Brands are funny things. Through careful planning and artful story-telling, an entire personality and set of values can be attributed to a lifeless entity. A name and logo can take on all of the traits of a person. We can feel loyalty to that brand, or we can despise it. Sometimes our feelings are so strong that intense emotions can be invoked. We can sometimes feel betrayed. Or we can be in complete denial, refusing to judge based on facts but rather our personal feelings. Two recent examples got me thinking about all of this.
People Like Companies Who They Think Are Like Them
The recent debacle involving the CEO of Whole Foods is a good example of brand betrayal. For those of you who haven’t been following, John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, recently penned an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal coming out against health care reform and stating that health care isn’t a right, all which are right-leaning conservative views. I won’t personally comment on the issue here (I already did) but his comments were definitely shocking to Whole Foods’ customers, who tend to be fairly progressive and liberal. It has led to outrage on the web and the Whole Foods Forums, all calling for a boycott. Now, Mackey has every right to share his views with others. However, customers also have a right to react to those views. And it’s looking like sharing his opposing viewpoint was a bad business decision given his customer base.
How Open-Minded Are We
On the flip side, many people have a view of Wal-Mart that may not necessarily reflect the actions and views of the company. Long despised by many liberals and left-leaning citizens, Wal-Mart recently announced their support for the idea of employer mandates for health insurance (a position being advocated by the Obama White House). And they have made big strides to support sustainability and the green movement. You may not agree with everything Wal-Mart does, but it’s important to give credit where credit is due. Could this all represent a shift in the company’s philosophy? If so, it will be interesting to see how people react. Will liberal-minded shoppers started fleeing Whole Foods and flock to Wal-Mart?
Respect Their Minds AND Their Hearts
In a society that infuses such deep emotion into brand relationships, it’s important to respect your customers. Place importance not only on what they might think, but also how they may feel about the things you say and do.
If you choose to ignore them, it won’t be long before they choose to ignore you.
One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.