Building a Brand Consumers Engage With

Listen to part three of our interview with Chip Conley here, or read our summary below:


How important is a brand, especially to Millennials? Before understanding how your brand can make an impact with that generation, it’s crucial to understand what a brand is. According to the Kellogg School of Management, a brand is “a set of associations linked to a name, mark, or symbol associated with a product or service.”

We recently sat down with Chip Conley, hotel industry veteran and marketing expert, to talk about how consumers’ associations with your brand can influence their decision making.


Your brand is a promise. Your business is an opportunity.


Your brand is a promise, says Conley. When a consumer knows what they’re going to get from you, it helps them make their decision about what product or service to choose faster.

When a consumer is figuring out which product or service they want, like a checking account or new loan, they can research thousands of brands on the internet. Conley recommends seeing these thousands of choices as an opportunity, not an obstacle.

“The internet has made us more promiscuous customers,” Conley says. “What I mean by that is there are many alternative ways to figure out how to buy the product or service you want to meet the need you're trying to solve.” He adds, “The internet is making us more promiscuous because it's leveling the playing field, allowing you to discover things you wouldn't have known about.”


Word of mouse: Avoid becoming a negative brand.


Negative association with a brand can be toxic, says Conley. In the past, a negative experience with a brand led to word of mouth and today it leads to “word of mouse.” Rather than consumers telling friends or family face-to-face about their bad experiences, they vent their frustrations on social media and websites dedicated to poor brand interactions. “You'll go out and you'll see all kinds of toxic terrible things about what that brand has done to their customers,” says Conley. “That doesn't serve the brand well.”

When someone is searching for your products or services online, they get a few links they’re looking for plus hundreds or thousands of other links they didn’t know they were searching for, but may be equally relevant. They see reviews, any recent news articles (positive or negative), and blogs people may have written about you, and all of these factors shape their idea of your brand.

About 64 percent of Americans think community financial institutions have better personal service than the big national banks.* By providing this exceptional service you’re already known for, you can keep negative interactions and reviews to a minimum.


Don’t drive in the middle of the road.


The goal is to either be seen as a big brand or small brand rather than mid-level. “There's a risk that mid-level also means middle-of-the-road in terms of how you deliver your experience or the product or the service,” Conley says. “That's where it gets risky.”.

As a community financial institution, you have the opportunity to add your “local flavor” to the products and services you offer. What are opportunities (like local charity events) that actually put you in the face of your consumer as a good citizen to your local community? It could be something you do in the physical environment or even on your website that helps people feel like they’re supporting the local community when they use your products and services. By doing this, you’re providing them with something extra they weren’t initially looking for when researching and you may be able to influence their decision making.



Want to get more insights from Chip Conley? Read about part one and part two of our chat with him now.


*2015 Consumer Banking Insights Study


About Chip Conley:

Bestselling author, hospitality entrepreneur, disruptive business rebel, and social change agent, Chip Conley is a leader at the forefront of the sharing economy. At age 26, the founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality took an inner city motel and turned it into the second largest boutique hotel brand in the world. Inspired by psychologists Maslow and Frankl, Chip’s books, “Peak” and the New York Times bestseller “Emotional Equations,” share his own theories on transformation and meaning in business and life. Chip was CEO of his innovative company for 24 years. In 2013 he accepted an invitation from the founders of Airbnb to help transform a promising home sharing start-up into what is today the world’s largest hospitality brand. As Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy, Chip taught his award-winning methods to hundreds of thousands of Airbnb hosts in nearly 200 countries, and created the Airbnb Open that brings thousands together in a global festival of belonging.

Chip holds a BA and MBA from Stanford University, and an honorary doctorate in psychology from Saybrook University. He serves on the boards of the Burning Man Project and the Esalen Institute.