Early April 2013, I stumbled upon a thought that my current nuclear family status is not working for my son; his world is getting limited. I grew up in a large family that has added tremendous value to my life, and I wanted my son to have that.
I wanted him to experience what it felt like when you have a backing of a large family. But, like most large family property disputes and other differences, the family broke apart eventually, over 40 years. But in September 2013, while playing at my family home, he fell from the staircase, the one thing that comforted him was the fact that he had the attention of fifteen reputed doctors in my large family. All of them told him he is going to be fine by the next morning. At that moment, we had over two hundred family members in the house, he had the attention and best wishes of everyone, and next day morning, he was back in action.
It started with a belief. I realised that if my generation does not intervene today, our family roots and stories will be lost forever. It will die with my parent's generation - the new and future generation will never know about their origins. I had to bring the family closer despite the differences and the ugly disputes that have turned most relationships sour. I shared my belief with my family; they too believed in it, we chose the most significant festival for Bengalis - Durga Puja. It's a five-day-long festival which celebrates the victory over evil by Goddess Durga.
Gathering my large family wasn't easy; we needed other's participation, their contribution, after all it's a massive event to restart a family tradition. Everyone believed in the thought, came forward, and showed their willingness to take the idea forward. It was like setting a chain reaction. One spoke to another, and they talked to others, and within months we had a core group in place. Today, we have reconnected with over 500 family relations and friends. The family once again has come much closer and they do things together. New members in the family also join in wholeheartedly.
It's not one-off things that happened. One summer in Delhi, I felt like reconnecting with my entire college batchmates. In less than 24 hours, I had all the members in our WhatsApp group, and 48 hours later, we were getting ready for a reunion. Belief is a stronger pull; it has the power to attract people and empower them. Your authenticity and ingenuity of your 'belief' matters the most to your business.
A great brand pulls people; it compels people to take action; it charges the influencers to spread the right 'Word'. If you happen to study the biographies of great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandala, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and many others, you'll find one common theme - 'Their belief'. Without any means of advertising or access to the internet and social media, all of them have managed to create such a powerful pull that people travelled miles and miles to attend their meetings.
There are brands, and we call them cult brands, the followers of the brand are always willing to go to any extent. The millions of people who wait outside the Apple store or those who watch the entire launch presentation they are the believers of the brand. They know that they can buy the product at a later date, but they are the ones who want to be the first. In thick and thin of these brands, their believers stand by it. HOG, Harley Owners Group is yet another example of belief.
Brands which go beyond selling their products or services are the ones that change the world. No amount of advertising and PR strategy can replace the value of a brand with a strong belief. Thousands of people wanted to work in Zappos not because they stuff them with incentives or fat paycheck, they wanted to be a part of the movement - 'Delivering Happiness'. The team that works at Elon Musk's SpaceX can also have better opportunities. Still, they are engaged in changing the course of the future - they believe that humanity will be multi-planetary species. It's not just Elon Musk's Dream but it's a dream of all the believers.
The belief system is the guiding principle for brands to win people over and over again, without which, it is just a business that makes things for people to buy. They need lots of management rules to control people. They use tactics like carrot and stick to motivate people. They hire professionals to hire and fire people. In this era of educated and intelligent people, having a great business idea is not enough, it must have the courage to go all the distance to realise the dream - a dream that millions and millions of people can partake.
A brand that has a human-like character, which connects, inspires, encourages, cares and feels has a place in the future. If you wish to build such a brand, then the effort that you put is worth every penny. Such Brands have a burning desire to make it happen; the energy is infectious and gives the fuel to the influencers to fire up because such dreams are worthy of being a part of the conversation. There is no "word-of-mouth strategy," a brand's worthiness is because of the reason that people talk about it.
The Ice Bucket Challenge and MeToo Campaigns are not a well thought through "word-of-mouth strategy," the people who joined the campaign didn't participate because of any plan, but they believed in the merit of the thought, and that's why they came forward. No matter how much it tries to take humanity out of the day-to-day life, or behave practically, we are humans, and our beliefs will always guide us. Before you spend a penny or burn millions of dollar, consider asking one question? What is your belief?Image Credit: Geleidehond testparcours by Brailleliga, Wikimedia Commons