Now, more than ever, brands are up against it. Marketers face the prospect of little or even negative growth, strict regulation, sometimes leading to strangulation, consumers who trust no-one and have seen it all before.
Yet through this, we know that there are brands that miraculously transcend it all, managing to incite passion from consumers and employees alike.
But what is a "Passion Brand", as distinct from a brand that we like, or would happily recommend, or even go as far as to say we loved? More to the point, how do we create one from scratch or refashion one from an existing brand?
This is probably the biggest challenge that brand practitioners face today. We might even liken our on-going quest for the ‘formula', to the search for the Holy Grail.
In her book, veteran business strategist Kate Newlin describes a Passion Brand, as one that you form such a personal attachment with, becoming an indelible aspect of your identity, causing you to re-evaluate your habits and even your relationships with others. It's about advocacy too, but far beyond the level of positive word of mouth, she contends.
Newlin sets out to measure how much passion various brands actually generate, using a complex process to identify the contenders. It's an interesting mix of subjectivity, supported by quantitative methodologies, and hypnosis, employed to explore the hidden recesses of consumer attitude and opinion.
So, what is it that makes a Passion Brand "tick to the beat of popular culture"? Newlin believes she has found the answer: what she calls the "seven accelerators" of Passion Brands. So having defined what a Passion Brand is, then examined the cultural forces shaping the nature of love affairs, the book examines each accelerator chapter by chapter.
For many of the seven, there are some sound examples, although exclusively confined to the US market. Although none of the accelerators are new, some of them provided better territory for new, progressive thinking than others; a section on brand democratization for example, yields some particularly interesting thoughts about customisation, co-production and co-marketing.
Despite a fairly helpful attempt to demonstrate how applying the seven accelerators would first assist in creating passion for a new brand and also a ‘torture test' for an everyday US margarine, I didn't find the wind up for this, the main section of the book, a particularly practical exposition of Passion Brands that we could use to help our clients' brands to win.
Part 2 asks the question "Why Now?" It's a romp through a number of social issues ranging from the aging US population, social isolationism, Amazon algorithms (people who bought this also bought...), the disintermediation of political discourse, and consumers as Marxian and Warholian commodities. Interesting stuff, but lacking the real commercial focus it needs.
Throughout the book we are reminded how much Newlin likes models; indeed there's plenty of them throughout. This rigorous analysis of Passion Brands, described in the books' final analysis as "the profound emotional connection to certain products with all their symbols and significance", was for me an overly rational dissection of Passion Brands, served up a bit stodgy and a little too cold.
Published in ADMAP September 2009.