Episode 163: Brand Loyalty Unleashed: How To Attract Legions Of Raving Fans With Deb Gabor

Do you know what sets the world’s most valuable brands apart? It’s this little thing called irrational loyalty. It’s when people are so invested in your brand that it becomes a core part of their personality and a crucial aspect of their path to self-actualization. No entrepreneur in their right mind would not want such a thing for their brand. But is it even achievable? Branding guru Deb Gabor believes it is, and she has a proven process that will help you throughout the process. Join this conversation to hear what she has to say!

 

What the podcast will teach you:

  • What Branding is and how it differs from branding.
  • What happens when the brand promise is broken.
  • The four thing the most valuable brands in the world do.

 

Resources:

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

I have guests who bring tremendous insights to the 7-figure scaling journey from $1 million to $10 million. We often have business owners, sometimes we have experts. In this episode, we have both. We have a business owner who happens to be a subject matter expert. Let me introduce you to Deb Gabor. Deb, welcome to our show.

Thank you. We have a small business owner back here who owns her own personal cat grooming business. Coco is with us.

We do pets. That’s fine. Let me tell everybody in our audience a little bit about you. Deb is the Founder and CEO of Sol Marketing. I like the way that this bio-leading expert doesn’t come close to describing Deb’s passion for brands, more accurately brand guru. I’m going to jump into the formal intro here a little bit and share some personal insight. I was privileged to have Deb come and speak to our Elite Entrepreneurs community at one of our quarterly Elite live events not too long ago. Brand Guru is the right way to describe her.

She’s incredibly gifted, knowledgeable and talented when it comes to all things brand. She’s written a book on brand three times. They’re bestselling books. She can tell us more about them later. She’s the Founder and CEO of Sol Marketing, which is a strategy-led marketing firm, obsessed with solving major business and branding problems for clients in every industry.

Companies throughout the world use Deb’s brand values pyramid, ideal customer archetype, and brand swagger questions to align their teams and articulate their brands to audiences. She’s been on all sorts of news outlets, including Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune, MediaPost, New York Times, et cetera, etc. She’s been a keynote speaker and leads workshops. We were privileged to have her come and speak in our community. It’s great to have you here on the show, Deb. Thank you for coming.

Thank you so much. Being with your community for those two days is a highlight of my month and of the year so far. What a rich and generous community you’ve brought together, and it was my pleasure to be there.

The Brand And The 7-Figure Journey

Thank you. We have the privilege of having both a business owner who gets some of these struggles that we talk about every week on this show, but also a subject matter expert. We want to lean heavily into the subject matter expert part of you because branding is with us. It’s one of those things, whether we’re intentional about it or not, it’s happening. A lot of business owners don’t fully appreciate or understand what it is or what it could be for their businesses without me messing it up with a poorly asked question. Why don’t you talk to us first about what is brand? When you think about a seven-figure business, what role can it play? We’ll get into some of the questions about your experience with many businesses in that space. Let’s start with that. What is a brand and how does it even play into this seven-figure growth journey?

We should think about a brand as being this magnet. It has this magnetic pool that brings to you customers, partners, vendors, employees, community members, and friends of the business, but it pulls to you human beings who share values and beliefs that are aligned with the organization behind the brand. I always tell people, “You have a brand whether you like it or not. It’s my job to teach you how to take control of that and drive what that identity is and turn up the attraction power on that magnet.” I think of a brand, especially for organizations that are in this $1 million to $10 million phase, this is a growing and building and accumulating phase in the business, and it can make or break if you don’t have clarity via your brand.

You have a brand whether you like it or not. Take action on it. Share on X

Branding is about this concept of the notion of irrational loyalty. Irrational loyalty is when people are indelibly bonded to your brand. They’d feel like they were cheating on you if they were to choose one of your competitors. I don’t know a single business that’s in this phase that doesn’t want this condition. To further underscore the level of indispensability and connection that people have with your business, we’ve done some research at my company to connect that to financial metrics. One of the key things that we’ve learned is that organizations that through their brand create that irrational loyalty scale more rapidly, more profitably with more focus, with less drama, and they make on average 40% more revenue than other brands in their same categories that don’t enjoy that condition of a rational loyalty. That’s my case for the brand.

The last thing I’ll say about that is that when I talk about the brand, I’m talking about branding with a big B, not a little B. branding is things like your logo, tagline, name, colors and business cards, the outward facing piece of it. I usually talk about Branding, which is about all of the things underneath the surface that no one sees, but they all feel and experience. That stuff dovetails well with things like your expressed mission, vision, values, all of the strategic foundation for your organization. Your Brand is an outgrowth of that, which is inclusive of the experience you give your customers and the relationship you have with them, and ultimately the promise that you make them.

It’s a strategic activity, all that branding stuff, if you imagine an iceberg, which I think I’ve seen some of your imagery shows like an iceberg and there’s all this stuff below the surface, and then there’s this tiny bit that’s pointing out at the top. branding is at the top. Branding is underneath the surface along with all of that other stuff that you guys, from a corporate, business human strategy perspective. It belongs there. It’s foundational.

I love that distinction. Big B. Little B. I’ve talked to branding experts before. You’re definitely right at the top of that list. When I talk to a good branding person, it’s fun for me because what we do in a leader, what I geek out about that you’ve already referenced, things like purpose and values and that core stuff in a business is the core of Branding, and it’s the core of internal culture. I see them as two sides of the same coin.

I love that you described this magnetism or this magnetic property when you do this right, whether it’s customers, vendors, team members, partners, or investors, all of those people get attracted to it. Because we’re often talking about the internal benefits of this work, we use the term talent tractor beam. It’s like sucking them right in. I hear that same language and feel from you when you talk about when you get branding with a big B, you’re drawing in the people who are going to be irrationally loyal to you the way that you described. I love that concept.

I always say that branding and culture are indelibly intertwined. You can’t have one without the other, then you have what is the broken brand promise to employees and also through your customer experience if those two things are not dovetailing with each other and it’s essential. If you have a strong brand, you’re going to attract strong talent.

I think that in my younger years, before I started my own company when I was out there looking for positions and looking for career mobility, I was looking for employers of choice. I was looking for not only great places to work but brands that I thought delivered a unique value to their customers and stood out. I had the privilege of working for some of the biggest best-known brands in the world that are still around nowadays.

It’s a benefit when you have a strong brand, not just on the marketing and sales side of your business, but for attracting incredible people who want to work there. Even in my own small company, we’ve done such a good job of creating a very clear, meaningful and resonant brand with our ideal client from an employee standpoint. We make our core values, mission and vision very visible to people on the outside. I get inquiries all the time from people who say, “I see that you don’t have any positions available on your website, but I’m attracted to your brand, what you guys are doing, how you’re creating change in the world and the footprint that you’ve left on this earth that I want to work there.”

Elite Entrepreneurs Podcast | Deb Gabor | Brand Loyalty

Brand Loyalty: It’s a benefit when you have a strong brand, not just on the marketing and sales side of your business, but for attracting incredible people who want to work with you.

 

Imagine if you have a brand that attracts humans like that, who want to work there and deliver on your brand promise, and then you have the same that attracts customers who want to be part of your brand. They want to be part of your community, then you have this magical alchemy, that creates a very strong culture in and out.

If you have a brand that makes people want to work with you and deliver on your brand promise, then you’ll have the same that attracts customers who want be part of your brand. Share on X

The Broken Brand Promise

I’m guessing I know the answer to this, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Do you come across businesses who I guess try to court or attract customers through marketing words, campaigns, copy branding if you will, but then who haven’t done this core branding work and the internal, like it’s off with their team members? They’re trying to create some presence or facade or image in the outward marketplace, but they haven’t done the work to be internally aligned to that. Does that lead to some disconnect that it gets weird? What happens there?

That’s what I refer to as the broken brand promise. anytime you’ve ever had a disappointing experience with a brand that you patronized, whether that’s for your business or for you personally, you have been a victim of the broken brand promise, that’s what you’re talking about right there. A brand is a construct that’s made up of two main parts. The first part and I always talk about these things almost like a yin and a yang. The first part, the core, this is your brand identity. That’s the part that you own and drive, that the recipe for creating the brand identity, your mission, vision and values, the way that you show up, the experience that you deliver, like all of the value, the tractor beam comes from there.

There’s this part on the outside, which is the brand image. The brand image has to match the brand identity. Otherwise, you have dissonance. I’m trying to think of back when I lived in Austin, I got my technology services at home from Spectrum Cable. They never set out through their marketing to make me feel like they’ve broken their promise to me, but through their actions, which would be things like if there was an outage or if there was something wrong with the equipment or whatever, I could never fix it on my own. It always required a technician visit.

Elite Entrepreneurs Podcast | Deb Gabor | Brand Loyalty

Brand Loyalty: The brand image has to match the brand identity. Otherwise you will have dissonance.

 

When they would schedule the technician visit, it would be two days in the future. I’m operating by tethering off of my phone, which doesn’t get a great signal inside my house. The technician give me a four hour window that’s 12:00 to 4:00. They show up at 11:59 AM or at 3:59 PM. Neither of which are convenient for me. They come into the house. They don’t put the little shoe covers on. They track dirt through the house. They can’t fix the problem the first time. You see this goes on and on, but their marketing doesn’t match that.

I feel like I should do a showcase of brands that have broken their promises to customers, but actions speak louder than marketing. We know that the stuff in the core, the brand identity, and your core identity as an organization define the actions that you take. In the same way that your mission, vision, values, and purpose, all of those things create guardrails for how you behave and how you make decisions within the organization. The brand is almost like this bolt-on piece that defines how you do that outside of the organization. That’s the broken brand promise. That dissonance. It exists every time you have something happen that you’re like, “This is not what I signed up for.”

Actions speak louder than marketing. Share on X

Right at the top of that list, it’s stereotypical, but for some reason, cable companies are right up there. Internet companies, public utilities, and cell phone companies, are the examples we grab. We’ve all had experiences with restaurants like that and other service providers. We’ve seen it all the time. I love the words that you put to it though, the dissonance, the broken brand promise. That is such a great phrase for that icky customer experience that we’ve all felt like, “That’s not what I signed up for.” Broken brand promise.

Let’s get right back to these $1 million to $10 million businesses. They’re in this phase where it’s not like they’re awkward teenagers, but some of their internal processes, systems, and development is still happening. Aside from getting clear on that core identity piece that you talked about, what are some of the best companies or the best brands that take these steps to match that brand experience with that core identity that they want to have?

What The World’s Most Valuable Brands Do

These growing companies that are in the $1 million to $10 million phase are not children. They’re not adolescents. They’re probably 25-year-olds where like the parts of the brain are finally connecting with each other and the skull is finally fused and all that stuff. They’re taking off from there. I always say that branding is an always-on activity if you are one of these companies and you’re thinking about, “Is now the right time to think about branding?” Remember I said you have a brand whether you like it or not. You need to think about it now. There are some simple things that you can learn from some of the biggest, best-known, most successful, and most valuable brands in the world. They do four things, and you can do these things too.

1) They aim their brand at a singular, ideal archetypal customer. When I say a singular ideal archetypal customer, it’s one human being. In business strategy, operations planning and things like that, we talk about this ideal customer profile. The ideal customer profile doesn’t go quite far enough. It gives you an idea and some boundary conditions under which you’re going to be serving clients.

When you’re building a brand, you think about who is the singular human being who is most highly predictive of our success as an organization. It’s aspirational. If you run a services business, you probably met this person. You said to yourself, “If we could have more customers that are like Brett, we would be wildly successful because we wouldn’t be over-servicing them. They would be profitable. They’d be advocating for us. They’d be our champions. They’d be on our side.”

If you run a product business, you have to think about who is this brand for and create a profile of who that person is. When I was there at your event, we drew it. We drew a picture of who it was, and if that person has a big heart, draw them with a big red heart in the middle of their chest. If they’re a good listener, draw them with big ears. The idea is to be able to see in your mind’s eye a picture of the human being that you are for. People buy things from people. When we’re developing deep emotional connections with people, it’s good to know who you’re developing those connections with. The best brands in the world do this. They aim their brand at a singular ideal customer.

I can think of a bunch of brands that I am not for or are not for me. I’m like, “I would never use that.” I’m repelled by those brands. This is what I would say about those brands. Those brands are doing it right. Legendary brands, valuable brands, the ones that help their organization scale and increase the value of their businesses repel people, but most importantly, they attract people who are aligned with the brand. That’s the first thing they do. They aim their brand at a singular, ideal, archetypal customer, one human being. It’s like an amalgamation of the best psychographic, attitudinal, and behavioral characteristics of the best customer for the brand. Do you want to know what the other three things are?

I want to know the second one.

The second thing they do is they become part of that person’s identity. They think of that person as a walking, living, breathing billboard for the brand. You’re wearing an Elite Entrepreneur’s T-shirt. You are the very embodiment of the brand. It is part of your identity. I had lunch with David. He was wearing the same T-shirt. He was also wearing his signature flip-flops, but think of that person, that ideal customer as being the living, breathing, walking billboard for the brand. You are part of their very identity structure, and you elevate their self-concept, not just to other people, but to themselves.

When we were together in February, we talked about this notion of Maslow’s Hierarchy, that people are on this path to self-actualization. People who are running businesses here, what people buy, what they eat, drink, and wear, the software they hire for their companies, the home services businesses they hire to keep their homes neat and tidy and safe all of those things are part of their path to self-actualization. the second thing that the best brands in the world do is they become part of that person’s concept and help move them up that pyramid to self-actualization.

Elite Entrepreneurs Podcast | Deb Gabor | Brand Loyalty

Brand Loyalty: The best brands in the world become part of the person’s concept and help move them up the pyramid to self-actualization.

 

It may not have been this part of your talk, but I remember you having people raise their hand if they would admit that they were Android or iPhone users. That becomes part of identity. That’s the company’s brand identity. If I am an iPhone user, that’s part of who I am.

You’re either a Mac person or you’re a not Mac person. Remember those TV commercials? “I’m a Mac. I’m a PC.” They were tapping into that identity structure. If you’ve ever identified as a Coke, Pepsi, Ford or a Chevy person or whatever, it becomes part of who you are. If you’re a sports fan and you have a favorite team and you wear their jersey, it’s part of your identity. Companies that are in this $1 million to $10 million phase of their growth have the power to become part of people’s identities.

Let’s go to the third one then.

The third one is the best brands in the world are not just different. They’re singular and unique. Let me pause on this one a little bit because people sometimes scratch their heads about this. I do a lot of consulting and I’ve worked around a lot of businesses, and a word that gets tossed around all the time is like, “What’s your differentiation? What’s your point of differentiation? What’s your unique selling proposition? All of that.”

This is a controversial opinion, but I am here to say that it’s not enough to be different. Because if you’re different, you are opening yourself up to comparison with others. The best brands in the world are singular. They are non-imitable. They have characteristics that only they own. They are singular and irreplaceable. Even if you offer a service or a product that is similar to something in another category, you still can be singular in the way that you serve your customers in the promise that you deliver to them. Here’s a good example for you. We talked about this. Ritz-Carlton, do you remember their brand promise?

It's not enough to be different. The best brands in the world are singular. They are inimitable. Share on X

“We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”

You can stay in a Marriott or St. Regis, which is in the same category as the Ritz-Carlton. You could stay in Four Seasons. There is something singular about the Ritz-Carlton experience at every single touch point in the relationship, they offer a bed and a place to lay your head with clean linens, a towel and a shower, like everything else in the category, but the uniqueness of the brand makes it distinctive, and it puts a competitive emote around the organization.

Here’s taking it down to the level of a brand that’s on the level of the brands that you work with. My company, Sol Marketing, you can’t swing a cat over your head and not hit a hundred other companies that do exactly what we do. They offer the same services. We do the same things. We make the same empty promises to one another, but the one thing that people get from hiring my firm that they don’t get from anyone else is the proverbial kick in the pants because deep in our core, we do hard things.

“A win for one is a win for all.” That’s part of our core values. Our employees are the CEOs of their own desks, and we have this big, hairy, audacious goal to take a disruptive dark horse brand and make them a top five most valuable global brand. That means you don’t need a marketing agency that’s going to put trains on the tracks and make sure they run on time. You need a marketing agency that’s going to push you to do the best you can to lay the best tracks possible. It’s a different way of showing up, but that’s the one thing they get from us. The best brands in the world are not just different, they’re unique.

Final thing. Number four, bring it home. The best brands in the world are not about themselves. They’re about their customers. I always tell people, like if I’m speaking to a big group of people, this is the point in the talk where I’m like, “Get out your mobile phone, go to your company webpage and tell me if the first word on the page is your company name or the word we. If so, you are doing it wrong.” The best brands in the world make their customer the hero in their own stories.

That requires them to understand and remember we talked 1) They aim their brand at a singular, ideal archetypal customer. That means they need to understand what is that human being’s set of values? What are their beliefs? What are they trying to achieve? What does the top of Mount Everest look like? What does it mean to them when they’re looking down? How do they as a company get that person to the top?

They let the customer be the hero, and in fact, they propel that customer to the top of the hill so they can plant the flag and be the winner. That formula, ideal customer, 1) Human being who’s most predictive of your success. 2) Become part of their identity. 3) Don’t just be different. Be unique. 4) Make your customer the hero. If you do those things, then you can emulate some of these biggest, best-known household name brands that are extremely successful in attracting the greatest ecosystems to themselves.

I love that powerful summary of what it means to do Big B branding the internal branding thing that you said, this yin and yang, the brand identity piece might feel a little internally focused. Other things, the brand experience, you talked about those four keys of doing the brand work to make that all lineup. 3 of those 4, as I understand them were very customer-focused and externally focused. The one about being unique, maybe was more internally focused, but the other ones were very much about that customer profile, becoming part of their identity, and then making it so that they’re the hero. That was powerful for me. Thank you so much for sharing that. Anything else you want to leave with? If Big B branding sounds big to me as a seven-figure business owner, how can I get started? Where would I begin doing this work?

The best place to get started is to create your ideal customer archetype picture. Getting your team aligned on who aspirationally are we aiming this brand at. When I work with organizations and individuals who are getting started on branding, they do that one exercise and it’s incredibly clarifying for them, and it’s something that gets everybody on the same page. When I work hands-on with clients, we bring the big butcher paper. It’s like that long roll of paper that we used to use in grade school, and you trace a human being on it, and we draw it life-size. That becomes this artifact that lives in the business. I even have some clients, believe it or not, who turned that into a lifesize cutout of their ideal customer, and they bring that person with them to their strategy meetings.

They give that person a seat at the table. That is probably the most clarifying exercise. That’s the thing that has the leaders of these businesses championing at the bit about how we truly bond with this person. I want to come back to one thing that you said about my statement it’s not enough to be different. You have to be unique. You have to be singular. That is in the customer’s mind. The question that you ask to define what is your singularity or your uniqueness is a very simple question.

“What is the one thing that we bring them or that we do for them that they can’t get anywhere else?” Here’s a hint, it’s never a feature. It’s never a service. It’s never an ity, reliability, availability, scalability, manageability or adaptability. It’s never an er, smaller, faster, bigger, whatever. It’s a superpower. What is the superpower that you give to your customers that they don’t get anywhere else? That’s where that uniqueness comes from.

Hopefully, that changes your mindset around that idea. Everything in branding is externally facing, and it is the sum total of the internal work you’ve done to define your core identity as an organization then you’re taking that piece of, “Now how are we going to show up to our customers and we’re going to create a transformative experience for them through our products or our services?”

I know that our readers could read that if I asked good enough questions and we had enough time in the day, we could keep going.

I would keep going. I’m like the Energizer Bunny. It’s hard to stop me.

What you’ve shared is extremely valuable, and the simple frameworks that you’ve started with will give lots of business owners in this space, $1 million to $10 million, some very practical things that they can start to do. I love the cutout. Bring them to your leadership meeting, and to your planning offsite. That was a fun idea not fun, but a very practical, impactful way to invite those people into your decision-making. Wonderful time together. Thank you so much for being here. If people want to learn more about Sol marketing or connect with you online somewhere, how would they do that?

The best way to connect with me is you can go to my website, go to DebGabor.com. You can get access there to information about my books, speaking and videos. One of the cool features on that website, there are some resources that are available for free and some digital downloads that are brand exercises that when you’re ready to get started, the ideal customer archetype exercise is there. The three brand questions exercise, which we covered here, “What does it say about a person that they use your brand? What’s the one thing they get from you that they don’t get from anyone else?”

Finally, “How do you make them a hero?” There are organized exercises around those and even more. That’s a great way to get in touch with me. If you’re interested in my company, the company is called Soul Marketing. We’re all over the place. My business communication social media platform of choice is LinkedIn. You can find me there. I post lots of information there. I do a lot of LinkedIn Live things. I love to connect with people everywhere.

If you read us talking on this podcast and you have a burning question about branding or you’ve gotten to work on some of these attributes and you’d like to have somebody looking over, I will talk to anybody about branding. You’ve figured that out. I’ll talk to you about your brand and strategy. We’ll reflect to help you make it better.

I personally am on a mission to serve a million brands and help them achieve the transformative power of irrational loyalty for their own businesses. Through my company, we are creating over $1 billion worth of brand value for emerging and sustaining brands. Those things all dovetail together. I am here in service to the community. If you reach out to me, let me know where we met or where you heard me so that I know to be nice to you.

Thank you for being here. Folks, as you can tell, in the brief time that I’ve had with her here, she knows her stuff when it comes to brands. Brand Guru is the closest thing we’re going to get to an accurate description of who Deb Gabor is. Please tell everybody you know about this episode. We want to help as many seven-figure business owners as possible with these scaling challenges and growth opportunities that we experienced from $1 million to 10 million. Share, like and do all that stuff. Be sure to be with us next time for another great episode. Thanks for being here.

 

Important Links

 

About Deb Gabor

Elite Entrepreneurs Podcast | Deb Gabor | Brand Loyalty“Leading Expert” doesn’t come close to describing Deb Gabor’s passion for brands. More accurate? Brand Guru. Brand Impresario. Brand Evangelist. She’s written the book on branding (three times!) with bestsellers Branding is Sex, Irrational Loyalty, and Person-ality. She’s the founder and CEO of Sol Marketing, a strategy-led marketing firm obsessed with solving major business and branding problems for clients in every industry. Companies throughout the world use Deb’s Brand Values Pyramid, Ideal Customer Archetype, and “Brand Swagger Questions” to align their teams and articulate their brands to audiences.

Deb also lends her brand authority with frequent contributions and commentary to major news outlets such as Entrepreneur, Forbes, FORTUNE, Inc., MediaPost, New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. Business and marketing organizations regularly call on Deb as a keynote speaker and workshop leader, relying on her as an inspiration for executives to embrace the power of branding to create Marketing That Sells.

 

 


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