“If you can connect with your consumer’s identity, you win. It isn’t your brand that matters. It’s how your brand is a reflection of them that matters. […] The future belongs to those marketers who can find a way to become a part of their consumer’s identity.”
– Shama Kabani, President, The Marketing Zen Group
The concept of ego really gets a bum rap. It has been tangled up in a bunch of undesirable personality traits like egocentrism and egotism, and is most often used pejoratively, as in, “Can you believe the ego on that guy?” But even the most humble among us have egos. And the best marketing in the world leverages this aspect of our human nature without exploiting it.
Asking someone to share something about you is a request. Providing someone with a way to share something about them is a gift. The brands that do the latter have put to work the power of ego capital. Ego capital is anything that we feel will help us look better in front of others. The key for brands is to create and distribute ego capital in a way that brings others back to the source (Dan Rose calls this the “viral loop”). Let’s take a look at some of the most common instruments of ego capital.
This instrument is the most powerful, but usually the most difficult to engineer. Marketers have been trying to create emotional bonds between consumers, products and brands for decades. Those that have succeeded did so only when they learned to draw the lines a bit differently. Instead of fruitlessly attempting to conjure up direct emotional connections between people and things, they realized that brands can serve consumers by helping them experience more of what they’re already emotionally connected to—things like community, success, family, love, and of course, each other.
The team that created Intel’s Museum of Me understood this from the beginning. Visitors are invited to watch their own stories told in a beautiful, retrospective experience. As the “visual archive” of their Facebook presence unfolds, they relive good times, friendships, and maybe more. Intel is present throughout without intruding, and when the short film is finished, users can share it with others effortlessly—inviting them create their own museum, continuing the loop.
Personal insights and comparisons
This instrument shows a person unique insights about them that would be difficult or impossible to obtain on their own. When these insights are positive, people will want to share them—especially if they are compared favorably with others. Klout has mastered this instrument by making each analysis of user influence individually shareable. By choosing any of the sharing options, users are presented with a pre-populated update that reflects their “performance” against each measure, complete with a link to that analysis. Many, if not most, of Klout newcomers that click on this link will want to see their own numbers, and so the user base grows.
HubSpot’s Tweet Grader operates similarly. With rankings, scores out of 100, lists of the Twitter Elite by location, and more, it dishes up plenty of ego capital to visitors and lets them tweet their personal reports to their followers. Branding and calls-to-action make it clear who users can thank for teaching them a bit more about their social presence.
Achievements, features, and status symbols
This instrument is built to leverage a simple notion—when we win, we want the world to know. Things like Top Contributor badges, reward unlocks, etc., are used to build participation chains that keep users coming back, while inviting them to celebrate their victories with their social peers.