Want to increase love for your brand? Bare your soul.

Brands that don't look deep within to find their souls will make hollow progress, says TBWA\Chiat\Day LA's chief strategy officer.

Every day is Valentines Day for marketers. Campaigns—like Valentines—are dispatched daily with the intent of growing preference, loyalty, desire and yes, love. 

Doing that in 2018 is no easy task given the need to adapt to new business models that threaten margins, new social platforms which can fragment a brand’s voice, new audiences with new expectations of transparency and more. 

The consistent theme in the new business assignments coming across the desks of the leadership team of TBWA\Chiat\Day LA in the past 18 months is the need to evolve, to reboot, to refresh in order to grow.

And like a good dating coach (a growing industry by all accounts), agencies will promise to connect them with the latest culture, technology and trends, and the good ones will put a lot of diverse smarts, people and tools to work to that end. 

But all of that will be hollow progress if the brand doesn’t also look deep within to find its soul. I can hear you saying, "brands don’t have a soul," but they do.

Brands aren’t made of concrete, they’re made of flesh and blood. Passionate people putting everything they do into building something. Not just the founders growing their vision but the millions of people pledging their daily lives and livelihoods in service of it. Writing code, writing contracts, manufacturing chips, making fries.

The brands that are best equipped to navigate the ongoing age of disruption are those that unleash the power of their soul. That means mining the humanity of their own story and of the everyday stories of the customer’s lives to find that intangible human quality that is uniquely theirs that lives beyond the bricks and mortar and ones and zeros. 

If we look at the brand campaigns delivering the best ROI and winning big at the Global Effies in recent years we see them baring their brand soul. For Pedigree’s silver-winning "Feed the Good" platform, the soul lies in the simple truth that dogs make us better people and in the brand’s own heritage of doing good for distressed dogs. 

For Always’ gold-winning "Like a Girl," the soul lies in the role of the brand helping girls navigating the onset of womanhood and helping them be defiantly proud rather than ashamed of their femininity. 

Finally for Chiat’s gold-winning "Don’t go there live there" campaign for Airbnb, the soul was in their unique community-driven experience as antidote to soulless mass travel. Staying with passionate hosts in real homes in local neighborhoods means travelers could travel like they belong, rather than like a tourist. 

Ultimately the power of a brand is emotional. As a host of recent research by the likes of Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel-prize winning behavioral psychologist, has demonstrated, consumer decision-making is fueled more by feeling than fact. Just like any relationship, people can sense if the other party is just going through the motions or is sincere. 

So if you want your brand’s Valentines to be reciprocated, bare your soul this year.

Neil Barrie is Chief Strategy Officer at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA.

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