To create brand gravity, start with a purpose both you and your customer care about, for which you have something to bring to the table. Then design an engagement platform that creates one of the types of value mentioned here (or invent your own).
No matter what route you take, you can use these five key Gravity Generators to strengthen relationships and earn gravity for your brand.
Most interactions with a brand are about the transaction:
What you should buy
Why you should buy
How you can buy
These communications have extrinsic value only. They have no value to the prospect unless they buy the product.
You can’t create pull when you are pushing your product.
To create gravity, you need to deliver intrinsic value: something of value even if the person doesn’t become a customer.
Intrinsic value creates a relationship outside the context of the transaction.
Good content marketing has intrinsic value. So do many apps and services.
Starbucks delivers intrinsic value with comfortable seating, free wifi and charging stations. Nike has its Nike+ program.
Which has more pull: a lecture or a cocktail party? The cocktail party, of course.
And at a party, is it better for the host to talk about themselves, or introduce guests based on their common interests?
In our social age, brands have to stop giving speeches and start hosting parties.
You can go where the party is already happening, like Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.
Or you can throw your own party by creating an original platform.
Regardless of location, remember that gravity is ultimately a result of how people connect with each other, not with you.
To transform an audience into a community takes three things: Shared Purpose, Shared Identity and Social Currency.
By definition, a currency is a store of value and medium of exchange.
Markets use financial currencies to complete transactions.
Communities use social currency to reinforce relationships.
Consider the experience of moving.
You can hire a professional mover and pay them in cash.
Or you can ask your friends and give them pizza and beer.
You can’t pay the mover in pizza. And your friends would find it awkward to take your money.
To accelerate the “liquidity” of relationship in your social system, do one of the following:
Create your own social currency.
Facilitate the exchange of existing ones.
Most people have heard the term Big Data. It’s what companies know about us that we don’t know they know.
Little Data is the opposite. It’s what companies can help us know about ourselves.
Big Data is used to push. Little Data is used to pull.
When you land on a website and a “retargeting cookie” is used to deliver ads, that’s Big Data.
When you tell Nike+ you are going for a run, that’s Little Data. So are your times, routes and playlists.
When Big Data and Little Data combine to fulfill the Shared Purpose with experiences that are personalized and reciprocal, it creates a virtuous circle of transparency and trust.
When Little Data is used as a Social Currency, it also generates gravity to pull others into the Brand Orbit.
Return on Engagement
How do you measure the success of your social system?
Return on Investment is incomplete because it’s asymmetrical.
Companies measure the return on their investment, but not the customer’s return on their investment.
This investment is measured not just in money, but time, energy, ideas, trust, social capital, etc.
For Brand Orbits, a better measure is Return on Engagement.
For companies, can they generate revenue from relationships without it feeling like “bait and switch”?
For customers, are they getting value from the relationship with the company beyond the products they buy?
To increase Return on Engagement, look for a way to combine transactions and relationships around the Shared Purpose.
Remember to embed the transaction inside the relationship, not exploit the relationship to drive the transaction.
Example: Coke Freestyle
CocaCola’s Freestyle machines are more than self-service. Customers can create custom mixes with over 100 combinations.
Each Freestyle machine is connected to the Internet, telling CocaCola which flavors are the most popular. That’s Big Data.
With a mobile app, you can save your favorite mixes. That’s Little Data.
You can connect to the machine and have it make your favorite mix. That’s Coke machine as bartender, a new Social Facet.
You can also share your mixes with friends. That’s Social Currency.
CocaCola could create even more gravity by sharing the most popular mixes back to the community. That’s Big+Little Data. This would further fulfill its Shared Purpose: “to refresh the world.”
Brand Gravity Benefits from Social Gravity
As you apply these Gravity Generators and deliver on promises to your customers, your customers will spread the word, causing a network effect. This is part of Brand Orbit—your customers stay in contact with you because of the value they get from the relationship, not just because of transactions they need to complete. And as with other relationships, they are more likely to talk about strong relationships with their friends, family and social media followers.