’Gravitational pull’ is a brand theory that has been gaining a lot more attention of late. To maximize growth, a brand must have the ability to infiltrate a consumer’s consciousness and create a series of positive actions. A recent study from Les Binet has uncovered a methodology that enables us to better understand the impact of ‘gravitational pull’ (or brand strength, as he references it) and its correlation to both ‘share of search’ and, ultimately, market share. Those who understand how to create this attraction and seek to measure its impact will be more likely to succeed.

What is gravitational pull?

The theory of ‘gravitational pull’ is principally where a brand acts, communicates, and creates experiences in such a way that people more deeply connect with its mission, vision, and values. A deep affinity with the brand is created and a ‘gravitational pull’ occurs. Quite literally, a force of attraction. This results in deeper loyalty and advocacy – the holy grail of marketing. This emotional engagement may have been previously difficult to quantify and often relied on focus groups. However, the modern data-driven nature of digital communication means we can start to learn how to track this phenomenon in real-time and even predict its impact on the bottom line. We have Les Binet to thank for kicking that off.

Les Binet’s new research

Binet is one of the godfathers of marketing effectiveness. His focus has been on ‘build-up memory structures’ that will bias consumers’ behavior into the future. Really smart marketers build the brand long-term and activate it efficiently. This creates a preference for the brand, and then activation converts that preference efficiently into revenues.

Binet recently unveiled the results of six years’ worth of research showing that ‘share of online search’ is a key indicator of brand power, both short and long term. Perhaps, most interestingly, this long-term prediction can also act as an early warning system for brands. He provided an example of appliances brand LG to highlight this. Their share of search fell and, in turn, both search volume and then market share followed a downward trajectory. Binet’s research reveals a key financial correlation between having an effective gravitational pull and market share. However, it doesn’t explain how to create the phenomenon.

Creating gravitational pull

So how can you get your consumers to connect and associate with your brand on a deeper emotional level and result in valuable loyalty and advocacy? There are three key principles underlying this:

1. Gravitational pull starts deep within the organization and brand
The ability to create an invisible magnet drawing people into the brand is the whole reason for being. The mission, vision, and values need consideration as these lay the foundational pillars for the pull. The DNA of the brand needs to be clear and true. There are no smoke and mirrors anymore. If a brand has an unclear purpose or hasn’t truly developed the foundations to its building consumers won’t want to invite themselves in.

There is perhaps a no better example of gravitational pull being baked into the DNA than Nike. It is associated with professional performance – however, it also bridges the gap to connect with culture. Its mission that ‘if you have a body, you are an athlete’ is its organizing principle that runs through all its activations. For many people, when you wear Nike, you are associating with and saying something much deeper about your own values. When Nike hired Colin Kaepernick for their 30th anniversary ‘Just Do It’ campaign, they upped the ante even further. What the brand believed in and stood for was on show to everyone, using Kaepernick, who made kneeling protests against police brutality before NFL games. Some hated it but many more loved it even more and became even more predisposed to the brand and shared values. The gamble also paid off commercially. Nike’s stock soared and it reported a 10% growth in income in the quarter the ad appeared.

2. Connect brand strategy seamlessly to all customer interactions
If the brand is the face of your business strategy, it needs to be fully represented in all your customer interactions. All too often there are fractures in this process and it takes time to interpret and translate the brand strategy. A pet peeve is when the same social media post is shared across multiple channels without thinking about the appropriate activation and voice for that channel. Marketers can often get very tactical, very quickly, and do not align closely enough to the brand strategy. They need to consider their long-term marketing strategy to communicate the brand strategy.

Apple is the world’s most valuable brand. It sells more smartphones at a higher margin than others on the back of the power of the Apple brand. Core to this is providing a consistent brand experience. The advertising focuses on showing, not telling – for example, its ‘shot on iPhone’ ads. The emotional connection pulling you into the brand is baked in and also realized through the in-store experience. The Genius Bar makes you feel empowered and its radical reshaping of the in-store experience emphasizes Apple’s disruptive spirit. The brand journey continues when you get home with the unpackaging experience. The queues around the block for each release and the audiences for each announcement are not an accident. They are carefully planned and hard-earned.

3. Shorten the distance between you and your customers
The greater the distance a magnet is away from its target, the less its ability to create attraction. Getting closer to your consumers seems a no-brainer and many brands will say they do this already, however, not many brands understand how to build fluid, organic relationships that pull customers into the brand. Even more challenging is how to activate and empower them to be advocates and share the brand mission, vision, and values more broadly. When you shorten the distance between your brand and your most valuable consumers, you not only derive greater loyalty and advocacy but also amazing insights.

This remarkable brand has topped the Superbrands ranking of the UK’s strongest consumer brands for the last two years. In such a fickle, fast-moving industry, this is an enormous feat. It is the ability to connect the brand seamlessly into its customers’ lives that enables them to become loving advocates. For example, two teenagers started the Lego YouTube channel ‘Beyond the Brick’, featuring builders from around the world and their incredible Lego creations. The channel has grown to a worldwide phenomenon with over 888,000 subscribers and over 300 million views. This was down to Lego customers joining up, contributing, and becoming fully enmeshed in the brand.

Gravitational pull is a theory that should be the overarching marketing strategy of all brands in order to create deeper and more profitable connections with customers. Its direct effects can now be quantified in a tangible way with share of search – a key indicator – predicting future market share. In order to succeed, brands must make sure the gravitational pull starts deep within the organization and is connected to all interactions. They also need to shorten the distance between the brand and its customers. As American astronomer Andrea M Ghez puts it, “Gravity wins over all other known forces.”

Cover image source: SpaceX