There was a global research sometime back which established that consumers across geographies didn’t care if most of the visible/salient global brands suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth. One that found a place on the list which the consumers didn’t want disappearing is Apple. A deeper analysis into what this brand stands for and the way they communicate it, will give clear evidences to the fact that they do things very differently.
The unfortunate truth is the sales and marketing teams in many companies do not even know the long term vision for their careers with the brand. What more will they do beyond ensuring the monthly/quarterly sales numbers are met? Consequently, consumers in such cases are people sitting miles apart, defined demographically by their ad/media agencies as some aliens and a lot who should be very happy with a plastic loyalty card handed out to them by some of the brands they consume.
What if one of us actually has a problem with someone we know? Would we sort that out one on one or go publicise that? But why do consumers do it the other way? Is it actually possible to use the resources deployed to nullify those consumer remarks/complaints in far better ways? So the question is how one should create connections that count. This doesn’t mean undoing a lot, but smaller step by step changes can do wonders.
Defocus from doing business with people who need what you have
If you really believe in something the world will conspire to make it happen for you. We all know these famous words.If there’s a sincere belief about something, you will automatically attract others with similar beliefs. And connections get established. This means the purpose the brands are meant to stand for. It is far beyond just transactions and must begin from the top. The CEO must set and articulate this vision.
Don’t underestimate the power of genuine storytelling
The hurried up pace to catch up and compete has changed everything. Clients are happy with five or 10-second TV commercials so that they can buy more ‘GRPs’ (Gross Rating Points). But did you know a brand that stands for a purpose can tell a story that will resonate with its consumers and will figure in the conversations with fondness, empathy et al. A case is point is the current three-minute long Google ad.
Create a shared vision with your employees for your marketing efforts
Having created the purpose/vision, share it first with your employees. Unfortunately, advertising is a function in many companies where the marketing teams produce another alien called the ‘Ad’, which will be seen even by most of the company’s employees along with other consumers. Just a track of the social sharing of socially active employees can give clear indications to the marketer about the pride the company has been able to instill in these employees. Pride also comes with ownership. A company with 100 socially active employees, well aligned to the marketing efforts of that company, could mean over a million non-paid for, real connections. Those are not just fans.
Fans are for celebrities. Brands need Friends.
Connections that count are genuine two-way connections. It is not the meaningless ‘like’ button pressed on Facebook, enabling brands to harp on fans. A friend of mine in a media company was telling me how his teams ‘buy’ those likes to satisfy certain brand metrics in an activation programme. As a result, brands we thought were intrinsic part of consumers’ lives, get displaced by others with ease as proven by the global research I spoke about earlier. It is also important for brand owners to carefully ensure the purpose is reflected even in all possible physical connection opportunities with the consumers.
Let the very first contact count
The first consumer interface – the telephone contact (where applicable) – in many companies is outsourced and handled by very junior, sometimes untrained employees who believe it is favour done to the calling consumers. A manager on the floor is supposed to be insulated from the consumers and seldom will the calling consumers get to talk to this so-called senior person even if there’s a brewing trouble.
Recently, a car company drove me away based on the first interaction – the call attendant. A friend of mine who was unhappy with the time taken for delivery of some books he ordered online called to cancel his order. All that the person who attended the call had to say was the amount will be credited back to the card. What an opportunity loss!
The first contact for some brands is the retail showroom. It is another opportunity fully wasted by brands since the focus is only the transaction. I can quote a 100 such examples on various categories where brands simply waste such opportunities.
Celebrate your consumers: Get your happy consumers together. They will have lots to share.
Brands need to align what they say and do to best leverage what’s being said about them. You can either figure in conversations which will have a sudden trigger and an equally sudden fall based on guerilla tactics like some brands do under the disguise of innovation. Or you can have a consistent, purpose-aligned conversation. This can only happen when the brand owners sit down to answer one simple, but mighty question: why they do what they do.The shareholder value of these companies will be incomparable because your consumer friends will make their friends buy yours brands.
B+O+E. Let this become real
Advertisers must ask their media agencies to redefine their roles from media planning and buying service providers to solution providersto anticipate and navigate the ever-changing media world and create connections of quality and intensity which can count.
BOE (Bought, Owned and Earned) media opportunities as a terminology sound very good. But how many of them are practiced in the true spirit beyond the power point slides? The path chartered above could actually mean a ‘media plan’ changing from 90:3:7 (B:O:E) today to a ‘connection plan’ of 25:20:55 in just three years. This will also allow content creation, which is a must in a convergent world.
Last but not the least, be consistent once you embark on this route. This may not pay a dividend every quarter. But it will open quarter inch of the door to the consumer’s heart to the brand, at a consistent pace.
(S Yesudas is MD, Indian sub-continent, Vizeum)