Consumer + Brand 4eva: How to Spark Passion

By Theresa Braun “Only the quality of the product and the resonance a customer feels with the company can produce repeat business and brand loyalty.” - Ben & Jerry

Human beings are drawn toward those who are passionate about something, who speak with an uncontrollable enthusiasm and are motivated by love not ego or money. Successful brands are born more from a spark of passion than a solid business plan or marketing tactic.

As a marketer or business leader, you must believe in your product first, because if you don’t, how can you possibly expect anyone else to? There are plenty of advertisements boasting that employees love what they do but you just can’t fake that passion. In an ad for Sam Adams beer, employees are shown raving about their love of beer and even emphasizing, “You have to actually believe in what you’re really doing.” No one can doubt the sincerity of one employee’s giddy proclamation of, “I love beer!” but what’s especially significant is the behind-the-scenes look into the company and the people that work there--these aren’t heartless drones just doing their job, these are people who are making a living from doing what they love. And that makes all the difference (“Happy employees make great beer”). Sam Adams employees care about making great beer which means they care about you, the person drinking their beer.

When the passion is there, it’s apparent in the quality of the product and vigor of the brand. Boston-based burrito chain Boloco was conceived from CEO John Pepper’s “irrational passion for burritos.” He explains, “How I got started with food is really, almost an obsession with being a consumer of food.” Being a passionate consumer himself has allowed Pepper to build a brand known for putting its customers first--a brand whose mission is to better the lives of its people, a brand that strives to inspire, surprise, and delight its customers, a brand that does all it can to make things right, from offering free menu items to transparently admitting its human fumbles. Because its customers know they’re cared for and that the company loves the product just as much as they do, they have an open spot in their hearts (and stomachs) for Boloco’s burritos.

True passion creates brand communities, loyal groups of consumers evangelizing for your company. Find the passionate ones. Give them a reason to fall in love with your product. Jones Soda has readily opened up its brand to its brand-lovers. The soda company features on its bottle labels a photo taken by a member of their community, from friendships to skateboards to artwork. The collection of over 40,000 photos forms a collage of what the company represents to the real people who have a real love for the product. Peter Van Solk, the company’s founder, describes his passionate customers: “People get fired up about Jones because it's theirs. It's not my soda. When you buy a bottle of Jones Soda there is a person's name on the bottle who took the photo. That is their soda.” Jones Soda is about much more than a carbonated beverage. Connect with your customers’ passions. Understand what they love and why -- then figure out how you can play a part in that.

It’s as simple as this: if you don’t love what you do, you won’t do it well. If consumers don’t love what you do, then they won’t fall in love with you. Like any relationship, a consumer-brand relationship with no passion has a poor prognosis.

Which brands spark your passion? Share your thoughts in the comments!