Brand Admiration: The 3 Es That Motivate a Brand's Biggest Fans

Image of Nader Abou Mrad
Nader Abou Mrad
Published: Sep 6, 2022

It may seem crazy.

Every September, crowds of people line up in front of Apple Stores with their tents and sleeping bags to get their hands on the new iPhone. It doesn’t matter that they already have the latest iPhone or that the newer one is practically the same as the old one—plus a few features they’ll probably never use. They will wait in line for 12 hours or more.

This happens almost every year, again and again.

But that’s not the most surprising part.

The most surprising thing about all of this is the fact that the people waiting in line are very happy to do so. 

Isn’t that every marketer's dream?

Imagine this: people don’t just want your product. They want it so badly that they’re gladly willing to put their lives on hold, maybe for a day, to buy it.

This is an example of a powerful form of brand trust called brand admiration. This term was popularized by C. Whan Park, Deborah J. MacInnis and Andreas B. Eisingerich in their book "Brand Admiration: Building a Business People Love".

In this post, we'll discuss their "3 Es" framework for brand admiration—and how you can work to achieve brand admiration for your brand, too.

What Is Brand Admiration and Why Is It Important?

A picture showing admired brands

Brand admiration is not just about the brand itself. It’s about how customers perceive the brand. A brand that is admired has gained the trust, love, and respect of its customers.

Its customers are more than customers; they are its advocates and its top marketers. They promote the brand’s products to their friends and family, they pay a premium to get those products instead of competing ones, and they gladly wait in line for those products.

If having customers like that is not enough of a reason to put time and effort into cultivating brand admiration, think about some other great benefits that brand admiration brings with it. You'll get better partnership opportunities as admirable brands reap the benefits of having a strong network of suppliers and partners that are often willing to go the extra mile and make sure they stay connected with such a brand.

There will also be better hiring opportunities. If your brand is admired, it will be much easier for you to recruit top talent in your field. And not only that—it will increase employee happiness as employees are proud to be working for an admired brand.

Understanding the 3Es of Brand Admiration

There are many ways to build and enhance brand admiration. In this article, we’ll be discussing the 3 Es framework, developed by Park, MacInnis and Eisingerich. It’s an approach that's simple to understand, modern, and backed by extensive research and data in the fields of brand management and consumer psychology.

Moreover, it can be applied to virtually any industry or brand—including yours.

According to this framework, customers admire brands that enable, entice, and enrich their customers. In other words, they benefit customers in several ways. As a business owner or marketer, you should focus on providing these three forms of benefits to your customers to build brand admiration.

Let’s dive into what each of the three Es means. 

1. The First E: Enabling Benefits and Brand Trust

Picture showing hands holding a piece of paper with trust

Enabling benefits empower customers in their daily lives and help them solve their problems. These benefits take on many forms and are as diverse as the problems that customers run into. These include: 

  • Saving customers’ time
  • Helping customers get tasks done
  • Reducing the risks customers may encounter

As described in by one of the book's authors:

When a brand consistently enables customers over time, they begin to trust the brand. They know that they can rely on it to solve their functional problems and conserve their scarce resources.

In general, marketers start with the benefits that fall under this category when positioning their brands. That’s a good thing, as a brand’s enabling benefits are usually the easiest ones to advertise. 

However, too many marketers stop there—and that's missing out on an opportunity to be more for your customers. 

2. The Second E: Enticing Benefits and Brand Love

Pictures showing light letters "Love"

Benefits that entice customers stimulate their minds, senses, and hearts. Whereas enabling benefits are logical and practical, enticing benefits are emotional and tied to customers’ beliefs and perceptions. Enabling benefits make customers feel empowered, but enticing benefits make customers feel gratified.

A brand that provides these enticing benefits makes customers feel gratified, engaged, entertained, upbeat, and warmhearted. Here are some ways for a brand to provide these enticing benefits:

  • Stimulating the mind by arousing curiosity and imagination. 
  • Stimulating the senses through desired sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile sensations. 
  • Warming the heart with humor, nostalgia, excitement, and many other positive emotions. 

According to the creators of the 3 Es framework: “whereas enabling benefits lead to brand trust, enticing benefits lead to brand love”.

As an important side note: many B2B marketers, in particular, do not give enticing benefits enough attention. Be careful to not make that mistake, because these sorts of benefits are very important, and not only reserved for B2C brands.

3. The Third E: Enriching Benefits and Brand Respect

Picture showing post-its with respect

Benefits that enrich customers make them feel inspired, proud, connected, validated, and/or influential. Whatever industry you are in, you will likely find this “E” to be the most challenging – but it is equally rewarding. 

One of the reasons providing enriching benefits is difficult has to do with the fact that it takes time. The brand itself often needs to develop a reputation over time, for example by:

  • Catering to a specific audience: owning a Bugatti takes more than just paying for it – which itself is not an easy task. Bugattis usually sell out before the cars are produced, because whenever the company wants to make new cars, they just contact the people on their customer list and offer them new cars. They know their audience – very rich and influential individuals who take cars seriously. This is why owning one of their super cars means having access to a tight-knit group of powerful people. This is common in other luxury brands too: Hermès Birkins are not just beautiful bags; they are a ticket to a small and exclusive “members-only” club that everyone wants to join.
  • Having its own persona: think of how Harley-Davidson provides more than motorbikes and matching jackets. Think of any motorbike brand besides Harley-Davidson and ask yourself this question: “if that brand was a human, what would it look like?” It’s very difficult to answer that question because almost all motorbike brands do not have “a life of their own”. Now think of Harley-Davidson: there’s a very good chance that the human you imagine is between 30 and 50, has tattoos and a long beard, wears dark glasses, and is surrounded by other similar-looking people. 
  • Contributing to a specific cause: Warby Parker became famous largely because of their ongoing “Buy a pair, give a pair” campaign. When a customer buys a pair of Warby Parker glasses, the company donates a pair to someone in need. They hence make it very easy for customers to feel proud by assuring them that they’ve selflessly helped someone.
  • Fostering belongingness: just as with the Hermès and Harley-Davidson examples above, owning one of those brands’ products enriches individuals by making them feel that they are part of something big and important.
  • Fostering distinctiveness: people want to feel special and unique, and brands that understand this and deliver on it can achieve great results. The easiest way to do so would be by allowing customers to craft their own personalized experience. Nike, for example, allows customers to customize their own shoes by selecting their designs and colors.
  • Reflecting personal beliefs and hopes: when customers feel that a brand has the same values as they do, they feel enriched and true to themselves for dealing with the brand. Camper is a great example: they emphasize the importance of walking, and they dislike the rush of modern life. Their customers feel the same way, and this makes them feel enriched by and attached to the brand. We also see this seasonally: like with Pride Month and how companies often change their logos to reflect rainbow colors during June in support of the LGBT+ cause. 

As a word of warning: note that it can be tricky to reflect on personal beliefs. Just as how people whose beliefs align with a brand are much more likely to do business with it, other people whose beliefs go against those of the brand are much less likely to do business with it. This is especially true when it comes to political stands or controversial topics. So study your audience well before trying to provide such benefits.

According to the pioneers of the 3 Es framework: “Although enabling and enticing benefits build brand admiration through their impact on brand trust and brand love [respectively], enriching benefits have the greatest impact on brand admiration through their impact on brand respect.”

Practical Tips To Building Brand Admiration Among Customers

Picture showing a plant that is growing representing brand admiration

Now that we have a good understanding of the 3 Es, we can put that knowledge to good use. We’ll go over some practical tips which you can start implementing right away to build and enhance brand admiration.

Remember: it’s never too early – or too late – to start.

1. 3 Es are Better Than 1:

 The most important tip to keep in mind is that the real magic happens when you deliver all 3 Es together. It is much better to be very good in all 3, than to be excellent in just 1 while being below average in the other 2.

Keep this in mind when evaluating your own brand. Ask: “Which of the 3 Es am I delivering to my customers? Which of them can I improve or invest in?” Balance your resources to make sure that you are not lagging in any of them.

2. Know The Market and The Customers:

As with other robust frameworks, the 3 Es framework practically gives you glasses that you can put on to get a better look at your industry. It tells you which questions to ask, so you can identify opportunities and threats.

  • When developing buyer personas (thinking about who your potential customers are and what characteristics they have), ask: “What are my customers’ needs? How can I enable, entice, and enrich them? When and where can I provide them with these benefits?”
  •  When considering the attractiveness of a potential market segment, ask: “Is this target market’s needs being met? Can I meet these needs in a way that’s better than what my competitors are doing?”
  • When assessing your competitors: what are my competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in each of the 3 E’s? How can I position myself to take advantage of that?

3. Consistency Is Key:

Picture showing the same item being consistent

It is very important to keep a brand’s words aligned with its actions. A brand’s marketing should clearly communicate its identity, and the actual operations of the company should deliver accordingly.

Suppose a brand's marketing team positions it as a high-end product by enticing customers with innovative product design. However, the brand's production team tries to minimize costs by using cheaper, lower-quality materials that get the job done at a lower price to the customer. This inconsistency is a recipe for distrust.

When a customer is persuaded by an advertisement to buy a "luxury" product and ends up with something of inferior quality, they're understandably upset - especially if they were already willing to pay more for a better product.

Although the above example was very simple, this can happen to even the biggest companies in subtle ways.

When the global economy took a hit in 2008, Domino’s had to do something, especially after they expanded into several countries with new competitors. Prices went up, and they did not want to make their pizzas too expensive.

Picture showing a Domino's store

What did they do? They started looking for ways to cut costs. The people in charge of the dough used slightly lower quality ingredients that would “barely affect the final taste or product”… but so did the people in charge of the sauces, and the people in charge of the spices, and the people in charge of the toppings, etc. When taken together, these resulted in much lower quality pizzas.

While the marketing team was still advertising “delicious”, the production and operations teams were delivering “affordable”. This leads to one of the few things in life which is worse than low-quality pizza – decreased revenue!

The best part is that they started fixing the problem not by improving their production quality – but by aligning their marketing and production. That’s right, they started by admitting that the product really needed improvement, and they then spent millions on doing just that.

To sum it up with the words of the pioneers of “The 3 E’s Framework”: “Marketers create brand trust, love, and respect [i.e. brand admiration] most efficiently when their marketing actions are synergistic; that is, their actions are consistent with the brand’s identity and they complement one another in communicating and delivering the brand identity”.

Final Thoughts

Looking back at the iPhone example we started with: notice how the people who wait in line do not do so in order to get the new features. They are not replacing some old burner phone that doesn’t have a touch screen for a smartphone that will enhance their daily lives. They are waiting in line to replace the same phone which they waited for in the same line the previous year.

This just goes to show that the iPhone’s features – its enabling benefits – are not the only reason why customers admire it. There’s no doubt that its speed, reliability, and dedication to privacy and security leave customers with no choice but to trust it, but there’s more to the admiration recipe.

The iPhone’s slick design entices their visual senses. In a word, customers love it.

Its history as the first true smartphone enriches them by affirming their belongingness to a group of innovators and creators. Customers respect the iPhone’s roots.

If you put all that together, you’d quickly find out why lining up for hours on end, year after year, to spend over a thousand dollars on a phone that is awfully similar to the one in your pocket is not the least bit surprising. It's because it has earned the admiration of its buyers.

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