Insights on Marketing & Technology

The dangers of charismatic brands

Just as people can be charismatic and achieve charismatic followership, so can products and brands. Achieving a charismatic brand has some clear advantages, but as a strategic choice, it can be very dangerous due to the volatile nature of charismatic followership.

Casper Forsström
  • By: Casper Forsström
  • Published: 26-07-2017

A charismatic brand is defined as a product or brand of which buyers/followers see no substitute. This has something to do with followership, and becoming the only possible choice for the customers.

True loyalty is created when you have ambassadors who act like firm believers of the fact that your product is the only solution to their problem, need or desire. For instance; mac users would never go buy a Microsoft product, and Coca-Cola believers would never cheat and go buy a Pepsi.

Moreover, maximum followership to the charismatic persona is best created in times of need, anger and frustration toward e.g. the established mechanisms that govern the society or community in question. Good examples here are personas such as Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler and Jesus (the revolutionary, not God’s son) or “disruptive” brands like Google, Amazon or Tesla.

Charisma is leadership and change

The charismatic persona (or brand) offers change, a new solution and creates a voice to be heard for the unheard. It fuels (and is fueled by) anger and frustration by adding to the emotional nature of these feelings, thus expanding its value adding capabilities beyond the rational limitations of reason and common sense. For instance; why pay much more money for an inferior product or service - because it builds or confirms identity and because you buy in to the followership, and not the product itself. You are part of a movement, an emotional-affirmative state.

Often we want to identify ourselves with the brands we interact with and buy in to. That is why many of the successful, charismatic brands have strong, charismatic people as the face of the brand. It makes it easier to relate. Take for instance all the personal brands inside IT and tech (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk) and the way many brands choose (either on purpose or not) to have a charismatic CEO, who knows how to communicate in the forefront. These charismatic people advocate much more than a product or corporate brand - they are revolutionary in their way of thinking and promoting their ideas. So the next time you want to create a charismatic brand with maximum loyalty, start thinking about how to create a revolution!

So can you create charisma?

The German Sociologist Max Weber described charisma as: “[A] certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are as such not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader [...]”. Well that sound pretty straightforward!

Some of the most charismatic people in the history of humankind have just been at the right place at the right time; offered leadership and a drastic solution that appeal to the basic emotions of human beings! Much like Uber does. Or Apple did. Or Ford did. And the list goes on.

So yes, even though Weber defines charisma as something divine and supernatural, you can actually build ...

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Casper Forsström

Casper er kommunikationskonsulent for Ingeniørforeningen, IDA med ansvar for den engelske kommunikation og har tidligere arbejdet med kommunikation og marketing for Nykredit og KPMG. Særlige fokusområder har været udvikling af content på tværs af kanaler og integrerede kampagner samt rådgivning og kommunikationsstrategier.

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