The Royal Path to Loyalty

"Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Bell Sneetches had now upon thars.
Those stars weren't so big.  They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn't matter at all.

Then, quickly, Sylvester McMonkey McBean
Put together a very peculiar machine.
And he said, "You want stars like a Star-Belly-Sneetch?
My friends, you can have them for three dollars each!"

In the early 60"s, Dr. Suess introduced us to two groups of Sneetches, one with stars on their bellies and the other with none.  The ones without stars desperately wanted to get them so they could fit in.  They were willing to go to great lengths to get them, and Sylvester McMonkey McBean was the guy who had the machine to help them put "stars upon thars," for a profit.

The Sneetches and Dr. Suess perfectly captured our very basic human need, the need to belong.  Our need to belong is not rational, logical or even reasonable, but it is a constant need among all cultures, all people.  It's a feeling we get when those around us share our values and beliefs.  When we feel like we belong, we feel connected and safe.  And as human beings, we crave this feeling and will go to great lengths to seek it out. 

Sometimes our sense of belonging is incidental.  I, for example, am not friends with everyone from Boston, but I lived there for 35-years and if, when I'm traveling and hear that all-to-familiar accent turn my head, sometimes I strike up a conversation because I feel I know them, even though I don't.  I intrinsically trust the familiarity of their voice.

Our desire to feel like we belong is so powerful that we will go to great lengths, do irrational things and often spend money to get that feeling.  Like the Sneetches, we want to be around people and organizations who are like us and share our beliefs.  When companies talk about what they do and how they do it, they appeal to our rational sides, but they don't necessarily represent something to which we want to belong.  But when they communicate their "why," what they believe, we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include those products, people, and organizations in our lives.  This not because they are better, but rather, it is because they become markers or symbols for the values and beliefs we hold dear.

Brands, and the organizations who make them, that explain them "why" produce products that make us feel we belong, and we feel a kinship with others who buy the same things.  The brands then become symbols, badges, a kind of shorthand of belonging that, oddly enough, have little to do with the company or its products; they have everything to do with the people who buy these products themselves.  They also help us spot individuals who don't belong to our cohort group, and sometimes, deep inside of us, something that we can't put into words, we allow ourselves to feel how some things just fit, and some things just don't.

We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe.  Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the capacity to inspire us.  Those whom we consider great leaders all have an ability to draw us close and to command our loyalty.  And we feel a strong bond with people within groups attracted to the same leaders and organizations with whom we are attracted.   

Apple users feel a bond with each other.  Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, even Hillary Clinton supporters are bonded with each other.  Anyone drawn to Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, regardless of race, religion or gender, stand together, bonded by their shared values and beliefs.   They know they belong because they feel it in their gut first, and in their rational minds second.

So, if you want to inspire loyalty,  don't tell people what youu and your products/brand do, or even how you do it. 

Tell them why. 

Companies that talk about what they do and how advanced their products may have appeal, but they don't necessarily represent something to which you want to belong.  But when you tell people why you do what you do, people will include you in the their lives and your reward will be clear: you will have their loyalty.