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The halo effect - how to grow your brand’s halo

By Margo Waldrop, Content Writer

May 2, 2023 | 8 min read

Learn how to build your brand’s ‘halo’ with these five important insights

Darth Vader wearing a halo

How to grow your brand's halo / Josh Howard/Unsplash

Despite the ethereal name ‘halo’ brands aren’t made in heaven. They ride the halo effect, which occurs when consumers automatically prefer a product due to positive association with other products produced by the same brand. A true cognitive bias formed from a positive relationship. For example, the Rebel Alliance is assumed to be the good guys because they work with Luke Skywalker, who is the definitive hero – a good guy in space.

The opposite works on the same basis – stormtroopers are bad guys because they are led by the ultimate bad guy, Darth Vader. Guilt by association.

How does the halo effect work?

Dominos sells pizza. It’s what they’re known for. However, they actually have an extensive menu that includes salads, sandwiches and specialty items. Domino’s customers primarily buy pizza, but the other products are the cherries on top of the revenue cake, or pie as the case may be. Why? Because customers who love their pizza assume the other products will taste just as good. They don’t question it or need to be convinced; they just assume their positive association with pizza will carry over to the other items. Considering Dominos pulled in almost five billion dollars in 2022, the halo effect is in full force.

The takeaway – Make your flagship product unforgettable and unbeatable so it filters down to your other products. It also doesn’t hurt to create a community of raving fans.

How to create your own halo effect

One of the keys to creating your brand’s halo is to ride the momentum of consumer favoritism by piggybacking off your other high-performing products. In 2005 Apple followed this same strategy by pushing the iPod, despite it being a lower revenue producer and commanding a massive market share (74%) of the expanding digital music market. Because of this technological revolution, Apple was able to envelop its other products within that sphere of consumer adoration and become one of the best-selling companies worldwide.

The takeaway - Rather than stretch your marketing dollars to the brink, place your bets on your fastest horse and let the others ride alongside for a share of the glory.

Put your brand reputation to work for you

Part of the halo effect is the cognitive bias where one trait or quality creates a ‘halo’ over the rest of the brand or product line. Consider Nike, who began their brand as an athletic shoemaker. As their reputation exploded it allowed them to create other products that resided within their halo. They now create everything from clothes to golf clubs. Not every product will sell as well as their shoes but the increase in sales is enough to pump their revenue with massive gains. All in all, Nike pulled in over $49 billion dollars in 2022. Not too shabby for a shoemaker.

The takeaway – Take time to intentionally create your brand reputation. Trust, transparency, and product consistency are instrumental in building a solid and long-lasting reputation.

How to combat guilt by association

Not every company can be perfect all the time, nor can every product. Unfortunately, sometimes it only takes one negative experience to turn off a customer. This isn’t a case where you hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Plan for both scenarios. Open lines of communication for customers so they can share their negative experience with your brand or product and ask them how to make it better. Often, customers just want to be listened to and know that you are doing your best to make them happy.

On the flip side, make sure customers have an avenue to share their positive experiences as well.

The takeaway – Take ownership of mistakes, or bad products. Make it right with customers and be transparent about your attempt to fix the issue.

Create beneficial partnerships

Riding shotgun with other brands can be a massive boon for your halo. Seek out partnerships that reflect positively on your brand and allow you to level up your message. The NFL is famous for partnering with various brands to keep their brand top of mind all year long as well as expanding their customer base.

One of their more popular partnerships is with Epic Games. A recent collaboration involves the uber popular game Fortnite and manages to bring the NFL brand into the presence of gamers. Nike, Doritos, and a host of other brands have also partnered with the NFL to bump up visibility for both sides. In fact, a lucrative partnership with Verizon brings in $300 million annually to the NFL.

The takeawayPartnerships can be extremely beneficial for both sides. Find other brands that complement but don’t compete with your brand.

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Creating a halo brand doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen with intention and a well-thought-out strategy. Even a small halo based around one stellar product can grow with time and increase the strength of your brand. Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons and think outside of the box when it comes to expanding your brand’s reach. Remember, you can always use The Force.

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