How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Achieve Brand Power

Choong Whan (C.W.) Park

February 1, 2023


If a brand connects products and customers and instills trust, it can overcome the financial and human limitations required for publicity through ‘loyalty purchase‘ by touching and empathizing.

The relationship between a brand representing a product and its customers is no different from that between humans. When we evaluate any one individual, we often use three emotions: trust, love, and respect. For example, expressions such as “He is a trustworthy person,” “He is lovable,” and “He is a person to be respected.”

Although the first three emotions have a certain degree of correlation, it would be more accurate to view them as independent in a strict sense. In other words, trusting someone does not necessarily mean loving or respecting that person. Also, to think of someone as lovable does not necessarily imply respecting that person. Therefore, when you feel these three emotions together from someone, when you trust and love the other person and respect them at the same time, you will consider them the most precious person.

If any of these three emotions are missing, there is a limit to the relationship between two people. For if there is trust but no love, it is as if there is no summer among the four seasons. The ties will be lukewarm and will not last. On the other hand, love without trust or respect is like a car without an engine. Even if you push hard, you can’t go far; it will always be a series of unstable relationships. Therefore, when the three emotions exist simultaneously in one’s heart toward a particular person, one has a solid attachment to that person. Let’s apply this human-to-human relationship to the relationship between customers and brands. Customers have faith in the quality of a particular brand (e.g., “I have confidence in the quality of Samsung brand products”). You may also love a specific brand (e.g., “I love Godiva chocolate very much”). Finally, customers may sympathize with the values ​​or philosophies of any particular brand (e.g., “I agree with Patagonia’s values ​​of ‘preserving nature,’ so I value the brand highly”).

In the relationship between a company’s brand and its customers, if the above three emotions coexist, the customer will show two types of behavior toward the brand. They are ‘brand loyalty purchase behavior’ and ‘brand advocacy behavior.’ In other words, according to the results of my research, when customers feel trust, love, and respect for a brand, they continue to purchase that brand and, at the same time, recommend and advocate the brand to others. Therefore, these brands guarantee high profits for companies.For this reason, companies make great efforts to make customers have the above three feelings for their brands. Companies promote brand excellence and attractive designs, instill trust, and make customers feel lovely through affectionate advertisements. And finally, it is to make customers aware that their brand is playing a role as a spokesperson for issues or philosophies that arouse social sympathy so they can have respect. However, this work requires a lot of human resources and financial power. This is difficult for small businesses.

Then, what and how can small and medium-sized businesses make customers have three feelings about their brands?

Let me illustrate this problem with two examples. The first is an example of a real estate agent several acquaintances introduced to me to buy a house in Lawrence, Kansas, in the mid-1970s. Every year at the end of the year, he made a calendar for the following year with a picture of his face and his name and delivered it to customers individually. He handed out a calendar, said Christmas greetings, and inquired about his family. Customer service in this way is time-consuming and physically demanding. The fact that a person who has made a lot of money by succeeding in real estate visits a customer’s house with a calendar on a cold winter evening every year is impressive for his thorough work spirit. In addition, through the calendar delivered in this way, customers remember his face and name and maintain favorable feelings.

His sincerity, effort, and uncompromising work spirit have earned customers’ trust, love, and respect for him. As a result, the broker’s customer repurchase rate was close to 60%. (Loyalty Buying Behavior). Also, like me, when I ask for an excellent real estate agent around me, several people recommend him (brand advocacy action). Small business owners should take note of this real estate broker’s example. This is because he overcame the problem of a lack of financial power and human resources through sincerity, effort, and sacrifice for customers. What is noteworthy is that he did not deliver the calendar to the customers in a comfortable way but visited the customers in person despite the cold weather.

The second example is a brand called Toms Shoes, which is now almost legendary. The brand value of ‘One For One’ put forward by the company’s founder, Blake Mycoskie, instilled three feelings in customers simultaneously: trust, love, and respect. He said he thought of this method after seeing many children living without shoes during a trip to Argentina in 2006.

‘One-to-one’ is a way a customer buys a pair of shoes, and the company donates a pair. Tom’s Shoe brand was neither cheap nor superior in quality or style compared to other famous brands of shoes. The highly competitive footwear market has proliferated through this strategy, even with products that are not exceptionally differentiated. This was possible because customers who sympathized with the brand’s value continued repurchasing and promoting it. The unique brand value of ‘one-to-one’ planted the three emotions of trust, love, and respect in customers’ hearts, backed by the mighty power of self-generated social media. This led to ‘brand loyalty behavior’ and ‘brand advocacy behavior’ of customers.

In conclusion, we need to remember two things about the second example. One is the differentiated value of an impressive company that puts social justice into practice, and the other is the use of a ‘brand slogan‘ that quickly and clearly conveys the corporate value of ‘one to one.’ With the power of powerful self-sustaining social media, it has overcome the limitations of human resources and financial management.

Choonghwan Park / Former USC Distinguished Professor