Examining My Brand Attachments: What I Discovered

Brand loyalty is likely a familiar concept: a consumer’s propensity to consistently purchase a particular brand. You may be aware of your own brand loyalties, much as I recognize it as the reason I purchase Colgate toothpaste (just as my mother has done for decades), or why I’m faithful to Hellmann’s mayonnaise (OK, I strayed once for Duke’s but went back).

But as I’ve learned from Pace’s recent white paper, brand loyalty is just the beginning.

Beyond brand loyalty is the holy grail, the big kahuna, the ultimate achievement unlocked in marketing: brand attachment.

The attachment can stem from a number of things — accountability, transparency, trust or other factors — and occurs when a brand has successfully bridged a consumer’s thoughts and emotions. At that stage, sentiment will influence a consumer more than logic. In fact, when a person experiences attachment, he or she will favor a brand even when better opportunities exist.

It’s a compelling phenomenon that got me thinking.

Am I attached to any brands?

Like many consumers, much of my exposure to brands occurs via social media. As I looked deeper, I discovered a catalogued history of brand relationships I’d formed over the years. But there was one brand that stood out from the rest: White Castle.

I know what you’re thinking: An emotional connection to a fast-food burger joint? Yes. The fact of the matter is that all brands — no matter how big or small or what they offer — have an opportunity to create an attachment. As I looked closer at White Castle as a brand, I found several important characteristics that support this attachment:

They value and appreciate me as a consumer.

First and foremost, White Castle loves their fans and enjoys engaging with them, especially on their website and social platforms. You won’t find prescribed responses here. White Castle provides individualized, personalized replies, which makes the brand feel more accessible and fosters a deeper connection. It may sound silly, but this fast-food brand can make their fans feel downright special. I’ve enjoyed many interesting interactions with White Castle over the years. I even talked with them about bringing their food truck — the “Crave Mobile” — to my wedding (unfortunately, that didn’t pan out).

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One of my many interactions with White Castle. They once featured me in a #WCW (woman crush Wednesday) post.

They give me all the feels.

Valentine’s Day is the one day a year when White Castle trades counter service for reserved tableside service and cashiers for servers to provide the perfect kitschy and unconventional holiday experience. Reservations fill up quickly and help support the feeling that you as a consumer are special and are partaking in an exclusive event. Some people even make it their annual tradition — or take it a step further and get married at White Castle. My boyfriend (now husband) and I celebrated our first Valentine’s Day together at White Castle, and the memory still holds a special place in our hearts. It’s truly a brilliant marketing idea and a great way to create an emotional tie with their fan base (myself included).

white castle 2009
What says love more than sliders? I celebrated my first White Castle Valentine’s Day in 2009.

They’re relevant, sometimes in unexpected ways.

White Castle stays current and connects with their audience in important and sometimes surprising places. They’re at New York Fashion Week. They’re at the Olympics sponsoring the U.S. luge team. You may recall that they were the subject of a cult comedy movie in 2004. And on an everyday basis, White Castle regularly leverages pop culture in their content (the Royal Wedding, Star Wars Day, etc.). They’re not afraid to use humor, and their posts are genuinely enjoyable — much like their sliders.

white castle
This photo of LeBron James went viral after game 1 of the NBA finals, and White Castle quickly joined in on the “caption this” fun.

They’re philanthropic.

Connecting with community and causes is important to me, so White Castle’s charitable endeavors only increase my affection and respect for them. White Castle supports Autism Speaks and has raised more than $6.6 million through store and online fundraisers during their 10-year partnership. They also provide free meals to veterans and active military on Veterans Day. One of their most unique partnerships was with Puerto Rican singer and songwriter Gilmarie. Together they released a song on International Women’s Day called “Make a Bold Move” to empower youth to keep working toward their dreams. Downloads of the song directly help Gilmarie achieve her goal of moving to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music.

Conclusion

My brand attachment to White Castle is multifold and took time to develop. The emotional connection began that one fateful (and fun) Valentine’s Day nearly a decade ago. White Castle cultivated a relationship thanks to their eagerness to connect with me as a consumer and their humorous and relatable content, which keeps me actively engaged. And while I appreciate that they don’t take themselves too seriously — much like myself — they realize there’s a time and a place to give thoughtful attention to things like charitable causes. The fact that there are no White Castles in North Carolina (yet), makes visiting one more like an exciting pilgrimage for me — as White Castle’s tagline says, “The crave is a powerful thing.”

MORE ON BRAND ATTACHMENT

Check out our latest white paper to find out more about brand attachment and the customer journey.

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