Questions To Answer: How Balance Longing and Belonging?

The famous line to get into Studio 54

How leverage people’s desire for inclusiveness and community while at the same time create a sense of exclusivity?  Create some tension that makes people long to belong?  It is a balancing act that leverages the principles of ‘velvet roping’ as we call it in our book.  Ever noticed those ropes and lines in front of concert halls, posh restaurants, … Apple stores?  They are not only there because space is tight. Rather, they are there to create anticipation and the desire to get in. And not only among those in line and among all the onlookers and passers-by, as well. In the street and online.  Seeing the images of a cool event on social media is a virtual velvet rope in a way.  You take part… but not really.  The operators of the short-lived, but ueber-hot Studio 54 in New York (1977-79) had velvet-roping down to an art.  They would let most celebrities in – not all – and select some ‘commoners’ to join, witness the ‘orgies of the rich and famous’, spread the work … and spice things up.  For those those who made it past the bouncer were often described as ‘freaks’  – which inspired the disco hit: “Le Freak C’est Chic“. The arbitrariness of it all further heightened the hype …

So how do you walk the line between inclusiveness and exclusivity as a brand? How do you give your customers a feeling of belonging while letting them – and the rest of us – long for more?

Here are a few of the questions you should ask yourself as you seek to balance feelings of longing and belonging: 

  • Do you have a ‘Design Target’? The ‘idealized’ brand user that others desire to be? – Think of Harley’s Hell’s Angel,or Red Bulls’ extreme sportspeople. 
  • Is this Design Target distinctive and inspirational to your core buyers, your ‘Strategic Target’?
  • Can the Design Target be ‘activated’?  Are they naturally influential missionaries? 
  • If the Design Target is limited or imaginary, does it inspire disciples to amplify the message?  Think of techies blogging about Elon and Tesla
  • Does it take more than money to ‘get’ your brand – physically and intellectually?
  • Is a certain level of brand knowledge or allegiance required? – One needs to ‘apply’ to possibly be allowed to buy a Birkin bag at Hermès.
  • Have you ‘spiked’ the sense of longing by leveraging an element of randomness?
  • Are you creating a feel of complicity between your brand and its strategic target?
  • Are you sharing a stratagem that your target can approve of? 
  • What and/or who are you against? Or who is against you?  It’s also about ‘us vs them.’
  • Are you explicitly or implicitly demarcating your brand territory against outsiders to help your fans feel privileged? Lululemon’s ‘Luluheads’ are not fond of sedentary folk.
  • Do you have a healthy differential between sympathizers and buyers – I.e. are there more wanting to buy your brand than those who can? Think AMEX Centurion card.
  • Are you leveraging limited editions, seasonality, special distribution etc to stoke desire? 

The ultimate question: Would your target ‘wear the brand’s tattoo’ or go to other lengths to know about you, associate with you and not feel left out?

Take some inspiration from our collection of case studies that illustrate how Ueber-Brands balance longing and belonging. We talk about how Tesla creates ‘Exclusivity through Complicity.’  Learn about the concept of finding and leveraging a Design-Target – an Ueber-Target, as we call the best of them.

To get more questions to answer, even deeper insights, principles and case studies on what drives the success of modern Prestige brands, you should read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands” and look at the Ueber-Branding model and method of application.

Want us to help you elevate your own brand? Write to us at


About JP Kuehlwein

JP Kuehlwein is a global business leader and brand builder with a 25+ year track record of translating consumer and brand insights into transformational propositions that win in market. Principal at ‘Ueber-Brands’ a New York consulting firm, he now helps others to elevate brands and make them peerless and priceless. JP also teaches brand strategy at NYU Stern and Columbia Business School and leads the Marketing Institute at The Conference Board, all in New York. Jp previously was Executive Vice President at Frédéric Fekkai & Co, a prestige salon operator and hair care brand and lead brand- and corporate strategy development and execution at multinational Procter & Gamble as Brand Director and Director of Strategy. JP and Wolf Schaefer have co-authored the best-selling books “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands” which lays out what drives the success of modern premium brands and "Brand Elevation - Lessons in Ueber-Branding" a guide to developing and executing a brand elevation strategy. Find the books here:
This entry was posted in 2 - Longing vs Belonging - The challenge is both and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Questions To Answer: How Balance Longing and Belonging?

  1. Pingback: Why Reach and Consumption are Not always Brand Nirvana | Ueber-Brands™

  2. Pingback: How an Ueber-Brand responds in times of crisis – Alison Cayne, Haven’s Kitchen | Ueber-Brands™

  3. Pingback: Haven’s Kitchen: About Sharing Life Skills and Sauces – Alison Cayne, Founder | Ueber-Brands™

  4. Pingback: FRoSTA: Putting your Money Where Your Mission Is – Felix Ahlers, CEO and his food brand make-over story | Ueber-Brands™

Make an Ueber-Comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s