There’s a great scene in the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” in which Meg Ryan’s character hilariously demonstrates to Billy Crystal’s would-be lothario that yes, a woman can indeed fool a man about just how much pleasure she’s getting from a relationship. Recent research indicates that brands would do well to review the scene and contemplate its application to their own situations.
Is Your Brand Passion One-Sided?
For all the talk about brand passion, emotional branding, etcetera, brands still struggle to connect with consumers on a deep, mutual (dare I say, honest) level.
On the brand side, there is an almost reflexive, if still ill informed, excitement about social media, the possibilities for engagement and the promise of Big Data (never mind the off-putting Big Brother implications). Nonetheless, a recent study by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science shows that fewer than 0.5% of a brand followers on Facebook actually engage with the brand. So much for passionate involvement.
Another report, from the marketing research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB) shows that what a brand’s Facebook “friends” want above all from the arrangement is a good deal. A coupon. An offer. It isn’t typically the sign of a healthy relationship when one side has to pay the other for (commercial) intercourse.
Is Your Heart Really In It?
Like any dissatisfied lover, brands need to look not just outward to the objects of their affection but also inward and ask what they’re really investing in a relationship. According to the CMB study, the main reason that Facebook followers “unlike” a brand is that the content it’s providing is irrelevant. Translation: Too many brands act like self-absorbed narcissists, spending too much time talking about themselves and not enough time listening to their customers and speaking to their needs, hopes and dreams.
Can This Brand Relationship Be Saved?
Whether communicating in traditional or social media, there are at least three things that brands can do to improve the honesty and mutuality of the relationship with their consumers:
- 1) Listen more thoroughly
Don’t just ask questions with traditional research; use social monitoring and “listening” platforms to stay current with your customer’s conversations. Thankfully, nearly half of marketers surveyed for the 2012 State of Social Media Marketing study report an increased investment in social monitoring.
- 2) Engage more creatively
To date, the brand view of engagement has largely been, well, brand-centric: product offers, product information, etcetera. In a marketing-saturated world, consumers require more than marketing communications. Witness the newly launched survey from Edelman, Brand Engagement in the Era of Social Entertainment, which notes that “nearly one third of Americans expect brands to not only entertain them, but also provide free content.” In this tech and technique-driven era, it’s time to get creative.
- 3) Get Over Yourself
Like any popular, high-powered field, brand marketing tends toward insularity and self-importance. But, at the risk of sounding trite, if those of us in the business are to effectively go about relationship building, then we’ve got to get past “me” and attend to “we.” Failing to do so risks consumer alienation – even for the so-called “passion brands” like Nike and Apple. Simply consider the consumer fatigue and cynicism behind this entry in the Urban Dictionary, mocking the entire notion of brand passion:Brandgasm
When modern marketing gets absolutely self-indulgent, out-of-hand, crass, tacky, etc., e.g., Gap commercials, Apple’s retail stores, Nike (period).
Mathias: Have you been to an Apple store yet? Seems like they are temples.
Jeremiah: Yes, there’s one here. Overinflated, self-indulgent brandgasms.
So, is your brand faking it?