Brand Essence: The Secret to Attracting Loyal Customers

by Joanne Steele on December 13, 2016

We’ve talked about how we should TREAT loyal customers, but how does one actually ATTRACT one.

Everyone including me talks endlessly about customer experience and sales funnels and attraction and retention. And all you want is for someone to buy your product or service!

I have discovered a simple truth about how to do that:

Brand EssenceSanta, woman and child

Stay with me here, you’re going to actually love this simple and doable concept.

This weekend my granddaughter came up for a rare and wonderful visit.(Note picture of Grandma and Brooke visiting with Santa, a good friend who looks like the Red Suit was tailor made for him.) We crammed a week’s worth of activity into 2 days and her response was, “Grandpa, Grandma, Dunsmuir is FUN!”

The people are fun. The activities and recreation is fun. Our restaurants are fun. “Fun” is the thing that people feel when they visit here, that is somehow different from the feeling they have in any of the nearby towns!

FUN is Dunsmuir’s Brand Essence!

In a recent post, Your Brand is More Important Than You Think, Brian Solis talks about the concept of brand essence.

Stop rolling your eyes – this is not about a kicky tagline or fancy logo that will take months to come up with. Your brand, according to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, “…is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

You don’t have control over the words people use, you only have some control over the feelings that your business evokes – that is your brand essence.

All the work we’ve been doing in Dunsmuir with artwalks and good restaurants and big fish planted in our river and Santa strolling down the street all day and down home, locally made Christmas decorations and everything else has contributed to our Brand Essence.

Nobody leaves here saying, “Dunsmuir, The River Runs Through It!” (a proposed tag line).  But they are saying, “Dunsmuir is Fun!” We have our brand essence.

“How,” you might be asking, “does this relate to my business?”

Businesses run on their brand essence. Think about Harley Davidson motorcycles. What is the Harley brand essence? Freedom! Liberation! Other motorcycle brands try to capture that essence, but people associate those feelings with Harleys, and they’re willing to spend more money for a Harley than a Kawasaki because of it!

Disneyland = “magic”

Volvo = “safety”

Dunsmuir Hardware Store =“friendly” And here’s a secret that Dunsmuir Hardware teaches:  We residents know that they don’t always carry what we need, but we ALWAYS try there first, because they’re friendly, and the help and advice they will give is more valuable than the package of screws we went in to buy.

What is your brand essence?

Go to 9 Criteria for Brand Essence.

It will take you 10 minutes to read through this 72 page presentation, so don’t delay thinking you need to wait til you have several hours. You will emerge understanding brand essence and be ready to think about your customer and your business differently.

This time, I’m not going to tell you how to use the information. I’m going to ask you to tell me. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

How did this information change the way you think about what you do?

How did it change the way you may approach your marketing – your social media posts, your print advertising, your customer service?

Were you able to articulate your business’s brand essence?

Leave your comments below, or if you’re shy, email. I’m always happy to receive your emails.




1 Barbara Steinberg December 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Joanne – As always, thank you for your brand of brilliance!

Loved the photo! Cheers -Barbara

2 Joanne Steele December 19, 2012 at 11:04 am

Happy Holidays, Barbara! Thanks so much for your support – hope you’ll come up to the top of the state sometime.

3 Mike Jaycock December 15, 2012 at 5:12 am

A well done, easy to remember, reminder of what it is to have a compelling brand essence. Thank you. Oh, and a thought, perhaps the tag line for Dunsmuir should be “A River Runs To It! (and leaves reluctantly)” 🙂
Everyone wants to be a creator.
Always enjoy your thoughtful contributions.

4 Joanne Steele December 15, 2012 at 9:35 am

Thanks Mike. I bet you’re a fisherman. We love our River – it’s fun!

5 Herb Lawrence December 14, 2012 at 11:38 am

Absolutely Joanne nothing in that commercial about features…strictly intangible benefits to their target audience. 30 something families…,Dad and Mom grew up in the great depression, fought through World War II, took the GI Bill that let them go to college and get professional jobs so they had discretionary income. Most of them were better off in the 1950s than their parents. They wanted to enjoy the good life of peace and prosperity . The interstate highways were being built . The US had been spared the destruction in Europe and much of Asia…. Dinah Shore was the “girl next door”. They bought Chevrolets, packed their kids up and saw the USA! In fact I would imagine over half of those new Chevrolet owners couldn’t even tell you WHY they bought Chevrolets, they just did… That campaign ran through the 1950s to early 60’s only changing the model of the car and used HI tech for the day… Television.

Our small business friends don’t have GM marketing budget but they can appeal to their target market intangible hot button if they just look at their customers wants and needs. Speaking for my SBDC only I think we are too in love with our features to take the time to ask ourselves what the real benefits are to our clients to work with us….one of my goals for 2013 thanks to your insights! Sorry this got so long but your blog inspires me to take time to look beyond the obvious to find real ways to connect with our customers

6 Herb Lawrence December 14, 2012 at 7:51 am

Joanne great article as usual and you are correct if our small business friends would start to think “benefits” instead of features in their message and take a little time to look at their customers their marketing message could really connect. One of my favorite examples of benefits targeting right to customers is an “ancient” TV ad that ran for almost a decade…Dinah Shore and “See the USA in Your Chevrolet” no features just a message that connected to middle class America coming out of World War II. Keep posting these articles!

7 Joanne Steele December 14, 2012 at 10:59 am

Now you’ve done it, Herb! I’ll be singing that song all day – “See the USA in your Chevrolet. America is asking you to call. Drive your Chevrolet thru the USA! America’s the greatest land of all!! At that point GM’s brand essence was Patriotism, and with their comeback they could tap into that again.

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