proven this conclusively with their Net promoter Score measure. The challenge for marketing and communication managers today is to mastermind the creation and maintenance of these movements. The 4C’s provides a framework to support this.

4C’s Copyright Richard Moss 2012

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