Fall in Love with “Romancing the Brand”


This book shows small businesses how to build their brand and engage customers.

romancing the brand

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My son loves roller coasters.  Last summer we were visiting Cedar Point for a couple of days to ride coasters.  As we waited in line for several hours to get on a coaster, I noticed something astounding.  Every person in line was wearing at least one brand on a T-shirt, on a hat, sneakers, back packs, etc.  What I realized was that brands were everywhere and they had dedicated fans.

Romancing the Brand Shows You How to Build a Brand Relationship

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who saw how powerfully some brands connect with their customers.  A few months ago, I received an advanced review copy of Romancing the Brand: How Brands Create Strong, Intimate Relationships with Consumers by Tim Halloran.

Tim Halloran (@TheBrandGuyTim) is the president of Brand Illumination.  He has built, directed and consulted with some of the world’s largest brands.  As part of this work, he’s done incredible amounts of research around brands and the relationship that customers have with their brands.

This book is a compilation of that research as well as a number of case studies and stories that will pull back the curtain on some of your favorite ad campaigns (like “The Most Interesting Man in the World”).  From each of these stories you’ll get a meaningful lesson as well as some interesting insider tidbits that you can share with friends and learn from.

Personally, I was attracted to reading this book because I think it addresses a very important trend for small business owners of all sizes – building a brand that is relateable and connects with customers is a critical success factor to your business.

The 4 Lessons Every Brand Should Learn

In Romancing the Brand, Halloran shares practical tips that the big brands use to create a nurturing and authentic relationship between your brand and your customer.  The three over-arching lessons in the book are:

  1. Make your customer feel special.  You’ll see how Chick-fil-A introduced their spicy chicken sandwich based on a sampling to their most loyal customers.
  2. Create a bond.  The example Halloran features for this lesson is “Smartwater, a brand that was not new in the water category, yet was able to leverage their biggest fans to spread its message powerfully enough to become the #1 premium water.”
  3. Rekindle the spark.  Perhaps the most well known brand on the planet, Coca-Cola, uses the power of storytelling to reignite the passion for its product with their “Where will happiness strike next?” message.
  4. Break Up.  Sometimes you have to abandon one market segment for another.  See how Sprite broke up with their original audience of moms to focus on teen boys and doubled their sales.

The 8 Steps to Romancing the Brand Can Work for Small Business Too

Through his research, Halloran has outlined eight specific steps to create a bonded relationship between you and your brand.  Each of these eight steps serves as a chapter and contains several examples that you can use as inspiration and apply to your business.

On the surface, you might think that all of these strategies are great for big brands with multi-million dollar budgets, but don’t despair.  As you read through each chapter, you will find tips and nuggets that you can apply to your small business as well.

Let’s go through the nine steps here and see how it works:

  1. Know yourself.  This is a step that is often overlooked.  So many businesses focus on the customer first.  This is important, but if you want your customer to build a relationship with you, you have to know yourself first.  If you don’t know who you are as a brand, how can you expect your customer to connect with you?
  2. Know your type.  Now that you know yourself, you can start focusing on who your ideal customer is.  The trick is to so clearly identify this ideal customer profile, that they feel that this brand was literally made for them.
  3. Meet memorably.  Like in any relationship, first impressions are critical.  The first few meetings between your brand and your customer will determine if you have potential.
  4. Make it mutual.  Aim for the influencers in your industry.  Those brand evangelists will help you spread the word.
  5. Deepen the connection.  Continuously give your ideal customer what they want and need to feel that you are the brand for them.  That you were meant to be together.
  6. Keep love alive.  Keep rejuvenating the relationship.  Stay true to your value, your story and your message – but keep it fresh and new.
  7. Making up.  Like any relationship, there are bound to be bumps and disappointments.  Make sure that you handle these with grace and in a way that shows that you love and respect your customer.
  8. Breaking up.  To everything there is a season.  And not every brand relationship has to last forever.  Know when it’s time to move on, recalibrate and move to a new customer or eliminate the brand, taking your lessons and moving forward toward new relationships.

How to Get the Most Out of Romancing the Brand

If you pick up a copy of this book, you will probably do one of two things. You will read the book, enjoy the case studies and think about the different ways that you can apply this to your business. Or you will dive right in, grab a notebook and when you get to a lesson that you can apply to your business. You will write that idea down, schedule it and put it in place.

My biggest concern is that this book will do nothing more than entertain you.  My biggest hope is that you’ll take the road less traveled and apply the lessons to your brand and reap the rewards that come from the lessons you’ve learned in this book.

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Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

3 Reactions
  1. A large part of creating the right appeal, or romancing as you put it, is getting the vision right. What do you stand for, believe in? Why should other people spend their valuable time pursuing it like you do?
    Would you promote your cause at the expense of advertising space or even profit potential?

    I talk about this long-term aspect of positioning in my newsletter quite a bit because it’s so important that companies start integrating the purpose for existing into a larger vision that people can rally behind.

  2. That’s true. You can only get people on board your brand if you create something for them to hold on to. They need to know that they belong to some community if they use your brand. More than marketing, it is a relationship.

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