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For many years business leader have been asked ”what keeps you up at night.”  Rather than focusing on what many times are either issues that are out of your control, a better approach is to focus on “what wakes you up in the morning.”  Initiatives or strategies that excite you are more than likely to result in long term solutions that cause change, sustainability and focus on the core of your business.  Companies and their leaders that view through this lens can create a statement that demonstrates the company’s passion rather than just what it is selling at that point.
Companies that continually seek out their passions are the ones that engage with their customers on the highest level.  They go beyond selling to their customers, they become part of their cultures and eventually become synonymous with their customer base.
Highly effective examples can be experienced with companies like Tom’s Shoes, Whole Foods, Apple and Nike.  They each identified themselves with their target audience to engage with them on subjects that are near and dear to their hearts.  Many of these companies continue to support their passions not only through causes, but they have identified cultural issues that they can solve through their products.  This results in developing a brand thats engagement sells as well as identifying product  attributes.  This relationship also provides a platform for companies to develop products in the future based on conversations in its community.
In short, defining your purpose and living it everyday, will result in creating energy for yourself and in your business that also identifies with your audience.

Now that Super Bowl 49 is history, it’s time to look at the winners and the losers out of the 61 ads that ran during the game. USA Today Ad Meter came out with their ranking of the spots based on a viewer poll. It was loud and clear that that consumers want to be engaged in ways that are meaningful to them.  The old price/feature way of selling to customers has proven unsuccessful, especially on advertising’s largest stage.

Storytelling played a big part in communicating emotionally with viewers.  Number one ranked Budweiser continued it tear jerker puppy/Clydesdale combination to take the top spot.  Other spots like Always’ “Like a Girl” and Microsoft’s “Braylon”addressed social issues that everyone can relate to and discuss frequently. Chrysler also continued on their successful theme by creating a 60 second spot “Wisdom” that leveraged their 100 years of history featuring centurions that spoke about life and “never forget where your come from”.  Other car manufacturers like Nissan and Toyota as well as Dove connected emotionally by telling stories of how Dads effect lives rather than selling product.  Even car company Ford which didn’t participate in the Super Bowl, realizes the impact of emotional connections through its story based creations featuring Mathew McConaughey in its Lincoln spots.

Losers can be found in the work done by flashy special effects spots by Lexus that made no attempt to connect with viewers and can in ranked 54 out of 61 spots. And what can I say about Jublia, who in their right mind wants to hear about toe nail fungus while eating there 7 layer dip!

These brand engagements also go far beyond the Super Bowl itself.  Because of its engagement capabilities, Budweiser’s spot had 2,168,530 Facebook shares and 197,800 Twiter mentions. Budweiser additionally had four war rooms creating realtime reactions to the game and discussions regarding its brand as well as other Super Bowl activities.

It all goes to show that consumers that feel a brand is listening to them rather than selling them, one that understands their challenges and can deliver a solution that improves their life will be compelled to talk about the brand on a variety of levels.  Brands that understand that engagement and emotional connection are what creates sales, are the ones that continue to have sustainability.

We’ve survived another Black Friday.  Journeyed past Small Business Saturday. Made it through Cyber Monday.  All ways to create traffic into stores.  How about the other 51 weeks of the year?  It easy to give away products at low margins to only have to “make it up on volume”.

What about creating a brand that brings customers into stores in mid February, sells products that don’t rely on heavy incentives.   How about creating a relationship with customers that are looking for your knowledge and advice?  Although it may be hard to believe, there are still people out there that look past YouTube for instructions on how to do things and are in need of a conversation rather than a Google search.

Brands that solve needs first and sell second have the opportunity to create sustainability that reaches past the cash register.  The bond that’s created provides an opportunity to consistently engage with customers answering their questions in turn solving their problems.

With the strength of e-commerce growing everyday, the need to be more than a price for an item will be more demanding in years to come.  Just simple story telling will not be enough.  Companies that embrace a holistic storyscaping approach will find the most success.  By using a storyscape building model, sub-stories are created that relate to a brand’s overall story. The development of a process that works from both the brand’s perspective as well as the consumer’s builds the groundwork to engage through various channels.  Secondarily, shared experiences as well as shared values become integral parts of the stories.  The final outcome is a series of experiences that encompass purpose, product, desires and needs.

So as the new year is upon us, take a moment to think of how you will be engaging with your customers to create long lasting relationships.