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August 13, 2015

Cindy Penchina, President

building customer kinship

Everyone knows the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but how many people actually follow that advice? The truth is that we judge things on their looks every day – and not just with books. We do it with food, with wines, with websites, with brands – and with the people who use those brands.

How many times have you walked into a Starbucks and noticed that guy sitting in the corner with his Apple MacBook and his Apple iPhone and his Apple iPad and his Apple earbuds and made a judgement of him and his nonfat caramel macchiato? Whether your judgement of him is positive or negative, you look at that guy and think you know who he is because of all the Apple-branded stuff he’s carrying. He’s smart, cool, cutting edge, and probably someone you’d get along with.

Sure, your details might differ; he might be punk rock and you might be rock’n’roll, but if you’re an Apple person too, you might feel a twinge of satisfaction as you sit across the communal table from him and unload your very own Apple stuff.  

Even though the inside is different, the trappings are the same, and together, you are Apple People: you are family, two peas in a pod, cut from the same cloth. You’re kin, and it’s the brand that brings you together.

Apple, and many other established brands have effectively enlisted their customer base to do their marketing for them by creating a sense of kinship within the ranks of their customers. People who use Apple products, who adopt the entire Apple ecosystem, don’t do it just because of the seamless way the products integrate. They do it because of the way it makes them feel, and because they feel connected to other people like them. By leveraging the idea that a certain kind of person is an Apple Person, Apple has effectively turned their customers into marketers for Apple.  They have created such a strong bond between the brand and the customer that not only do (we think) we know what kind of person is sitting behind that MacBook Pro, but people go out of their way to adopt Apple products, so other people know that they, too, are Apple People.

That is brand kinship. It’s the creation of a bond so strong that it can be seen from miles around, and it’s something all the best companies utilize to keep their brand relevant and in front of potential customers. Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Westin Hotels don’t just make a great, reliable, product. They allow their customers to feel connected to other people in a very tangible way through the things they have, and use, and drink. It’s an intangible benefit, but an important one – because when potential customers witness people using your products, that’s a better marketing tool than any ad could ever be.

Everyone wants to be a part of the winning team, the cool crowd, the A-list. No matter what your product is or does, you can create a relationship that goes beyond buying and selling of products, and becomes about the kind of people your customers see themselves as. By encouraging kinship, you are allowing your customers to attach their personal brand to yours, helping them to integrate your product into their lives as a part of their identity, creating the kind of bond that will keep them coming back time and time again.