Editorial support by: Causeit, Inc., MJ Petroni, & Jenny Sucov

ORBIT's 10x Effects






10x loyalty by embedding gratitude in relationships

10x loyalty by embedding gratitude in relationships


We live in a non-linear world. Customers are more connected and empowered. Brand relationships need to be more continuous. The old model of targets, funnels and campaigns is outdated. We need a new model and a new language.

Brand Orbits® is a simple model that solves the complexity of modern marketing.

Where traditional companies push out messages and products, today’s most successful companies pull customers in. Instead of treating customers as passive targets, they treat them as active participants. Like the sun in a solar system, they create a gravitational field that pulls customers into their orbit. They go beyond customer loyalty to building customer gravity.

Push brands

use relationships to drive transactions.The language and mindset of push brands is linear, transactional and one-directional.

Pull brands

embed transactions inside relationships. The language and mindset of pull brands is exponential, reciprocal and bi-directional.


Before the Internet, all media had one thing in common. Consider books, radio, television, film, magazines and newspapers: they are all one-to-many. The same message goes in one direction: out.

Messages are sent to a passive and anonymous audience.

  • The publisher doesn’t know you are reading the morning newspaper.

  • When you talk back at the TV, the actors can’t hear you.

In a one-to-many world, we were all consumers—of information, entertainment, products and services.

When the Internet came along, everyone could be a broadcaster. Audiences were no longer passive. Suddenly, you could comment on a news story. Or write your own.

Social media changed the game again.

  • One-to-many became many-to-many.

  • Mass communication became mass collaboration.

People could talk to each other, transforming the audience into a community. Consumers became co-creators.

Gutenberg had given way to Zuckerberg.


The way we think about brands needs to change. In the past, they were objects or concepts. You had a relationship with a brand. But in this social age, brands are the relationships. By defining a brand’s particular kind of relationship, companies can create greater engagement, differentiation and loyalty.


Ride-sharing service Lyft invites customers to sit up front. The Brand Relationship shifts from driver/passenger to friend/friend.


Room-sharing service Airbnb has disrupted the traditional Brand Relationship of host/guest and replaced it with neighbor/neighbor.


With its smart devices, Nest has created a Brand Relationship built not on a manufacturer/buyer relationship but one that’s more like family member/family member.

In all of these cases, the relationship is more reciprocal, symmetrical and personal.

Think Co-Creator, not Consumer

To build relationships with customers, rethink old models of brand purpose, narrative and segmentation.

The way to put “brand as relationship” into action is by defining the respective roles and responsibilities of the company and customer.

The default brand relationship is provider/consumer. It’s a simple relationship that is one-directional and asymmetrical. The company provides the product or service, and the customer consumes it.

Brand innovators tend to create different kinds of relationships. Instead of transactional and one-directional relationships, the roles are more collaborative and reciprocal.

Brands are relationships.  This graphic shows four types of relationships companies can have with customers: 1. Persuade & promote; 2. Listen & learn; 3. Connect & collaborate; and 4. Enable & empower.

Brands are relationships. This graphic shows four types of relationships companies can have with customers: 1. Persuade & promote; 2. Listen & learn; 3. Connect & collaborate; and 4. Enable & empower.

Beyond Segmentation: Social Facets

To segment is to divide something into parts, like segments of a grapefruit. Customer segments divide people by gender, income, location or geography.

But people are multi­-dimensional. Instead of dividing people into segments, think of people as having facets.

Instead of a “soccer mom,” a person might be a mom, soccer parent, wife, daughter, sister, foodie, executive, cyclist, baseball fan and vegetarian.

These are not just interests; they are roles and identities.

These facets shape not just attitudes, but relationships. They are the places we find purpose and the places we are most likely to co-create with each other.

Shared Purpose

Customers are no longer just consumers; they’re co-creators. They aren’t just passive members of an audience; they are active members of a community. They want to be a part of something: to belong, to influence, to engage.

It’s not enough that they feel good about your purpose. They want it to be their purpose too. They don’t want to be at the other end of your for. They want to be right there with you. Purpose needs to be shared.

A Brand Orbit strategy generates brand gravity around Shared Purpose, which is the outcome that you and your customer are working toward together.

It’s more than the value proposition of what you deliver to them, or the mission of what you do for the world. It’s the journey that you are on with them. By having a shared purpose, the relationship shifts from consumer to co-creator.

Purpose To, For, With

Most leaders think of purpose as a Purpose FOR—what you do on behalf of your customers. But what is needed is a Purpose WITH.

T-Shirt Test

The way to tell if you have a Shared Purpose is the T­-Shirt Test. Look at your company mission or purpose statement.

  • If it belongs on an advertisement more than a t­-shirt, you have a Purpose TO.
  • If it looks good on a t-­shirt that’s meant for employees rather than customers, you have a Purpose FOR.
  • If it is meant for anyone to wear, you have a Purpose WITH.

Which T-shirt would you wear?

Hyatt: Authentic Hospitality
Airbnb: Belong Anywhere

Adidas: Be the leading sports brand in the world
Nike: Inspire the athlete in all of us

You can read more about Shared Purpose in our guide to Narrative.

Strategic Narrative

Once you have your Shared Purpose, the next step is to define your Strategic Narrative.

The Narrative explains how the Shared Purpose will be fulfilled. It transforms your purpose from a tagline into a philosophy. The Narrative must align to your brand DNA, connecting the past, present and future.

The Narrative also defines your relationships with others in your ecosystem. Think of the Shared Purpose like a potluck dinner.

  • Some people bring the entrée.
  • Some bring the salad.
  • Some bring the dessert.

The Narrative tells everyone what to bring to the party.

With its slogan “Just Do It,” Nike is saying “We’ll bring the shoes and equipment. You bring your passion and commitment.”

Starbucks’ mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit.” As a Shared Purpose, it passes the T­-shirt Test. But it’s Starbucks’ Strategic Narrative that truly brings it to life.

The essence of this narrative is the concept of “third place.” In 1983, CEO Howard Schultz visited Italy and saw how coffeehouses fostered conversation, connection and community, and brought that ethos back to the United States.

In his book ward, chultz writes how, for a while, the company lost this narrative and financial performance suffered. Schultz said: “Starbucks is not a coffee company that serves people. It is a people company that serves coffee. Emotional connection is our true value proposition.”

Read more about Strategic Narrative and Shared Purpose in our guide to Narrative.

Competing on Gravity

The future of competition is who can generate more gravity. Apple and Google demonstrate the power of Brand Orbits.

Consider how you chose an Android or Apple smartphone. It probably wasn’t about the megapixels in the camera. Apple and Google have created competing gravity systems. Both have app stores usable only for their operating system, as well as special features:

  • Apple has iTunes, Genius Bars, Facetime and Siri.
  • Google has Search, Maps, Gmail and YouTube.

Each of these systems creates an ongoing relationship that extends far beyond the purchase of the phone. The choice between Apple and Google is not “Which product will I buy?” but “Whose orbit will I be in?”

Putting it Together


Broadcasting messages
through channels
to target audiences
and drive transactions



Engaging communities
with reciprocity and trust
to sustain relationships
and fulfill a shared purpose

The more building blocks you can assemble, the more gravity your Brand Orbit will generate.

It took centuries to master the tools of mass communication and decades to develop the techniques of push marketing. You should not expect to build Brand Orbits overnight.

Orbit strategies don’t need to be sophisticated and expensive. You can:

  • Re­invigorate your content marketing by developing a Shared Purpose and Strategic Narrative.

  • Host events or forums for your customers (Peer Connections) on matters of mutual interest (Shared Purpose/Social Currency).

  • Update your positioning and messaging to emphasize relationships over transactions (Social Facets).

  • Collect data that can be delivered back to customers in ways they find useful (Little Data).

Orbit strategies are a journey as well as a destination. You will learn as you go. You just need to start.

“One cannot discover new oceans unless one has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
— André Glide