Renowned investor Warren Buffet focuses on free cash flow, return on equity and net profit margin when surveying future business investments. He seeks intrinsic value; an invisible essence appreciating his assets 24/7. His $125 billion (and growing) Berkshire Hathaway owns such fun brands as Coca Cola, See’s Candies and Dairy Queen – all acquired based on intrinsic value. What turned out to be a sweet deal, Buffet’s partner Charlie Munger once said their 1972 See’s purchase was the “first high quality business Berkshire ever bought.”
What core element did Buffet and Munger see in See’s in the early 70s, which remains profitable in today’s very different world? A guess of solid management or simple, irresistibly tasty products would be close. Certainly the variety of inviting candy shapes, colors and textures, quality ingredients and preparations artfully displayed in a quintessential Forrest Gump box of chocolates serves See’s brimming bottom line. But there’s something more mercurial, more ephemeral going on. More than the spreadsheet line items a room full of corporate directors and accountants define as ‘valuable.’
Money is a result, an inevitable by-product of a more potent elixir. P.T. Barnum, Walt Disney and Steve Jobs all understood the attraction of a unique product and service well presented. However the three-ring circuses, animated movies, theme parks and sleek electronic devices were merely physical costumes of this infinitely bankable element. Elephants and iPhones were the things promised in the pitch, not the large magnet bringing people back for repeated purchases across decades.
In today’s ever-expanding technological jungle brimming with glowing materialistic solutions to problems which, in some cases don’t yet exist, a growing number of designers are weaving emotional resonance into brand experiences, intimately understanding the power of consumer imagination and fond recollection to drive sales and inevitably… profit.
Memories recalling extraordinary, heart-touching product/service experiences retain value across an entire lifetime. As human lifespans increase, purchasing action connected to warm memories directly translates to extended profit, regardless to some extent of single product/service successes or flops. (Just don’t flop too many times in a row!) Well managed companies survive mistakes – even dire catastrophes such as Coca Cola’s attempted introduction of New Coke while pulling Coke Classic off shelves, and Netflix‘s failed run splitting their digital offerings and charges.
Imagine how your products and services genuinely appeal to the heart, how their essences deeply, irrepressibly resonate to touch a human soul. Be aware how recollection of past encounters make a present experience intrinsically valuable. Understand why your product or service is memorable, then consider the physical place where the product or service connects with human beings. For perspective, ponder how a beautiful balloon purchased at a bland corner flower stand on a gray day resolves as a completely different memory when the same balloon is handed to you under a sunny sky on the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
As with Sleeping Beauty‘s life-renewing kiss, emotional resonance is forever timeless – embracing an imagined purity of the original experience. Craft brand experience with the utmost care for it evolves into the profit decider. Mary See and Warren Buffet undoubtedly gathered wonderful memories from each candy in their early boxes as they savored, then returned again and again to both recount and encounter fresh chewable discoveries — and the solid profits the rest of the world brought to them.