When it comes to the material things in life, it’s the houses, cars, and other large-scale items that grab our attention.
But it’s often the smaller ticket items that win our affection. We easily fall in love with them, can’t live without them, and stopped looking at their price tag long ago.
How do the companies marketing these brands lure us in? Initially, it might be a humorous ad campaign, or some mention on social media that went viral, or a subtle product placement on our favorite TV show. Sometimes, it’s even just the color, the logo, and other packaging that we fall for. Take for example how Shake Shack, the upscale fast-food chain whose stock continues to sizzle, wraps itself in a deliciously evocative font called Neutra, virtually untouched since it was originally developed 70 years ago by the renowned modernist architect Richard Neutra.
Like personal relationships, we’re often initially introduced to a favorite brand by a friend or family member (in the case of Shake Shack, it was my 14-year-old son), and then the relationship becomes more intimate, without any intermediaries. Even in commerce, three’s a crowd. You might have the first encounter online, meet up at your favorite retail store, or get pleasure out of picking up the item at a brand’s outlet.
Let me get personal and share with you what draws me to those brands that are closest to me, and what makes me so fiercely attached and loyal to them. My criteria for selection: brands that literally touch my skin on a daily basis. Among my favorites are Weleda citrus deodorant spray, Clarins sunscreen, Robert Marc glasses (over 17 years of great customer service), and Frye boots.
Top-of-mind now are my new romances with high-touch brands. These are three I’ve fallen head over heels for over the last year, so much so, that I’ve literally made it a point to meet the people behind the products.
1. Alchemy Goods. I admit I have a fetish for finely designed recycled Alchemy Goods. I originally discovered a smart and light-weight wallet made out of tires at the Black Bamboo in Kansas City and then graduated to a black messenger bag made out of recycled bicycle inner tube with a seat belt as the strap, which is simply the best briefcase I’ve ever had, functional and fashionable. Last month, on vacation on the West Coast, with only 24 hours in Seattle, I had to visit their small storefront, where I picked up more sturdy and aesthetically pleasing goods.
2. Todd Shelton. A good friend turned me on to a new brand of classic American clothes for guys, Todd Shelton, which manufactures all their jeans and shirts in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Shelton says, as far as he knows, he is the only menswear fashion brand in the country operating with the business model of manufacturing an entire collection in-house and selling direct to the customer exclusively online. Part of how they do that is the brand’s“Fit Kit,”an innovative home try-on program that simulates Todd Shelton sizes and fits.
3. Java Me Up! I’m not a hardcore coffee drinker, but I recently discovered Java Me Up!, what the company smartly calls “coffee that never spills.” When I placed a box of their energy bars out at my office at the start of work, they were devoured before lunch. They should come with a warning label: delicious, uplifting, and will give would-be competitors a run for their money. I had to cold call the owner, Lisa Newmann, to confess my addiction, and was even more blown away by what she and her team have already created at their HQ in the former mill town of Housatonic, Massachusetts.
Some quick lessons from these companies?
All three brands are jumping right into crowded waters, but each with an irresistible and differentiated new twist. They are also illustrations of how warm is the new cool. These companies all market themselves as accessible, genuine, and needed, rather than sleek, snarky, and too cool for school.
Sure, I also like the people and the backstory, their design and environmentally friendly attributes, along with the fact that each has a hyper-local place of origin. Although there’s now an emotional attachment, these are extremely practical types of items satisfying our basic human needs—for example, food, clothing, and bags for our stuff. When I turn other people on to the brand and share the love with the passion of a new convert, it only adds to my connection. But at the end of the day, it’s a “what have you done for me?” kind of relationship. My loyalty is reciprocal because these products are good to me, and I try to do good by them.