Nearly every brand can appreciate universal appeal -- but what does it take to get there?

Staff Writer

With seemingly every brand touting custom services and personalized products, aiming for a universally appealing brand may not seem like the best business choice. However, in some cases, it is exactly what a brand should do. Appealing to everyone is something nearly every brand would want for itself, but varied perspectives across individuals and demographics make that difficult to accomplish. Even more challenging is to create a product or service that is truly disruptive to the marketplace and develops a universal connection with its audience.

Here’s what some of today’s major brands are focusing on to claim that coveted status:

1. Attitude

Nike epitomizes a globally recognized and admired brand. This brand was an early disruptor, proving how an athletic company could be so integral to people’s lives of all ages with something for everyone. Its tagline, “Just Do It,” adds fuel to the Nike fire by associating the brand with a particular attitude. Even more effective are the ads with the sweat, determination, and passion that every age, culture, and background can understand and appreciate — it transmits what every human feels when playing sports, exercising, and just living.

2. Emotional Connection

JavaPresse Coffee Company boasts an amazing fresh-roasted small-batch coffee club has gained universal brand appeal through its ability to tap into the emotions we feel when drinking coffee. Consumers can really feel the mission behind everything JavaPresse does with how its product experience hits home, including those intangibles that we associate with coffee — goodness, relaxation, clarity, and happiness.

On top of that, the company continually produces content that touches on these emotional connections, bringing the audience closer to the brand. JavaPresse understands that a digital world does not have to be a disjointed one — after all, people still want to feel connected.

3. Uniqueness

Apple is a prime example of how it has used uniqueness and exclusivity to fuel its brand appeal all over the world. The ongoing product flow of innovative, instantly recognizable products has disrupted computers, mobile devices, and more, leaving competitors scratching their heads. With this disruptive momentum, Apple has developed a base of millions of fervent customers who believe in what Apple does, no matter what the product may be.

Customers like that the brand gives them something that they can show their social circle to gain acceptance: Every product offering becomes the next look-at-me gadget — and that approach that continues to work across generations, cultures, and socioeconomic groups. A brand that represents something different and truly innovative will always win the most fans.

Warby Parker is another instance of how something truly unique and disruptive can change an industry. Its innovative service offers something an audience has been wanting, and it now has consistently delivered on that promise in a way that no other eyeglass company can do, turning its recognizable name into a lifestyle.

4. Coolness

JetBlue emerged nearly two decades ago as a major player in the airline industry, offering a new experience for travelers that no other airline has yet to match. As time has passed, the CEO has noted that the biggest challenge to being an early disruptor has been to maintain that “cool” factor with customers. The company has built a brand around its customers and what they want from an airline — that requires some tweaks over time, of course, but it’s something the CEO believes comes from being disruptive. This ability to change and evolve to remain cool then becomes JetBlue’s brand attribute, boosting its cult status even higher.

5. Social Cause

Patagonia created a disruptive outdoor brand around social causes (like material consumption) that got its audience emotionally vested and engaged from the outset, turning customers into brand activists while addressing hard-hitting issues. Patagonia has made its involvement with the outdoors as complementary to the environment rather than one that harms it in any way. This includes their innovative Worn Wear program, which encourages customers to fix their old clothing rather than just tossing it out. This is revolutionary brand attribute considering most companies have focused on buy, buy, buy.

6. Relatability

The more a brand can relate to others, the greater the attraction. This is something Airbnbhas capitalized on in selling its brand concept around the world. Rather than going for the heartstrings, the brand has appealed to other aspects of the human brain. These include practicality, economic value, and convenience. Those three areas are important to a wide range of people all over the world, regardless of whether they are the consumers booking the Airbnb locations or they are the owners of those accommodations.

The Airbnb team gives a value proposition that specifically highlights those areas in a consistent and clear way. Because the audience was already seeking those things, especially when the company started soon after a major recession, they instantly recognized this brand for its ability to understand and deliver what they wanted. Their disruption led to what has now been deemed the shared economy, forever altering how people see their homes as potential revenue streams and how travelers can opt for alternative lodging.

Ikea has done something similar in its industry by disrupting the idea of what furniture can be in terms of functionality, style, and low price. Their shopping environments, including play areas and an incredible restaurant, have also disrupted what it means in terms of the shopping experience. They offer furniture and lifestyle products that show they understand their audience, exhibiting this through its in-store and online shopping experiences as well as its diversity in marketing messages and visuals.

Not every brand must use all these ingredients (or use them in the same measure) to become universally appealing. But if you ignore all of them, you can forget about that ubiquitous charm.