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4 Takeaways From Brand Intimacy: A New Paradigm in Marketing

“Our goal for the book was to codify a new marketing paradigm which our readers could leverage in order to build strong bonds with their stakeholders.” – Rina Plapler, author of Amazon’s #1 international bestseller Brand Intimacy: A New Paradigm in Marketing, and managing partner with MBLM.

One book that stood out from our recent list of the best marketing books to read in 2018 was Brand Intimacy: A New Paradigm in Marketing by Mario Matarelli and Rino Papler. It’s challenging to find marketing books that truly present a fresh perspective. Brand Intimacy manages to present a unique view that combines the need for a strong brand presence with the need for a meaningful customer relationship. In the age of personalization, brands must connect with their customers in order for them to feel valued and special and that requires emotion. A recent MarketingProfs article explained why it’s not just B2C but B2B customers as well that are motivated primarily by their senses. 

The implications of achieving brand intimacy with consumers are significant. Customers who feel a close relationship with brands are more willing to pay a higher price for a product just because it is branded a certain way. These customers are also intensely loyal and great brand ambassadors. When the average company loses half of its customer base every year loyalty is king. Loyal customers more likely to recommend a brand to a friend. This is particularly relevant with millennials and GenZ, for whom peer reviews are the primary differentiator in product selection.

Authors of Brand Intimacy, A New Paradigm in Marketing: Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM, and Rina Plapler, partner at MBLM (PRNewsfoto/MBLM)

Simply put it’s not enough to just sell. Matarelli and Plapler really “get” this idea and provide pragmatic tips for companies to reach toward a forward-thinking brand view.  Like any worthwhile endeavor, creating intimacy brand intimacy is a challenging and long-term process. Here are our five takeaways from Brand Intimacy:

Brand identity requires an emotional connection

Any company can tell you who they are and what they’re selling. That’s baseline stuff that barely registers in a customer’s psyche when deciding between a few nearly identical products. An astonishing 90 percent of decisions a consumer makes are based on emotion. Far more important than trying to inform a rational decision is to appeal to the customer’s emotional side. Does your company have a compelling story behind its founding? Is the experience of using your product unique? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, it’s important to play up those qualities when forming a brand identity. You want customers to identify with your brand and understand why you do what you do. People want to feel something (besides regret) when they make a purchase. Adding context to your sales pitch will help tap into that desire.

Brands need to determine their best emotional fit

According to authors Matarelli and Plapler there are six main ways brands connect with consumers. Think of these as the “six senses” of customer emotions, or a brand’s emotional profile including: 

  1. Nostalgia –  The brand uncovers fond memories from long ago and provides an opportunity to relive those cherished moments. A brand that excels at Nostalgia is Disney.
  2. Indulgence –   To commemorate a special occasion or enjoy a luxury experience this is the brand that will deliver. Sephora is the standard for a brand that embodies indulgence.
  3. Fulfillment – The brand’s products suit needs so well that I can’t think of a reason to look for other options.  Runners often have this relationship with their shoes. Cooks with their favorite utensils. And so on. 
  4. Ritual – The brand is an integral part of an individual’s routine. Getting home from a long day of work and watching Netflix is a prime example of the power of ritual.
  5. Enhancement – The brand makes life easier and more enjoyable.  Microsoft Office has this effect in the workplace. Sometimes. 
  6. Identity – The brand is part of your personality. Subaru owners often self-identify as a “Subaru driver.” The term conveys all kinds of meaning about the owner’s personality. 

The highest scorers for brand intimacy—authors name Apple, Disney, and Harley-Davidson—tend to receive high marks in at least a few of these categories. The idea is to determine which of the above “senses” best fit your brand. And then use it to form the foundation of your integrated messaging campaigns.   

Customers desire different emotions depending on the brand niche

Crafting a brand image around customer emotions is great, but it has to match the needs of the customer as well. A brand may be too expensive for the target audience to work it into a ritual or part of every day, for example. Household staples are typically not going to be part of one’s identity. ( Unless it’s a Sharpie and you’re in communications.)

The experience still needs to be coherent 

The hardest part about maintaining a brand’s image is that everything the company does must uphold that image. This provides a great opportunity to build self-reinforcing infrastructure. Owned media – the website, email marketing,  social media presence – must be consistent. Aligning marketing messages across channels is a must. It’s really the same old integrated marketing strategy we use every day here at Wax. But I think the author’s point is valid in that it has to be consistent and coherent.  This approach requires a commitment. 

Brands can’t stalk their customers

One of the worst sins a brand can commit is to try to do too much in pursuit of a customer’s affection. The authors use the example when Apple surreptitiously loaded a U2 album onto everyone’s devices. Although it was free of charge no one asked for Apple to do so. Many people felt like their privacy was violated by Apple overstepping its bounds. Brands can’t be stalkers, and this is particularly important with digital marketing practices. There have to be decent boundaries. 

It’s impossible to summarize all the information from Brand Intimacy. We really encourage you to buy this book and take a fresh look at your own brand from an emotional perspective. Building intimacy takes time, but Matarelli and Plapler really prove there is considerable marketing ROI.


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