Factors that enrich consumer-brand relationships
This year will be one in which brands increase their efforts to improve emotional connections with consumers, according to Laurence Knight, principal for US-based marketing consultancy Fletcher Knight.
To begin with, the traditional New Year's resolutions that we make for ourselves are a good role model for businesses, says Knight. For example, to get healthier, slimmer and fitter, to improve our knowledge and skills, and to abandon bad habits.
Brand marketer's resolutions But there's one critical business resolution that brands often overlook: to improve the relationships that matter most. This is central to everything that a brand marketer does, and it is the "enabler" that unlocks most of the other factors that improve brands and drive business growth.
First, the brand marketer needs to truly understand what's on consumers' minds. Ask yourself: "What are their goals, aspirations, and hopes? And how can the brand evolve to make the relationship more like a friendship based on consumers' changing sentiments?" Many brands rely on agencies to track consumer economic sentiment and social trends, and some monitor product launch trends. A few smarter brands will also start an ongoing dialogue directly with their consumers, not as a sales exercise but as an open-ended insight mechanism. These consumer panels can help brands tap into economic sentiment, social opinion and emotions, but more importantly they can monitor qualitatively how those factors are influencing attitudes toward the brand category.
Evolving relationships Brands also need to understand how the brand-consumer relationship is evolving, and find ways to refresh and excite that relationship. The first question to ask is what consumers are expecting of the brand, and why. For example, in 2007, consumers had very high expectations for retail brands to go Green and organic.
Every brand should be built on a specific insight - that's something we've all known for a long time. That insight is usually a basic truth on which the brand's whole purpose and value is established. But many brand marketers are failing to continue to invest in building and supporting that insight for their brands, and evolving it in line with consumer expectations. Even with a fixed central insight, there's always a new angle waiting to be discovered that will help keep the brand at the top of the consumer's mind.
Using expert customers You can find a great deal of inspiration in "expert consumers". For example, in a recent project on women's humour, Fletcher Knight interviewed experts from right across the US (including people from academia, Second City, Comedy Central, Jib Jab, NBC, Lifetime, Paramount Sub-Studios, Miramax, and others). The customers you already have that are experts in your field are an invaluable resource. But don't stop there: also seek to create rich profiles of expert consumers who are attitudinally distinct and can help provide more insights for the brand-consumer relationship through their unique perspectives.
An iconic consumer or an expert of particular relevance to the brand can potentially change the whole way you think about your brand. They see the world differently and could help you to see beyond advisory boards and focus groups. These are the key ways to tap into the emotions of consumers and to gain inspiration from your customers.