On Brands, Bias and Super Boring Football Games
Feb 07, 2019

The Patriots “brand” was on my mind during the Super Bowl on Sunday. Let’s be honest, you had to occupy your brain in some other way because the game didn’t offer much stimulation. The New England franchise has become a model for how to run an organization, not just a football team. They are great, I get it. But, I rooted against the Patriots and Tom Brady. I see all the evidence and know all the facts, but I’m just not getting on board.

This led me to think about how sports franchises are looking to get people to buy in just as much as advertisers for other products. What is the difference between Persil laundry detergent and the Patriots or Rams? Nothing, really. The product is different, but the goal is the same. Marketers want to influence customers swayed by their unique story. They want to build an attachment between product and “fans”. Sports teams seem to accomplish this in a more emotional way, probably because they’ve broken our heart at some point. We feel like we have suffered with them and are part of their story. However, traditional products are getting better at building emotional attachments to their brand. Talk to a Sephora customer or a Lexus driver and they will tell you.

Why is it so hard for brands to make that connection? I think everyone has their own biases that impact their outlook. Some might not like chowder, others might not like the Patriots sordid history of ignoring NFL rules, but winning fans and winning customers means trying to overcome those things. Marketers need to uncover the biases so they can reach people in a new way with a new story.

That brings me to what our team at InnerView often call the “forgotten” demographic for marketers – company employees. In theory, those are the people who should be the company’s biggest fans. However, they bring their own set of biases to their roles and their outlook on the company they represent. Not only is it possible that these important stakeholders have negative biases toward their company’s product or brand, it is likely.  Just as marketers have evolved in their ability to turn customers into fans, they need to do the same for their front-line teams. In the same way as one fan can convince another person to get on the bandwagon with their favorite team, employees can project a similar enthusiasm onto customers and prospective customers.

A company can’t expect to turn every employee into fanatical advocates of their brand, but if they start by trying to understand their biases, they can find new ways to connect with them. You won’t find me rooting for Tom Brady in next year’s Super Bowl (which he will most certainly be playing in…again), but that does not mean the Patriots are done trying to earn new fans.

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