When things happen to me in threes, I take notice. I recently had three different experiences where my perception of a brand was lifted. (Evidently being a brand expert does not make me immune to the “mind control” brands employ.) While all three of my experiences just happened to be with car brands, the “halo effect” works just as well for AEC brands.

The Halo Effect Defined
This brand building strategy is accomplished by aligning your brand (brand a) with a very shiny person, place, event or other brand (brand b). The luminosity of brand b is so great that it casts a favorable glow onto your brand. The Halo Effect is a clever way to elevate the perception of your brand through association. Think Dr. Oz being launched by à¼ber-luminous Oprah, and you get it.

Leverage The Best of Your Community
My first halo effect experience was at a party that my friends Dave Brown and Zack Nielsen threw. They had an enviable project of spending Ford’s money to promote the Ford Fiesta. Ford gave them a car, cash, creative tools, and instructions to simply talk about the Fiesta. One of Dave and Zack’s brilliant solutions was to tap into their own creative community and throw a party at a cool location with great music and people. The event included a few hipster retailers creating pop-up stores within the party. I never would have paid a second look to the Ford Fiesta, but, as I was leaving the party, I glanced at the strategically parked car thinking to myself, “that’s a pretty cool little ride.” They got to me. I felt punk’d, but in a good way.

Associate Your Brand with Impeccable Quality
Full Disclosure: I own a Honda Element which was mostly a practical decision based on the functionality of being able to insert my dog, surfboard and wife’s Prius (nearly) into the back of the car. Even after buying the car, I wasn’t a Honda fan until after being introduced to a series of short documentary films called Dream The Impossible. The film’s universal themes in Failure: The Secret to Success and Racing Against Time move me on an emotional level. I also appreciate that while the films were commissioned by Honda, they are not about cars. Using quality imagery, music and story telling, the films are so beautifully executed that they radically shifted my perception of Honda.

Poke Fun at Yourself
Many years ago I decided that it was just too much work to be cool. If your brand, or category, is notoriously uncool, a great strategy is to poke fun at yourself. This will differentiate you from your competitors that take themselves way too seriously. Humor is always cool. And if you can pull it off like Toyota’s campaign for the Sienna mini-van (previously uncool), then you’ve scored. The hilarious ads and mock hip-hop music video Rollin’ in my Swagger Wagon left me thinking that maybe I should get some kids and a Sienna, err Swagger Wagon. Never thought I’d say that.

I know what your thinking. The car industry has gazillion dollar marketing budgets to shape hearts and minds. Yes they do, but you don’t have to. Take the strategies from above and execute it guerilla style (i.e. on the cheap).

So, how can you use the “halo effect” to cast a favorable glow onto your brand? Consider teaming up with another brand that may be extra-shiny. Doing work for shiny brands can be beneficial. Prospective clients still believe LecoursDesign is responsible for launching Red Bull in the USA because we designed some simple graphics for their first in-store promotion. Getting shiny people to interact with work you’ve done is also effective. If they’ll also provide some sort of testimonial, then even better. If there is a way leverage the work your firm provided within a much bigger project, don’t be shy about claiming the association.

In short, constantly be searching for opportunities to align your brand with more influential brands, so you don’t have to always do the heavy lifting.

LecoursDesign is a branding and digital marketing agency helping A/E/C* firms attract clients and talent.
* A/E/C = Architecture / Engineering Construction (but you already knew that)
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