At its core, brand is tribal. It’s about defining, inspiring, and nurturing a community of like-minded people who share values and an emotional connection to what a brand represents. Done well, the emotional attachment to a desired perception (or affiliation) can have even greater drawing power than a product or organization itself. Companies would do well to remember this when building and maintaining their employer brands.
In the consumer world, tribal affiliation is often vicarious. For example, being a Coke drinker or an Apple user doesn’t physically place you among like-minded people, though you do connect with them, albeit at a distance, on a values level. In the employment space, however, tribal affiliation is experiential, immersive, and relational. You are literally among other members of your tribe who—despite different life experiences, ethnicities, worldviews, etc.—share a common connection to what your brand represents. In this way, the emotional connection between an organization and best-fit talent can be more dynamic than that of a consumer with a given product. For this reason, it becomes vitally important to articulate what your organization represents in a distinctively branded manner—clearly, concisely, deliberately.
“Heart Alignment” is at the Core of Every Brand
Let’s turn for a moment to an example from the consumer world to illustrate the strength of heart alignment, or emotional connection, to a given brand.
Harley-Davidson provides one of the clearest expressions of the principle of “psychic reward” (or emotional payoff, which is separate from the product itself and the “reward” it provides). While Harley manufactures beautiful, high-end motorcycles, we might ask: Is the greater motivator for a purchaser ultimately (a) the product itself or (b) all that the Harley brand stands for and the buyer’s desire for inclusion into the Harley community. People are different, of course, so at the very least there are certainly elements of both. But we would argue that what is more elemental—what will embed and nurture brand loyalty and equity—is that emotional pull, regardless of how the motorcycles themselves may evolve over time (design, horsepower, etc.), so long as the brand remains true to itself.
Ultimately, the purchase is the admission fee into the sizable tribe of “Harley Rider,” with all that represents. And in this particular instance, unlike many brands, there areactual, local tribal affiliations among Harley owners where community transpires.