4 Reasons Why Consumers View Brands As Relationships

Of all the success metrics, if we measure brands the way we measure healthy relationships, we can easily outperform the competition.

Metrics are an integral part of a brand’s strategy. They help businesses understand how their brand is performing within the framework of customer values and expectations. Unfortunately, however, the brand’s performance metric is limited to only share of voice and brand loyalty.

What about brand relationships?

Organizations should consider their branding efforts as a relationship with consumers. Similar to human relationships, brands must take elements of traditional relationship building and apply them to the overarching brand strategy.

For instance, think about the relationships in your life…

  • Do you look forward to seeing that person?
  • Do you care about them?
  • Do they share your values?
  • Do you speak well of them to others?

To truly understand your brand perception, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your brand presence compare to the relationships you have built over the year?
  • If not, what can you do to mimic the positive dynamics of such relationships?
  • If so, can you identify what actions it took to get you in your consumer’s good graces?

Given the abundance of competitive information and the content available online, today’s consumers are more informed than ever. This has resulted in a drastic shift in consumer power and has altered the selling process by placing a greater emphasis on the customer experience.

Here are 4 reasons why consumers view brands as relationships

 

1. They Have Moved Beyond A Traditional Purchase Process to Organic Discovery


Today’s consumers come to a brand through many online sources such as social media, search engines, reviews, peer recommendations and more.

Marketing is no longer leading us to brands, it’s the relationships we have with one another that are leading us to brands.

questions-answers

Recently, content marketing has played a major role in building consumer relationships by placing brands in the middle of a consumer’s purchasing journey. Great content will provide answers to consumer’s questions or help them with a challenge as they search for a solution online. Your content can draw a consumer’s attention during their search. By providing relevant content related to their purchase, you are instantly building a positive relationship.

Here’s another reason consumers view brands as relationships…

2. They Have Moved Beyond Traditional Marketing to User Generated Demand


Today user-generated content is more trustworthy than traditional media. Simply put, consumers believe high-end productions are fabricated and only convey the positive attributes of the product or service advertised. Overall, they would rather trust their peers than brands.

UGC-StatAlso, there was a significant market shift after the financial meltdown. Consumers lost trust in major corporations when financial and housing institutions’ unethical business practices were exposed. There was a negative connotation to the word ‘corporation’ and consumers felt bamboozled.

Do you recall the Occupy Wall Street movement?

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Ever since that movement, companies across all business sectors had to revamp their communication strategies. They were forced to become more transparent.

And that’s where the shift began.

Consumers wanted their voices heard and, as a result, it shaped our current market situation. Companies transferred the power to the people and had them play a key role in the companies product offerings.

After this trend caught fire, many companies began leveraging the consumer’s voice when developing new products.

Perhaps the light-hearted Lay’s Do Us A Flavor campaign is the best example.

Now on to the third reason consumers view brands as relationships…

3. They Have Moved Beyond Traditional Service Transactions to Personal Interactions


Let’s face it. Customer service transactions have changed forever. Now consumers expect to have their problems resolved without ever calling or email customer service.

They are taking their grievances to social media as it naturally amplifies their voice. Mainly, social media complaints can become viral and negatively impact other consumers’ relationship with your brand as well.

As a result, companies became proactive in solving consumer problems before a formal complaint is conducted.

Particularly, this is done through active social listening and remedied with very personal interaction.

Moreover, Southwest Airlines is known for personal interactions with passengers. The airline works to ensure they are “humanizing” the travel experience by showcasing the personalities of crewmembers, flight attendants, and pilots.

Southwest also established a Social Care Team with full-time employees that provide extraordinary customer service.

This team utilizes a social media command center to listen actively and respond to customers.

Going above and beyond is not limited to social media. For instance, a Southwest flight attendant turned a traditional service transaction into a personal interaction. Take a look. This video has over 20 million views!

Here’s the last reason consumers view brands as relationships…

4. They Have Moved Beyond Product Transactions to Human Interactions


If you’ve been in the sales industry, you are familiar with the phrase, sell the sizzle, not the steak. (Unless it’s Gibson’s Steakhouse in Chicago. No need for any sizzle on that steak. Best steak I ever had)

OK let’s get back on track.

Nike is known for selling the sizzle. It communicates how its products can help customers reach their athletic and fitness goals. For example, it created communities around the Nike+ product that serves as a platform for runners with a shared interest.

Understand how Nike has created a community around their product and see if you can create something similar for your product or service. Consumers will naturally feel more comfortable using your product when they know there’s a community of fellow customers along with them.

Overall, if you remember one point from this post, you should know that implementing a human interaction will foster stronger relationships and increase brand loyalty.

Final Thoughts


Your consumers are prioritizing organic discovery, user generated demand, personal and human interactions. This means you should prioritize engagement when developing your marketing strategies.

Engagement is key.

The type of engagement that goes beyond the traditional marketing tactics and complements your consumers’ values and expectations. There is a reason consumers view brands as relationships.

Brands are starting to engage with consumers in ways in which they wish to be engaged.

The days of one-way communication are done. The relationship begins when both the brand and consumer are on equal footing. The only way this is accomplished is if a brand becomes more human and more personal. You know, the stuff that built the great relationships people have today. This process is no different.

I have discussed many positives for building a relationship with consumers, but can you name any caveats or backlash from humanizing your brand?


  • Marion Clarke

    Customers appreciate honesty. They appreciate the integrity of the product brand in knowing that the product won’t hurt them for the sake of the dollar $$$.

  • Marion Clarke

    Customers appreciate honesty. They appreciate the integrity of the product brand in knowing that the product won’t hurt them for the sake of the dollar $$$.

  • Marion Clarke

    Excellent information !

  • Marion Clarke

    Excellent information !

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  • When we acquire a client, we go with the premise as being viewed as an amicable marriage between brand and consumer. Clients are willing to pay a little bit more if they see that you understand their needs and wants and adapt it to the consumers´s tendencies (wants, needs,likes and what they actually do). Great blog!

  • When we acquire a client, we go with the premise as being viewed as an amicable marriage between brand and consumer. Clients are willing to pay a little bit more if they see that you understand their needs and wants and adapt it to the consumers´s tendencies (wants, needs,likes and what they actually do). Great blog!

  • Pingback: #Bigdata, human error, Safe Harbor, segmentation, and brand measures: it’s the #FridayFive! | MRXplorer()

  • Pingback: #Bigdata, human error, Safe Harbor, segmentation, and brand measures: it’s the #FridayFive! | MRXplorer()

  • Point number 4…I heart this…In fact, that is one of the things I love about Twitter, I can treat companies as people.
    Exhibit A https://twitter.com/BSNSpeaks/status/725709574565707776

    Amelia @RN_Solutions

  • Rob Knapp

    The main caveat that creates backlash is lack of authenticity. Brand personification is a transparent strategy. We all know that a brand is not a person. Personification strategies create as much dissonance as discourse. Depending on the scale of your business… positioning, alignment, and clarification strategies are more potent (without dissonance). A brand is equal parts audience perception and intentional conceptual framework. Don’t “humanize” a nonhuman entity and expect acceptance in audience perception. Be authentic and you may not require personification strategies.

    • You present an interesting perspective on authenticity. You mentioned that a brand is equal parts audience perception and intentional conceptual framework. How do you believe a brand’s intentional conceptual framework affects audience perception?

      • Rob Knapp

        Good question. Here’s the short answer: An intentional framework affects perception via repetition across multiple channels over time.

        I recorded a short video response with a bit more detail: https://youtu.be/Ya4k5UTYfEs

  • Chris Well

    This article calls to mind a couple of my favorite books – “The One to One Future” by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, and “Renovate Before You Innovate” by Sergio Zyman. All of the advances in communication technology hasn’t just made relationships between business and customers possible, it’s made them necessary. In a world where it’s too easy for consumers to find our competitors, the only way to build any kind of loyalty is to enter into a two-way relationship with each and every one of them.

    Juntae, you ask whether there is a downside – and it strikes me that once a brand crosses that threshold from being a formal entity and tries to create a human connection, there’s now the responsibility to follow through. That takes a level of time and commitment – and energy – that might seem insurmountable. We see examples all the time of brands that try to look for shortcuts that mimic the “relationship” experience – particularly through automation. And while automation is helpful when it works – if it’s used in a sloppy or lazy manner, it looks even worse for the brand managers than if they hadn’t tried to be “personal” at all.

  • Yinka Babs

    Nice one @juntae, Customers want authenticity and also to be able to relate ( that the people behind the brand image are regular people like them and not robots or programs ). People want to buy from people… It’s about trust.

  • Sarah Stahl

    I’m so glad you focused so heavily on relationships! So many clients tell me “why would I spend the time and resources to manage my community in between promos!?” That is a huge red flag that shows me which companies do and don’t understand the value of investing in relationships. When companies finally understand the important of investing in relationships they will certainly beat out the competition!