Being more than an "acquaintance brand"
Last week Mike Reiter (our social psychologist friend), talked about the importance of maintaining a relationship. He pointed out that marketers tend to act in a self-centered way, communicating only when they want something or when something goes wrong. That's typical behavior, but its behavior that must change to be successful today. The purpose of this blog is to have open discussion about strategies, ideas and ways to befriend consumers, because thats what we believe will make brands successful. Bob Garfield recently spoke at an event in London about how advertising agencies need to change. I'm paraphrasing, but he says that agencies need to re-frame what they do from creating advertising to connecting brands to consumers.
I completely agree with him, and to connect brands to consumers, brands have to start acting more like friends and less like slick marketers or stalkers. So how can they do it? What can they do in that period between attraction and alienation that can create a meaningful connection. Here's a few rules of thumb:
1. Expand your role in their life: First, you have to understand what role the brand does play in a customer's life. That's an entirely different post, one that I'll get to soon. But the point here is to expand your involvement in their life in a positive way. A way that benefits them.
2. Be an inspiration to them: It's true that people want brands that reflect their lifestyle, worldview and personal values. But nurturing a friendship goes beyond reflection. Brands have to add a dimension to a person's life that they don't have without the brand. They have to motivate them to be better or different in a way that makes people feel better about themselves.
3. Provide more than just an exchange: The goal of befriending consumers is to create advocates, people who feel as if they own the brand and will actively evangelize it to others. To do that, brands have to move beyond an exchange based relationship into a commitment based relationship. The customer has to feel like it's getting more than just the product or service that they're paying for. They have to feel like they're getting value above and beyond their purchase.
4. Establish a routine dialog: Perhaps the biggest key to maintaining and deepening friendships with consumers is to establish wanted, routine communication. That doesn't mean stalking them with sales messages. It means bringing something of value to the table with communications and letting them provide feedback or engage you in a conversation.
A great example of this is TESCO, a supermarket chain based in Great Britain. It's diet program is a perfect example of engaging the consumer with helpful and inspiring content on an ongoing basis. Take the tour. It solicits conversation with the customer and offers value to them above and beyond buying groceries. While you pay a small fee to belong, it's probably one of the brightest ways I've seen a grocery store create an ongoing dialog with a customer outside of the store.
A bad example is amazon.com. It's not that I have anything against the TWINSUMER trend and collaborative filtering, but Amazon is a stalker. They email frequently hocking products without bringing you any incremental value.
Bottom line: brands have to be proactive about finding ways to intensify friendships with consumers and further integrate themselves into their lives in meaningful ways. Sometimes that means product innovation, but many times, it means offering value and inspiration through communications.
by Brandon Murphy