Build brands on love

If I’ve learned anything about brands in the past decade, it’s that great brands are loved. Organizations with great brands create amazing relationships through one-of-a-kind experiences delivered on a daily basis. Who doesn’t want to buy from a place where they feel welcomed, comfortable and loved.

But that love can’t be faked. It has to be genuine because it has to be consistent. The brand owner – the organization’s owners and all the employees – have to love what they do.

I realized it again this weekend when I stumbled upon Ichi Bike Shop in downtown Des Moines. It’s a cool little place where bicycles are brought back to life…sometimes as they were originally built, and other times in strange, exciting and creative ways. One side of the narrow store is lined with an assortment of old bikes, the other with bushel baskets of parts. In seconds, it becomes very apparent that the guys who own/work at this shop love bikes. I’m not a “bicycle guy” but I picked up on the vibe right away. If you love bikes, you’ll love Ichi Bikes. Here’s a video that demonstrates, in my opinion, how much they love what they do.  (

Walking out of the shop, I realized how important love is to a successful brand.

Later, however, I thought back to another experience that helps support my belief. An accountant bought a successful local drivers’ education business. I had worked with the previous owner and was now meeting with the new owner to explain the marketing plan we had developed but had not implemented. He told us he had “to put some butts in the seats” before he ever spent any money on marketing. I realized then and there, he didn’t love his business so he would never be able to deliver an experience that would be loved. I was right. The business disappeared – maybe it was sold and absorbed by a competitor – within a year.

Sure, sometimes love can blind you to the important decisions that need to be made. I’ve often said that many entrepreneurs are in love with their idea, and will waste a lot of time, energy and money trying to find others who love it as well. But given the choice to love what your doing or not, I think love has a much bigger upside than not loving it. Don’t you?

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