Earlier this week an important reminder was shared on CMO.com: Brands have a lot of work to do to gain and retain the trust of consumers. Several marketing professionals were quoted in the article with advice ranging from “be ultra-transparent” (by ensuring that the actions and words of your brand always align), to preventing or relieving the “let down” customers sometimes experience when a brand does something out of sync with their expectations. The root of the problem was stated as “the underlying disconnect” consumers currently feel with brands.
What’s a marketer to do? The opposite of disconnect is connection — and there’s no connection more powerful than the bond between two people who identify as friends. Friendship is about mattering to someone — mattering in terms of the way humans form meaningful connections with each other. While trust, as the aforementioned article clearly points out, is key to that connection, trust is just one part of the equation. True connection also requires affection and relevance.
In our practice, we look at everything through the eyes of a friend. In our minds, every brand has a personality, a behavior, a life of its own that we must understand thoroughly in order to make an authentic connection between it and the people it seeks to connect with.
It’s important to realize that in marketing, meaningful connections don’t happen just because a creative campaign looks great. Behind the pretty pictures and catchy words there’s a strategy at play — one that brings brand and consumer together beyond the moment of transaction.
We build that strategy through our Brand as Friend® philosophy — it’s how we make brands matter to consumers through nine scientifically proven drivers for friendship. These drivers — caring, listening, surprise, story, style, connecting, honesty, advising and loyalty — combine to create affection, relevance and trust. They represent the essential elements of forming a meaningful bond — a friendship — wherein consumers see your brand as a part of their lives, not just their shopping carts.
By defining your brand in terms of “reasons to befriend” rather than “reasons to believe,” you immediately change “communication” into “conversation” and become more relatable. Consumers who experience a brand relating to them in a personal, special way are more likely to attach meaning to that brand and choose it over others.
We help our clients get to know their brands through the nine drivers of friendship so they can use that insight for everything from a social media status update, to a campaign headline to the words a sales associate says while talking to consumers about your product. It doesn’t stop there — we make sure brands use that insight to help make things more meaningful internally — because “mattering” won’t survive if it’s merely a marketing message. Mattering has to weave through the behavior of every employee working for the brand and every decision that’s made on behalf of the brand. Building affection, relevance and trust on the inside will make it easier for brands to authentically share those attributes on the outside. We make it all matter, so your customers want more.
How much does your brand matter? Here are a few starter questions to ask yourself (and your brand) to determine how likely you are to inspire affection, relevance and trust with consumers.
- Does your brand have a soft side? Is it all hard numbers and margins, or are there moments when business and promotion aren’t the key focus? This is an aspect of creating affection.
- Is your brand interesting? If it were a person, would it stand out in the crowd? How so? This is an aspect of relevance.
- How would employees describe your brand? How about consumers? Are there differences? This is an aspect of trust.