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Chapter 3 | Orbit Guidebook

Generate Brand Gravity

Discover strategies to keep people in your ORBIT.

Today’s most successful brands create a gravitational field that pulls customers into their ORBIT and keeps them close. They go beyond customer loyalty to build Brand Gravity.

Competing on gravity

The future of competition is who can generate more Brand Gravity.

Apple and Google demonstrate the role ORBIT plays in differentiation. Consider how you chose an Android or Apple smartphone. It probably wasn’t about the megapixels in the camera.

Apple and Google have created competing gravity systems.

  • Apple has iTunes, Genius Bars, Facetime and Siri.
  • Google has Search, Maps, Gmail and YouTube.

Each of these systems creates an ongoing relationship that extends far beyond the purchase of the phone. You have probably even heard people describe themselves as an "Apple person" or "Android person."

The choice between Apple and Google is not “Which product will I buy?” but “Whose ORBIT will I be in?”

Gravity Generators

The more generators you can assemble, the more gravity your ORBIT will generate.

These five Gravity Generators animate the Shared Purpose as a gravitational force of attraction.

  • Intrinsic Value: Provide value regardless of whether a prospect becomes a customer.
  • Peer Connections: Foster communication between community members.
  • Social Currency: Provide or enhance mediums of exchange between community members.
  • Little Data: Tell community members something they don’t know about themselves.
  • Return on Engagement: Look for ways to combine transactions and relationships around the Shared Purpose.

Gravity Generator 1 of 5

Intrinsic Value

Provide value regardless of whether a prospect becomes a customer.

Most interactions with a brand are about the transaction: What you should buy. Why you should buy. How you can buy.

These communications have extrinsic value:​
They have no value to the prospect unless they buy the product.

You can’t create pull when you are pushing your product. To create gravity, you need to deliver something that is of value even if the person doesn’t become a customer.

Intrinsic value creates a relationship with prospects outside the context of the transaction. Good content marketing has intrinsic value. So do "freemium" apps and services that offer free consultations without a commitment to purchase anything.



Nike+ is at the center of Nike’s ORBIT strategy.

The Nike+ app doesn’t push Nike products. Anyone can join the community, even if you haven’t bought Nike gear.

There’s intrinsic value in the ability to “track runs, challenge friends and get motivated to keep going.”

One cool feature is called Cheers. You post to Facebook through the app when you're about set off for a run. If your friends reply while you are running, the app plays applause or encouragement from celebrity athletes through your headphones.

Nike+ has grown into a comprehensive ecosystem including workout videos and personalized coaching. Nike realized it's not just about their products, but the experiences surrounding them. And by offering lots of ways to get value from their ecosystem, Nike continues to strengthen its ORBIT.


Intrinsic Value

In this simple ad-lib, the blanks represent a nascent ORBIT strategy.

For example, Nike might say, “Since we know our customers value tracking their runs, it makes sense for us to offer the ability to challenge friends and get motivated…even if they aren’t making a purchase.”

Now, try completing this sentence with your own brand's core offering (noun 1) and an ORBIT-style offering (noun 2).

“Since we know our customers value [noun], it makes sense for us to offer people [noun] …even if they aren’t making a purchase.”

Gravity Generator 2 of 5

Peer Connections

Foster communication between community members.

Which has more pull: a lecture or a cocktail party? The cocktail party, of course.

And the host of a good party doesn’t talk about themself, but rather introduces guests based on their common interests.

In our social age, brands need to stop giving speeches and start hosting parties.

You can go where the party is already happening, like Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. Or you can throw your own party by creating an original platform.

Regardless of location, remember the pull is ultimately a result of how people connect with each other, not with you.


Peer connections

Here are some ways to tap the power of peer connections.

You can leverage other platforms. Nike Fuel enables users to share their wellness accomplishments on Facebook.

You can foster more personal relationships. American Express’ Small Business Saturday encourages people to shop local stores and support local businesses.

You can create your own platform. Adobe’s Behance platform enables creatives to build online portfolios, showcase their work and find jobs with potential clients.

You can enable anonymous connections. Amazon makes recommendations based on what other users like you purchased.

Gravity Generator 3 of 5

Social Currency

Provide or enhance mediums of exchange between community members.

To transform an audience into a community, you need three things: shared identity, Shared Purpose and Social Currency.

According to the dictionary, a currency is a store of value and medium of exchange. But while markets use financial currencies to make transactions, communities use Social Currency to reinforce relationships.

The purpose of Social Currency is not to make a transaction, but to express a relationship. Social Currencies don’t have a price set in the market.

For example, when you’re moving, you can hire a professional mover and pay them in cash—or you can ask your friends and give them pizza and beer. You can’t pay the mover in pizza. And your friends would find it awkward to take your money.

To accelerate the “liquidity” of relationships in your social system, either create your own Social Currency, or facilitate the exchange of existing ones.


Social Currency

In each column, list ideas for generating Brand Gravity through ORBIT activities, Social Currency and enabling and empowering connections between users.

ORBIT Activities:
What rituals, traditions, or social conventions involve your product?

Social Currency:
What do people talk about, share or exchange in these activities?

Enable / Empower:
How might your brand participate in, enable, or improve that experience?


Adobe Behance

Adobe’s Behance community illustrates how the elements of an ORBIT strategy fit together. The business goal is to engage creative professionals around Adobe software such as Photoshop.

The Shared Purpose of Behance is “to empower the creative world to make ideas happen.”

The Strategic Narrative is based on the idea of “putting control into the hands of creative professionals.”

Behance addresses professionals not only as artists, but also as entrepreneurs.

To enable Peer Connections, the Behance platform
connects professionals with each other and with potential clients.

The Social Currencies are jobs, projects and portfolios.

Gravity Generator 4 of 5

Little Data

Tell community members something they don’t know about themselves.

Big Data is what companies know about us that we don’t know they know, but Little Data is what we may not know about ourselves.

Big Data creates push. Little Data creates pull.

When you land on a web site and a “retargeting cookie” is used to deliver ads, that’s Big Data. When Nike+ shows your history of running times, routes and playlists, that’s Little Data.

Ideally, Big and Little Data combine to deliver experiences that are personalized and reciprocal. This creates a virtuous circle of transparency and trust.

When Little Data is used as a Social Currency—for example sharing your run times from Nike+ to Facebook—it also generates gravity to pull others into the brand ORBIT.


Coke Freestyle

Coca-­Cola’s Freestyle machines are more than self­-service. Customers can create custom mixes with over 100 combinations.

  • Each Freestyle machine is connected to the Internet, telling Coca­-Cola which flavors are the most popular (Big Data).
  • With a mobile app, you can save your favorite mixes (Little Data).
  • You can connect to the machine with your smartphone and have it automatically make your favorite mix. That lets the machine play the role of neighborhood bartender making you your "usual" (a new Social Facet).
  • You can also share your mixes with friends (Social Currency).

Coca-­Cola could create even more gravity by sharing the most popular mixes back to the community. That’s Big + Little Data. This would further express its Shared Purpose “to refresh the world.”

Gravity Generator 5 of 5

Return on Engagement

Look for ways to increase value with every interaction.

Companies measure return on investment, but usually not the customer’s return on their investment in money, time, energy, ideas, trust, social capital, etc.

For ORBIT, a better measure is Return on Engagement.

Are customers getting value from the relationship with the company beyond the products they buy? Does their experience engaging with you and your ORBIT get better over time?

Personalization is one way brands provide return on engagement. For example Netflix's platform improves its recommendations as it learns more about you.  All the time you spend scrolling through options is teaching the platform what it should—and shouldn't—suggest for you. And the better its suggestions become the more likely you are to go to Netflix first when you're not sure what you want to watch.



Beauty retailer Sephora has a vibrant social system that incorporates many ORBIT principles. A rich portfolio of experiences embeds cosmetics purchases inside an ongoing relationship with Sephora’s “beauty consultants.”

  • Sephora’s online community, Beauty Talk, enables anyone to ask questions of experts and peers
    (Peer Connections).
  • Another community, Beauty Board, enables customers to post their looks and the makeup used to create them (Social Currency).
  • Color IQ is a portable technology to measure the exact color of one’s skin, enabling a perfect match
    to the right foundation color (Intrinsic Value &
    Little Data).
  • Over 80% of purchases are made through its Beauty Insider loyalty program. The data enables Sephora to fulfill its mission of “personalized beauty” (Return on Engagement).


ORBIT Sightings

To practice ORBIT thinking, just browse your favorite business news.

Look for articles talking about company’s business or marketing strategies.

You will start to notice that some companies are more push and others are more pull. Some are building ORBITs, and some are still pushing products.

When you find a sighting of an ORBIT, look for the Gravity Generators we’ve explored here:

  1. Intrinsic Value
  2. Peer Connections
  3. Social Currency
  4. Little Data
  5. Return on Engagement


Discover strategies to keep people in your ORBIT.

  • The future of competition is who can generate more Brand Gravity.
  • The more Gravity Generators you can assemble, the more gravity your ORBIT will generate.
  • Intrinsic Value: Provide value regardless of whether a prospect becomes a customer.
  • Peer Connections: Foster communication between community members.
  • Social Currency: Offer or enhance mediums of exchange between community members.
  • Little Data: Use data to tell community members something they don’t know about themselves.
  • Return on Engagement: Look for ways to combine transactions and relationships around the Shared Purpose.

Begin your ORBIT Journey

Simple steps can help catalyze your ORBIT strategy.

The first steps toward an ORBIT strategy don’t have to be elaborate and expensive. You can:

  • Re-­invigorate your content marketing with a Shared Purpose and Strategic Narrative.
  • Host events or forums for your customers (Peer Connections) on matters of mutual interest (Shared Purpose + Social Currency).
  • Update your positioning and messaging to emphasize relationships over transactions (Social Facets).
  • Collect data that can be delivered back to customers in ways they find useful (Little Data).

ORBIT is a journey as well as a destination. You will learn as you go. You just need to start.

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