As I squeeze my way onto the crowded Track No. 1 train, I can’t help but notice the girl to my left. Dressed from head to toe in Theory, chatting about her latest Soulcycle class and sipping on an iced coffee from Starbucks; or the man cross legged in a JCrew suit reading the Wall Street Journal and flashing his Warby Parker glasses. Maybe it’s being surround by brands every day in market research, but in my head, I have already named these individuals and given them backstories all based on brands inscribed across their foreheads.
Everywhere I look, the people, the stores, the garbage lined streets, brands are everywhere! But what truly defines a good brand? Is it the product? The message? The endorsers? The executives?
Kate Newlin, founder of Kate Newlin Consulting, branding extraordinaire, and author of Passion Brands: Why Some Brands Are Just Gotta Have, Drive All Night For, and Tell All Your Friends About, defines a passion brand as “one with which we have a relationship more powerful than those we have with many human beings.” Thinking about my own Instagram, I wonder how many more double taps I throw to the brands I love than to the individuals I know and hang out with on a weekly basis.
Advertising company, Saatchi & Saatchi defines a passion brand as a Lovemark, “the future beyond brands because they inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason [and] reach your heart as well as your mind, creating an intimate, emotional connection that you just can’t live without.” At first, it may seem a bit exaggerated, but as I again thought back to Instagram and more specifically my iPhone in general, would I be able to live without it?
So, I started thinking, do I have a passion brand? What’s my Lovemark? While snacking on some chips and salsa, I toyed between Lululemon and Thrillist (how else would I survive New York City?). Then I looked down and realized my passion brand was staring at me from the front of my black bean and corn salsa – Newman’s Own, driven by its passion for philanthropy and that amazing pink lemonade that goes with anything and everything. Is it the unbelievably delicious product? Or the message that 100% of profits go to charity? Or the movie star founder? Yes, it is my passion brand and it reaches my mind and heart, but Newman’s Own goes far beyond just a brand and a product, helping me to establish my own personal brand.
While I strive towards the philanthropic support and health foods, anyone who has ever encountered me knows that I cannot simply be put into this one bucket of wholesome goodness because my sarcasm eats away at each bite and whether I want to admit it, my natural ingredients are embedded with materialistic thoughts. My personal brand is not constrained to be just one way, it is a combination of all those brands that have values aligned with my own: Newman’s Own’s capability to give back and support people; Annie’s Homegrown’s promise of sustainability; Dove’s confidence in real beauty; Essie’s witty names bringing smiles to salons; Equinox’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle; Tesla’s constant innovation.
Over the past decade, building personal brands has become mainstream. Maybe it’s because individuals are creating personal brands at the swipe of a finger, just needing an email address to attach to Instagram, or maybe it’s ingrained in my Millennial mind to be my own CEO. As a market researcher at Ipsos, we specialize in how brands grow and evolve – and while our brand narrative is usually employed to understand corporate brands, the personal brand connection is undeniable. There is no doubt that brands surround most of my waking life. Brands move through our world without boundaries and grow though passion.