Relationship Brand Basics – Part 4

Relationship Brand Examples to Benchmark

So far in the Relationship Brand Basics series, you learned what a relationship brand is and why it should matter to you, how brands become relationship brands, and the research you should conduct to position your brand for relationship status. Now, it’s time to learn about some of the best relationship brand examples, which you can benchmark as you develop your brand strategy.

relationship brand basicsEntertainment Brands

When you think of a relationship brand, it’s likely that brands like Harry Potter, Lady Gaga, Star Trek, and Star Wars pop into your mind. As you learned in Part 2 of this series, entertainment brands tap into consumers’ emotions as well as their desires to share branded experiences. Fan events, conventions, theme park attractions, online networks, and more enable people to do exactly that. Ultimately, brand loyalty grows and consumers’ relationships with these brands become extremely strong.

Lifestyle Brands

Lifestyle brands are also uniquely positioned to become relationship brands because the products associated with those brands become so closely tied to consumers’ lives and feelings about their lives. An excellent example is the Playboy brand, which launched over fifty years ago as a lifestyle brand targeted to men who enjoyed the finer things in life. The brand grew to provide a variety of ways for people to experience it through magazines, clubs, casinos, merchandise, stores, and more. The brand lost direction in recent years, but its original focus enabled it to grow into a relationship brand that is still one of the most recognized brands in the world. (source: Building Brand Value the Playboy Way)

harley davidson clubSome brands start out as a symbol of a specific lifestyle, and thanks to the cult of loyal consumers who follow the brand, that brand becomes not just a symbol of a lifestyle or personality, but the brand actually evolves into a comprehensive lifestyle brand. Harley Davidson is the perfect example of such brand evolution. Harley Davidson started out as a gender-specific brand associated with motorcycles. Today, Harley Davidson represents a specific lifestyle that is shared by millions of people in various ways around the world. Harley Davidson clothing, clubs, events, stores, and more have become tangible symbols of the Harley lifestyle.

Technical Brands

It could be argued that consumer products brands have an easier time of developing into relationship brands than brands in other categories, such as technology. Over the years, that argument has been shattered with brands like Apple, Google, and Mozilla’s Firefox paving the way for a new influx of relationship brands into the international marketplace. Each followed the traditional relationship brand growth pattern, having first targeted niche audiences, growing to cult brands, and later broadening their audiences, product lines, and consumer loyalty to become the relationship brands that they are today.

Luxury Brands

Another category where building relationship brands is common is the luxury brand category. Tiffany & Co. and Bentley are two great examples. Purchasing these brands puts you in an exclusive club and enables consumers to engage with the brand in a different way than the others on this list provide. Rather than simply providing branded experiences so brands can engage with consumers, luxury brands create branded experiences where the brand can cater to consumers. Luxury brands tap into a specific set of emotions in order to build relationships with consumers, but the end result is the same — loyal consumers who advocate the brand and experience it in various ways with other people and individually.

Each of the brands mentioned in this article is a bit different, but they’re all examples of successful relationship brands. Bottom-line, it doesn’t matter what industry your brand exists in, who your customers are, or what your products are. Any brand can become a relationship brand. Some brands just take more time and creative thinking to become relationship brands than others.

If you missed previous parts of the Relationship Brand Basics series, follow the links below to read them now:

Images: Thomas Bush, Salome Spady

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.