A company can exist to merely sell stuff and make money. And, certainly, many do.

But a special breed of brands that have transcended revenue as a focal point have been transformed into uber-powerful forces. So what do they focus on more than anything else?


And the business results are nothing short of astonishing.

Think about the success of brands like Nike, Red Bull, and Lady Gaga, and you'll immediately see the power of emotions as a business driver.

The Power of Crazy Love

When Nike launched its most famous campaign with its "Just Do It" message, it struck a chord with every sports fan, amateur athlete, and weekend jogger. The marketing message didn't speak to the technical superiority of Nike's shoes, the results you get by wearing its shoes, or the reasons its shoes were better than the next brand's.

The message was 100% about evoking a surge of emotion in the customer, making them feel different about themselves and the possibilities in their lives.

This focus on emotions has scientific justification. Decision-making, it turns out, is an emotions-driven activity. In other words, it's impossible to make buying decisions without emotion. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people who had damage in the parts of the brain where emotions are generated, and he discovered that those people had serious difficulty making decisions.

The result of Nike's emotions-based marketing? Crazy brand love! Millions of people have showed more than just love, but a crazy kind of devotion that any brand would crave.

Nike focused on connecting emotionally with customers. Nike's website is gorgeous, inspirational, and visually impactful. The launch of Nike Women empowered an often-ignored segment of the market, achieving huge success. And Nike offers highly active customer support on Twitter—another emotional touchpoint with customers.

As a result, Nike has more than $25 billion in annual sales. It is the number one brand on Instagram (according to the Nitrogram 50), and it has a massive advantage over the competition when entering new fields. Nike has created a cult-like following.

Red Bull has also created emotional connections with its customers, engendering crazy love. More than just a drink, Red Bull is a lifestyle. The brand produces a wide range of video (including those on Red Bull TV) and other content focused on extreme sports, including behind-the-scenes footage, motivational videos, and sports-specific training. Red Bull also sponsors many extreme-sporting events. All of that creates a swell of empowering, fierce emotions among customers and prospects.

As a result, Red Bull's a brand that came out of nowhere to sell more than 35 billion cans of its product. Red Bull has more than 39 million Facebook Likes, more than 2.7 million YouTube subscribers, and $2.7 billion in annual sales. Crazy results!

Lady Gaga is yet another example of a brand wholly attuned to emotional connections. Always focused on her loyal fans, Lady Gaga goes out of her way to make her customers feel the love, whether surprising fans standing in ticket lines, in the rain, by giving them free show passes; providing her full support to unofficial fan clubs; or setting up a social network (littlemonsters.com) exclusively for fans.

The result? Over 90 million singles sold, over 58 million Facebook Likes, and a completely dedicated fan base that will follow her no matter what she does next. Gaga has transcended the traditional boundaries of a pop singer, instead building a platform to launch new products, services, and other endeavors.

Crazy Love for Small Businesses

The power of emotions-based branding isn't reserved only for mega global brands. Brands of any size can benefit from emotionally connecting with customers.

In fact, you can be as small as a single farm in Swoope, Virginia. Polyface Farm has a crazy-loyal following due to its obsessive commitment to healing the land, food, and economy. It's a family-owned, multi-generational, environmentally friendly, pasture-based, organic farm, producing natural meats and poultry. They farm the way a mega-agricultural corporation cannot, feeding grass to its cattle instead of corn, never using chemical fertilizers, and never shipping food products. Polyface provides the best possible food through a fanatical approach to earth-friendly farming, even though that's more costly than other options available.

The result? Customers rave! Some customers drive 150 miles just to make a purchase. In this age of instant gratification and real-time everything, that's crazy love!

Seven Steps to Crazy Love for Your Brand

If you want to build customer affection, you should:

  1. Define your DNA. Forget the technical specs of your product or service. Why do you exist? Stand for something, and ensure that it's your true DNA.
  2. Define your brand attributes. How would others describe your brand? No technobabble or corporate-speak here. What are the actual words you want actual customers to say?
  3. Define your specific audience. Who benefits from what you offer, and who would scream with excitement about how you've changed their lives for the better? Who would drive 150 miles to purchase something from you?
  4. Define the benefits you deliver. Ignore for a moment your products and functionality. What tangible customer benefits do you offer? How is someone's life better because of you? How would the world be worse off without your brand?
  5. Change your hiring process. Whether in marketing, operations, or customer support, hire only those who align with your DNA.
  6. Define your educational process. Implement a process for ensuring that every employee understands your DNA, its importance and value to the world. Continually educate your team.
  7. Define your decision-making criteria. This isn't marketing fluff. Live and breathe it. Make every decision based on your DNA—from the CEO to the mailroom clerk, whether the decision may make you millions or peanuts.

Emotions are powerful, and your customers and prospects cannot make buying decisions without them. To take your brand from good to ridiculously amazing, and to elevate behavior from customer satisfaction to cult-like crazy love, focus your marketing on building emotional connections with customers.

Evoke their emotions, and you'll open the door to endless possibilities.

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image of Tom Shapiro

Tom Shapiro is the CEO of Stratabeat, a branding and marketing agency. He is also the author of Rethink Your Marketing: 7 Strategies to Unleash Revenue Growth.

Twitter: @tomshapiro

LinkedIn: Tom Shapiro