Carol Avenant of Yellowwood Future Architects
Actor and vaudeville comedian Irwin Corey said: "Marriage is like a bank account: you put in, you take out, you lose interest." Brands are finding themselves in similar love spats with consumers these days. The recession caused quite a few brand break-ups as well as some quick hook-ups that sometimes ended in tears. So what makes a brand marriage successful? Having read the recently released Interbrand Best Global Brands 2010 report, it became clear that it takes more than just romance.
The Interbrand report is a celebration of those brands that have weathered the storm and come out stronger on the other end. It makes for interesting reading and very revealing insights around three core themes: The importance of building real brand-consumer relationships; ensuring there is an emotional connection between brands and their consumers and delivering the ultimate moment of delight. These three themes consistently emerged from the report and can be used as a handy way to determine how hot or cold your brand's relationship with its consumers is.
The problem with relationships is that you need two willing parties, not just a willing brand. However, it is the brand's role to court consumers, convince them beyond question that they understand their needs and to offer better value than the competition. The reason Coca-Cola has been number one on the list for 11 consecutive years is not only due to its financial value - part of its brilliance has been its ability to stay true to its core idea of refreshment, while engaging consumers around the globe on sports fields, during meal occasions and at music festivals. The brand understands what its consumers are passionate about and build relationships around those passion points, offering a refreshing experience and a refreshing taste - where, when and how their consumers want it.
Building lasting relationships requires more than functional benefits, it requires an emotional connection. Apple has mastered this. It is the biggest riser in the 2010 report. The bond between brand and user goes way beyond the devices produced. Apple junkies would agree that the brand connection transcends material satisfaction and delivers emotional fulfillment by tapping into human aspirations. If your brand lacks an emotional connection, look towards real life for inspiration. A true sign of an emotional connection is when people invite the other into their life. Two-way communication is key. So start the conversation with your consumers today, and remember that trust, mutual respect and honesty are key components.
The ultimate prize for brands looking to build relationships and form emotional connections is earning consumers trust and loyalty. For consumers this usually comes from consistently feeling delighted about using a brand. The challenge for brands is to find ways to continuously delight their consumers. To show that they really care. To surprise them. Disney has built an empire on delighting people - it has been the "Happiest Place on Earth" for more than 80 years. It has built a brand on a promise, rather than a product, always being relentless in the quest to exceed expectations. And to think, it all started with a mouse!
A brand, after all, is a promise to the consumer. If you find that your consumers are getting cold feet, invest in the relationship. Maybe it's time to dust off your promise, make sure it's still relevant to what the market wants and renew your commitment. A successful marriage means understanding your partner, listening to them, and finding ways to delight them. Hopefully you'll hear those two words back: I do.