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The Science Behind How Brands Are Creating Customer Connections In A New World

In a world forever changed by the pandemic, brands and businesses must discover new approaches to connect with consumers in meaningful and lasting ways by harnessing the power of intangible values. 

The total value of the stocks traded on the NYSE are worth some 28 trillion dollars. Yet, if every piece of merchandise, building or other physical asset was sold, this wouldn’t even equal 20% of the value of what is being traded. How can something which can’t be weighed or shipped be worth so much?

The answer is intangible values.

Major corporations and brands are beginning to look beyond the obvious metrics of success to determine their worth. By identifying and developing the shared intangible values in their brand identities, they can develop techniques and strategies that can be described as “the science of human connection.” What emerges is a meaningful connection between the brand values and why the consumer chooses it.

Nike is an example of a billion dollar brand that has come to be defined by more than its core product. The brand has become aligned with the global movement of social consciousness and activism, a living embodiment of its tagline “Just Do It.”

Its Swoosh logo designed at a cost of just US $35 in 1971, is today valued at US $26 billion, once again reinforcing the idea of how much intangible values determine market worth through the meaning it holds with consumers. The intangible values that the brand represents to its customers and investors turns branded clothing into an opportunity to share this identity and what it stands for.

The diamond company De Beers through a campaign developed by Ayer’s Advertising in 1947 helped transform the most common gemstone in the world into a symbol of love. Diamond engagement rings are synonymous with cementing a relationship, imbued with a deep cultural context and emotional connection with consumers. This enduring tradition has survived the pandemic; diamond sales are spiking during this time of growth and recovery, as delayed proposals and marriages begin.

These are all examples of how brands harnessed intangible values and the science of human connection to realize their tangible successes in the marketplace.

Leader of innovation agency Ross|ReThink, Ernie Ross, a seasoned brand strategist who has practiced this art of the intangible for over three decades, created a branding methodology called Intangience™, which teaches how to define meaning and purpose to a brand in a way that gives it value to consumers.

The name ‘Intangience’ is a portmanteau of the words ‘intangible’ and ‘science’. Intangience™ stands for the combination of intangible values and the science of human connection.

The Intangience™ principle is based upon the idea that something only has value when it holds meaning to those who seek to possess it,” says Ross. “Given that a brand is essentially the expectation of that intangible value, the question becomes how do you shift perspective and redefine your offering beyond just its functionality, so that it is imbued with significant meaning and emotional connection?”

The tactics defined by Intangience™ are designed to help everyone answer this question and connect with their audience on a deeper level than ever before.

New thinking for a new world

Intangience™ comprises three schools of thought, which work together to help create a compelling brand story, and how this story will influence human behavior.

1) Pillars of Purpose – The architecture which defines a brand truth and purpose

2) Currency of Conversation – How brand reputation and popularity are traded

3) Science of Human Connection: The principles behind creating meaningful, emotional customer engagement

The techniques developed in Intangience™ are used by major corporations from diverse industries, with a body of work which has won hundreds of international awards. Intangience™ has also been cited in notable publications such as Harvard Business Review and featured in Advertising Age.

The methodology has been validated by the University for Peace established by the General Assembly of the United Nations and offered as a certificate course to businesses and students globally.

Ross has also been working with renowned Harvard professor Dr. Tal Ben Shahar using Intangience™ as part of the framework for initiatives on positivity, personal and professional performance.

Using intangible values to create mass global appeal

When Carib Lager, the Caribbean’s original brew, wanted to challenge Corona’s presence in the market as they prepared to launch in the United States, it turned to Intangience™.

“We collaborated with Carib Brewery, using our Intangience™ methodology, to create a unique way of expressing their Carib Lager brand not as a product, but as an embodiment of the lifestyle, energy, and spirit of our region,” says Ross.

A vibrant campaign emerged from the partnership, launched globally with “Can you feel it?!”, a music video celebrating everything which the residents and visitors to the Caribbean knew and loved about life on the islands. It staked a claim to this emotional space with a rich portrayal of the region.

The star-studded music video opens with a cameo from Grammy Award winning music producer D.J. Khaled, and features iconic Caribbean artistes, stunning choreography, and representation of every island nation in the region, all conceptualized by innovation agency Ross | ReThink and award-winning director Gil Green of 305 Films.

The record-breaking success for a launch by a relatively unknown brand was underpinned by the subtlety of tapping into the intangible.

Lyrically, the Carib brand name was never mentioned. In every scene, images of the brew appeared naturally as part of island life, being present in every interaction, naturally supporting the explosion of music, dance, and passion of the Caribbean. The engaging portrayal of the Caribbean embodied in the Carib brand was accompanied by the invitation to experience the “world’s most exciting playground” with the brew that wants to bring everyone together.

Within hours of being released on YouTube and other sites, the video had garnered over half a million views. Soon calls were coming in from international hotel chains, tourism officials, and major event producers all wanting to incorporate the music video with its massive appeal as part of their platforms from as far afield as Dubai. The world was responding to the music and captivating images of Caribbean culture.

Carib had achieved its objective to make itself known as the true embodiment of the Caribbean. It was the soft power of association with the Caribbean experience which helped to bring this less known brand into the awareness of a global audience.

Harnessing the power of emotion

Carib beer’s success in creating the global awareness, not only of its presence, but more so the feeling and experience it represents, is evidence of delivering on its Intangience™ insight: Everyone wants to belong to something great.

This was quite literally brought to life by showing the individual island flags waving, evoking a sense of connection and belonging among the half a million-plus viewers on YouTube who proudly wanted to be a part of the global Caribbean celebration. The region was unified in a way never seen before. The feeling itself which Carib created, became the platform upon which the brand could make an authentically Caribbean entrance to the massive U.S. market.

For Carib, it is a sense of pride and connection to the Caribbean region vibrantly presented to the world, a powerful intangible value which has defined its brand and created a powerful emotional connection with customers old and new.