Brands must become more human. Now what…?
By Bob Wheatley
I apologize. This post is a bit soapbox-ish. Can you feel the exhorting wind up? Well. Here goes…
There’s a saying: old habits die hard(er). For some businesses that’s a godsend as consumers come back again and again, if for no other reason than the intractable benefits of habit. It’s also true in default marketing behaviors, but these days with decidedly more frustrating results.
It’s harder than ever to market to consumers. The typical “build a positioning platform, message test and run it out there through every relevant channel” is harder to make stick. Why? Consumers work overtime to avoid contact with attempts at persuasion or anything that resembles it.
New world order for food, beverage and lifestyle products and retailers…
One thing can be said with certainty: the relationships people develop with brands they care about looks more and more like the relationships they have with people they know and trust. Trust being the operative word here.
So what does this mean for marketing, for strategy, for communications? Here’s the roadmap – four essentials, must haves, for success in the Relationship Era.
1. Relevance to them
If you think about it, every marketer on the planet would give their collective eyeteeth to communicate one-on-one with customers. Wish is now come true, but with some conditions. Relationship building means the command and control approach is over – as in dictating an image. The business of “mattering” to someone begins with answering this challenge: how does my brand become an enabler and partner with customers around relevant lifestyle passions that they care about? It’s about them. Relevance to them and their lives is the jumping off point. Miss this and you miss the proverbial boat.
2. Help not hype
Here it is in a nutshell – stop pushing and start helping. This is about creating marketing the consumer wants. What does that mean? How does your brand transcend to a place where consumers want to join your brand as members, an idea that is way past transactions? This starts with a view towards being helpful. At all times. Treating them like important friends, and not targets to target and extract dollars from wallets. The commerce always follows the relationship.
Not far away from help is an attitude that some businesses acquire early and others fail to learn. Unselfishness. How should my brand behave if I believe that the relationship with consumers is more than the purchase funnel? Do you really, truly care? It’s about them, their lives and quality of life. How can you contribute to their lives in a meaningful way? This goes to the core of your brand’s purpose and mission. It begins there. Any other effort to do a work-up tactically around this issue is just re-arranging the deck chairs on a leaky boat. Which leads us to….
4. Mission, belief and inspiration
Trust and belief lies at the foundation of brand success. Take Clif Bar, the current leader in the nutrition bar category, and its unwavering devotion to outdoor lifestyles, adventure sports and healthy living generally. This is not only a smart strategic play for them, it’s positively cultural. Look at their internal policies and operating behaviors. Even the office space itself is iconic in its reverence for the customers’ passions. They live it and I suspect love it. The mission serves as an anchor for keeping business and marketing decisions on track.
Full disclosure – Emergent represents Jamba Juice. That said, this company is a poster child of transformation from smoothie retailer to full-fledged healthy lifestyle brand and the behaviors to confirm it.
How do you inspire customers? By imbuing, immersing and injecting your brand with greater meaning. And with lots of hard work, study and creative thinking that core purpose can be unearthed in any category. Find it, own it, make it real inside and out. Look at Whole Foods in supermarket retailing. Faithful to what they are, what they believe. It’s a mission. It works. It can work for you too.
What’s your view?