Beyond the makeover fallacy: Inspiring true love for a new brand.

A shape of a hand with a heart
December 2022
You’ve probably seen a movie where the main character gets a fresh haircut and some new clothes, and suddenly they’re the most popular kid in school.

Yeah, that doesn’t usually work in real life. Not for people. And not for brands, either.

Does anyone really believe a new logo and style guide will catapult their brand into surging sales and a higher market valuation?

Sounds far-fetched, right? Yet many organizations don’t do a whole lot more during a rebranding. The new logo wins raves, the new style guide is a big improvement, and the results are … pretty much what they were before.

Call it the “makeover fallacy.”

In reality, an effective rebranding is more than just a new look—it should create a brand that drives lasting excitement and emotional commitment. A brand that drives market results by connecting with audiences in a human way, speaking to the heart as well as the mind. A brand that is truly loved.

Creating a great visual brand—color scheme, logos and style guide—is only the start. Building a beloved brand means doing positive things in ways that your customers, prospects and marketplace influencers notice.

Let’s talk about making it happen.

Actually, before we talk about how to create a beloved brand, let’s talk about why you should.

The short answer is that brands that are loved have the greatest value in the marketplace. Research demonstrates that brands that establish an intimate connection with their customers generate higher margins and enjoy higher valuations.

MBLM has conducted an annual brand intimacy survey for the last 12 years to track trends in how brands connect with their audiences. They analyzed more than 600 brands and more than 1.4 billion words used in the market over 2021.

Profit bar graph +88%
Stock prices bar graph +12%
Brands that foster intimate customer relationships experienced 88% higher profit margins and 12% higher stock prices (or valuation for privately held companies), along with other related advantages.
So, there’s significant financial incentive to create a beloved brand. But how do you build that level of intimate connection with your customers?

Doing the hard things well

Building a beloved brand that drives market value means doing positive things in ways that your customers, prospects and marketplace influencers notice.

Large green and gray quote marks
A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.

Jeff Bezos
Founder of Amazon

Doing the hard things well may require that you change behavior internally, so people will notice and believe in the new brand externally. But changing behaviors is hard. It requires creating moments that directly benefit your customer—including shareable, unforgettable experiences—and implementing those changes across all your market touchpoints (e.g., sales, services and support).

In terms of the makeover fallacy, this sort of change is like getting the fresh haircut and new clothes—but also joining the swim team, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and tutoring special needs kids two afternoons a week.

Three important challenges

For your organization, these changes in behavior should center on three important challenges:
Challenge 1: Overcoming shortcomings in established or unknown traits to build early awareness that something is new
Challenge 2: Creating an emotional connection to your new brand
Challenge 3: Becoming known for the complete set of attributes that you have decided uniquely define who you are—your great story to tell
That sounds like a lot—and it is. We suggest a three-stage market activation approach.

A three-stage market activation plan

Changing behavior to do the hard things well is a huge step in creating a beloved brand, but even if you’ve created a brand that people can love, it’s not going to be loved if no one knows about it.

That’s what we mean by “market activation”—it’s an intentional, multi-stage plan to not only build intimate connections with customers, but to build those connections in ways that broadcast what’s lovable about your brand to the widest audience possible.

Here’s a high-level view of a market activation plan that will build long-term awareness for and emotional commitment to your brand. It moves forward in three stages:


Activate Markets

Don’t just start using your new brand guidelines—put together a launch plan that communicates what you stand for across all market touchpoints, internally and externally. During this phase, you are merely interested in building awareness of the new brand and the unique perceptions you want your audiences to own.



Create Moments

Create elevated (or peak) moments of interaction with employees, customers and the broader marketplace that create an emotional connection with your brand. (For more information about peak moments see The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.)

Creating moments isn’t about being excellent at everything. People don’t remember every experience equally—they tend to remember the best (peaks), worst (potholes), and last moments of any experience. To create an emotional connection, challenge yourself to magnify your customers’ peaks—or fill their potholes—with truly exceptional, memorable experiences.



Drive Momentum

Execute into the market opportunity of the new brand from the inside-out. We’ll tackle this stage next.


Driving momentum via peak experiences

Driving momentum for your new brand requires a structured approach to making sure your new behaviors get executed consistently throughout the organization. You’ll need to:

  • Set a results measurement plan and approach.
  • Execute on change management techniques to keep market touchpoints and their management focused on executing with the new brand in mind.
  • Link your new brand through campaign themes to each demand development campaign, avoiding merely using common quantifiable benefits.
  • Measure and celebrate market success, while adjusting to gaps in performance.
  • Reward and celebrate internal adoption.

It’s not enough to create a clear, compelling, authentic brand with a strong personality that signals your unique value. You have to follow through with a marketplace brand activation that creates peak experiences. The “company meeting rollout” followed by a brief public brand launch will simply not do.

What should these peak experiences be?

They can be internal-facing, customer-facing or both—as long as they stand out from the ordinary. Some examples we like:

  • Every company sends a welcome email when you make your first purchase. But one eCommerce company we know actually sends a video from the founder, who mentions the customers’ names and personally thanks them for trying their product.
  • Many hospitals help arrange transportation, but one group of cancer centers sends branded limousines to the airport to greet patients and their families.
  • Most organizations have an onboarding process, but at StudioNorth we’ve initiated a fun, multi-faceted first-day experience that’s helped keep more than 90% of our new hires on board since 2019.

Creating these peak experiences isn’t easy, and they can entail greater investment than simply printing up new stuff with a new logo. But ask yourself: Are you living your brand personality, or is it just something in a deck? Your makeover isn’t complete until your customers rave about it.

These negative experiences create risk
86% A negative customer experience is the reason 86% of customers quit doing business with a brand.
9-15 Dissatisfied customers typically tell nine to fifteen other people.

Brand activation is much more than an initial market push around awareness. It’s getting past the makeover fallacy—doing the hard things well, doing them often amidst all your market activities and creating peak moments that reinforce your brand both internally and externally to create an ongoing emotional connection.

If you’ve built a distinctive brand and you execute this brand activation process, your brand will be intimately connected to your audiences. It will truly be loved.

Eric Meerschaert
Eric Meerschaert
Executive Director, Growth and Innovation
Eric gained his strategic background at Global 500 software companies and McKinsey & Co, where he learned that analytics, not instincts, drive the best B2B strategies.

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