Past, Future and Passion

Branding is a lot like dating. To build a lasting relationship, you need a good first impression, shared values and dreams and lots of genuine engagement.The new premium in marketing is forging relationships with your customers. There is no better way to build rapport than sharing your past, future and passion.

Relationship marketing isn't all that different from dating. You zero in on someone who appeals to you. You find a way to make an introduction, hopefully leaving a positive first impression. Then comes the discovery part of a relationship where you tell about your past, talk about your dreams and reveal your passions. If there is a match, the relationship blossoms, especially when there is genuine engagement.

Promoting your brand in today's environment has those same qualities. You have to get noticed by your target audience. You want to make a memorable first impression. Then you tell about your product roots, outline the future and show your passion in an interactive relationship.

As in any other form of marketing — or dating — your product won't mesh with everyone. As popular as the iPhone is, many mobile phone users prefer other brands, such as the Samsung Galaxy.

The digital age has made it easier for consumers to do their homework on products and services. Apple enjoys the success it does, in part, because of the back story of the late Steve Jobs. Its loyal fans turn on the smallest hint of what's next in the Apple empire. That loyalty stems from Apple's legendary ability to stir the passions of its users by stressing the benefits of its products, not its whiz-bang features.

Kate Newlin, author of Passion Brands, stresses the importance of what she calls "life force engagement." One of the keys to building a passion brand, Newlin says, is to "watch people in bars, malls, grocery stores, movies, sports events, regardless of the category you're in. Talk to them. Follow them while they shop. Engage them. Notice that you are one of them."

We may be arriving at the point where all brands must seek to be passion brands, heralding their heritage, engaging people about their future and being passionate about what they offer consumers.

This, explains Newlin, is an evolution strategy for brands. After dating comes marriage. And marriage requires tireless effort. "It takes true passionistas to ensure that the brand continues to grow and evolve in exciting, relevant ways," she says. "Don't take your consumers or their passion for your brand for granted."

Scott Steinburg, writing for Mashable, encourages brand managers to take consumers behind the scenes and find unique ways to recount the brand's origins, including past struggles.

Steinburg also urges interaction between the brand and its consumers on finding solutions and new product directions. This can include, he says, discussing future options and asking for feedback. 

Consumer passion can result, Steinburg says, when brands assume the posture of an industry leader, bringing fresh ideas to the market. Passion also builds when brands put their products in alignment with their hearts.

Dating is tricky and marriage is tenuous. Both rely heavily on interpersonal skills and emotional appeal. The new age of marketing is all about living on the edge of human interaction to share your values and your dreams.