How to Transform Your Brand Into a Movement

Written by Laura Roeder

On March 24, 2017

You’ve heard plenty of times that your story is your brand. When you have a great story that people relate to, they may choose to work with you over a competitor simply because they feel like you get them.

But what if your business is product-driven, you run a larger company, or your personal story just doesn’t fit a narrative that ties in with your product?

(Maybe you just want to sell hats – and it isn’t because when you were six, someone threw your hat into a slush puddle.)

When you turn your brand into a movement, you get beyond the “you” and take your language to the “we.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. WE as a particular demographic have a problem.
  2. A brand gets fired up about the problem, solves it, and frames their solution as part of a movement for change.
  3. YOU have that problem too.
  4. You buy the brand’s product not just because it solves your problem, but because the brand becomes synonymous with an issue you feel strongly about.

Want to see what this looks like in action?

Let’s look at three different brands who have created a movement around their products!

Airbnb: We have space we don’t always use. Why can’t we rent it?

On the Airbnb About Us page, the company states that they are “the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.”

If we’re a potential customer/host (and their brand appeals to a huge demographic of people who own or rent property and/or travel), Airbnb offers a simple solution to a big problem:

WE have extra space we don’t need (an extra room, a whole apartment, or even a house if we’re out of town).

WE could use extra money to pay the rent or mortgage when we aren’t even using our space – or we could even just scoop up some extra cash. (Who wants to pay rent on a space you aren’t even occupying?)

WE want to travel the world and experience what it is like to live in the community we are visiting without the high costs of staying in hotels. (Who wants just another impersonal and overpriced hotel room?)

WE should be able to rent our space (after all, it’s ours) without dealing with heavy government regulation, but neither host nor traveler wants to worry about just posting a rental somewhere random, or renting from some unknown person that could be scamming us.

Oh, hello, Airbnb! You’ve got a solution – and you’ve made it about empowering WE the people who have and/or need space.

In 2014, when Airbnb sued New York City over a law they were concerned would affect their bottom line, they used the movement strategy in their subway ads.

The ads pictured everyday people and their personal stories of renting their spaces for extra income. The ad headline read: “New Yorkers Agree: Airbnb is great for New York City.”

Airbnb settled that lawsuit in December of 2016, and the company still dominates the market so strongly that “Airbnb” is now a verb.

“Hey Cornelius, what are you going to do about your apartment when you’re on vacation?”

“Oh, I’m just going to Airbnb it.”

LittleMissMatched: We still can’t find that sock. Why can’t we mix and match?

LittleMissMatched is a clothing company originally for girls. But whether you’re a little girl or just a little girl at heart, you just might fall in love with what they call “outside the socks” thinking and join their movement to embrace nonconformity.

On their Our Story page, they tell us that “In the LittleMissMatched World, matching is mundane, but mixing patterns and colors is monumentally cool.”

While they now sell a variety of items of clothing and accessories, they began with socks and a mission to “build a girl’s clothing brand that is fun, inspires creativity, embraces individual style and celebrates self expression.”

When you buy socks from them, you get three socks in a package instead of a pair – and each sock is different.

WE have all had a moment when we just have one sock of a pair. (Unless you’re such a free spirit that you never wear socks at all.)

One of your favorite socks has a hole in the toe, but the other is still perfectly cozy. Another has escaped to the land of forgotten socks, and may only be found fossilized at the bottom of the closet, ten years from now.

What do we do? It seems so silly and futile that a sock goes to waste unless we find its match!

WE don’t just want to resort to buying only white and black socks forever.

WE don’t want to keep throwing away perfectly good socks because they don’t have a perfect match.

LittleMissMatched solves these problems by inviting you to think about socks in a totally different way – and it’s working for them!

TOMS: We want to buy things for ourselves. But do we have to choose between that and helping others?

TOMS started with selling shoes, and for each pair of shoes sold, giving a pair to someone in need. They call this policy One for One.

Their company story talks about the inspiration for this policy originating when “TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes” in Argentina in 2006.

WE as consumers want to buy shoes – whether it’s because we need them, we like the way they look, or both.

WE also often feel badly about buying things for ourselves when we know other people can’t – especially when going without shoes is a particularly conspicuous sign of poverty, and can cause such personal harm.

TOMS combines capitalism and philanthropy (often seen as at odds with each other) into a movement that now goes beyond shoes, and also helps provide necessities like prescription glasses and clean water.

WE buy their products for ourselves, and we feel good about helping others at the same time. We’re not just making a purchase – we’re participating in a narrative!

What movements have YOU seen brands create?

Got a favorite brand that’s created a new narrative for people to participate in?

One that’s changed the way you think or feel about a certain type of product?

Share what they’re doing right in the comments below!

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