Create inherent brand traction


Creating inherent brand traction on par with the world’s leading brands is a multidisciplinary exercise. It requires a competitive value proposition, the underlying business system to deliver and a leadership capable of rallying the organisation around a shared aspiration – only to name a few examples. However, leading brands also share the decisive trait of consumer identification as their brand narratives resonate inherently with existing consumer narratives. In this paper, we validate six consumer narratives to leverage, and outline how to translate derived product preferences to specific offerings – creating the foundation for inherent brand traction.

We all know them

…the brands that consistently outperform the market, almost no matter what KPI you reach for. And every marketer, CMO, consultant or agency creative has his or her own favourites to use for the occasional, but most often discouraging, benchmarking – but what is the secret behind the inherent traction these brands seem to enjoy?

  • Why do people line up to buy the new iPhone or iPad from Apple even before the reviews are out?
  • What makes so many parents in the Western Hemisphere consider it pivotal to ensure that LEGO becomes part of their children’s play?
  • Why do so many take the long drive to help IKEA rid their warehouses of cardboard-wrapped ready-to-assemble furniture from nameless designers?
  • What makes viewers of Netflix and grade A actors like Kevin Spacey so vigorously fuel the rising rebellion against traditional TV broadcasters?

And to make it even more impressing – or depressing if one of these brands happens to be part of your competitive set – is the fact that they sustain brand value and retain a nearly unbreakable bond with their customers through the flux of consumer trends, shifting commercial paradigms and industry logics.

There is an abundance of opinions on what constitutes the root cause of these brands’ success. This is quite understandable; their success stems from a plethora of reasons, and trying to offer one answer would probably pose a sizeable challenge to the professional integrity of any marketer. Put simply, no inherent brand traction will stand without a competitive value proposition; no inherent brand traction can exist without a business system geared to deliver unique customer engagement across all touchpoints in a digitalised world; no inherent brand traction can remain without a leadership capable of rallying employees around a shared aspiration, and so on.

One shared trait

Evidently, we are approaching the classic “however”. While we will not offer one universal answer, we are going to single out one trait that brands of inherent brand traction share, namely the ability to inspire consumer identification. Consumer identification becomes possible when a company’s sustained and coherent brand narrative resonates with one or more of its target customers’ personal narratives. A few well-known examples:

For more than three generations, the Kirk Kristiansen family have worked to provide toys that help children play well (in Danish “leg godt”, hence the company name LEGO). Their quest, embodied in the mission statement “Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”, shapes the LEGO brand narrative and informs business decisions on a strategic and operational level, and employees’ loyalty to the mission is rewarded. As such, the value proposition of a creative play experience manifests itself across all touchpoints, making their customers identify with the brand.

Since the early 1980s, Apple has called upon us to “Think Different” and join their rebellion against the boxed thinking that human capabilities should submit to IT design and programming (and not vice versa). This narrative, alongside Apple’s ability to deliver supporting proof points over time, is a key reason why people today are able to master powerful smartphones through a touchscreen-based interface that requires no more intelligence than what is embedded in our fingertips (figuratively speaking). Apple’s customers have great sympathy for that cause, making them identify with the brand.


Since the 1940s, when Ingvar Kamprad stitched together an acronym from the initials of his name (Ingvar Kamprad), the family farm where he was born (Elmtaryd) and the nearby village Agunnaryd, and founded IKEA, millions of people have enjoyed the spin-off benefits from his vision “To create a better everyday life for the many people”. The prospect of getting highly functional home furnishing products at low prices even makes IKEA’s customers take on large part of the logistics and assembling themselves. They willingly strike that “deal” with IKEA, resonate with the narrative and identify with the brand.

Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings rarely misses a chance to publicly predict the looming, but in his eyes, timely death of broadcast TV. With each time, more and more people cheer him on in his company’s mission to challenge the incumbents of flow TV, and the brand narrative “Help content providers find a global audience” is reiterated. So far, 74 million people, accompanied by millions more every quarter, feel a subscription resonate with their personal narratives, making them identify with the brand.

Reaching that level of identification spells sustained financial performance because it makes the companies less vulnerable, e.g. to the next industry transgressing and disruptive technology trend or the ominous ingenuity of competitors.

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