Branding is an essential part of any marketing plan.

Branding helps you build a loyal customer base and place your business on a plan for long-term success.  But what is the best way of knowing if your plan is working?

Consumer research is normally considered significant if it can predict 15% of customer behavior.  I’m not sure about you but that seems fairly abysmal as far as consistency.  Fortunately, I’m here to tell you about a metric that predicts nearly 50% of customer behavior (i.e. more than 3 times the reliability!)…enter warmth and competence.


Warmth is essentially the feeling or emotional reaction about your brand.  Malone and Fiske, the authors of the The Human Brand, characterize warmth as assessing “whether one is kind, friendly, and good-natured; whether one appears sincere, honest, moral, and trustworthy; and whether one possesses an accommodating orientation and is perceived as helpful, tolerant, fair, generous, and understanding.”  In other words, warmth evaluates your personability.


Competence, contrary to warmth, is the analysis or cognitive reaction about your brand.  In using competence, we determine “whether one possesses special resources, skills, creativity, or intelligence that grants them an advantage.  Do they appear efficient, capable, skillful, clever, and knowledgeable?  Do they seem to possess the confidence and ability to carry out their plans?”  Competence answers the question of whether you’re good at what you do.

Warmth + Competence: Choose

Now that we have defined our terms, let’s put them together.  When added, these two categories predict certain emotions about you, your brand, and your company that others are likely to feel.

  • Cold + Incompetent = Contempt, Disgust
  • Cold + Competent = Envy, jealous
  • Warm + Incompetent = Sympathy, Pity
  • Warm + Competent = Admiration, pride

While each of these emotions can create reactions, here is a question to be asking yourself: “is this the reaction that I want?”

Contempt, Disgust: Generally speaking, most companies do not want their customers to have contempt or disgust when viewing their brand; however, it is a real possibility.  Think of BP after the oil spill Deepwater Horizon oil spill…not a good place to be as a company or brand.

Envy, Jealous: While this is a significant move up the figurate ladder of emotions, it’s still not the best place to be.  Brands that evoke this feeling will likely attract customers who like or need your product but are looking at ever opportunity to jump ship to another brand.

Sympathy, Pity:

Customers may buy your products if they feel sympathy but they are not likely to become loyal customers.  Unless your solving world hunger, I wouldn’t bank on attracting long-term customers through this method.

Admiration, Pride: At long last, here is the desired reaction to your brand (at least in my opinion).  Companies that evoke these types of emotions will attract long-term, loyal customers that possibly love your brand more than you do.

So How Do You Get There?

While theory may be interesting, it is of little use without being actionable.  To help you build your brand, here are 3 things to keep in mind and practice.

1. Act as a person not a company

It is common for customers to view corporations as if they are people.   With this in mind, begin to think of ways that show a human touch behind the brand.  Also, think of your logo as your face and your brand as your culture, your story, and your why.  Additionally, be consistent.  Customers want to feel that they understand you just like any personal relationship.  Familiarity creates a sense of belonging and safety that increases warmth.

2. Be communal vice transactional

It is easy to simply focus on the sales plan and number of transactions while forgetting how many of those are recurrent.  However, customers are loyal to you not just your product or service.  Brands that create communities over transactions carry immense power in the market place.  For example, if Apple decided to break into the coffee business, a number of customers would likely try their new product simply because of their loyalty to the brand…now that’s powerful.

To help create a communal vibe, learn to promote your culture and help customers identify with it.  If your changing the world, customers should feel that their changing it right along with you.

3. Show worthy intentions

Finally, learn to put the customer’s best interest first.  Admit mistakes and work to fix them.  Let them know that you have them in mind and not just their wallets.  Acknowledge long-time customers and make all customers feel valued.  The goal of your branding efforts should be to gain and keep their trust; start by showing yourself trustworthy.

For more on warmth and competence, check out the following links:

The Human Brand (book)

Interview with Chris Malone (co-author of The Human Brand)

Harvard Business School

Thanks for stopping by the Skool of Hustle.  We’d love to hear your feedback.  Check out our blog or contact us for more ways to better your branding or your business.