A lot of customer/brand relationships are like bad marriages, they’re full of miscommunication and misunderstanding on both sides. And just like bad marriages, these relationships often break down after breaches of trust and disloyalty come into play. Unwanted brands try to console themselves with the notion that they couldn’t have tried any harder to make things work and finally they concede that it “wasn’t meant to be”.
The reality is that the customer probably didn’t want a relationship in the first place. Or at least they didn’t want the kind of relationship that the brand was offering.
The root of this misunderstanding is the fundamental disconnect between how brands see their relationship with customers and how customers perceive their relationship with brands. Many brands associate the word ‘relationship’ with emotion. To them, starting a relationship with a customer means forging a deep and meaningful bond which will lead to a long term association and, of course, sales. This has been the case since I started out in CRM, when the popular consensus was that a relationship of this nature would inspire loyalty, as the strength of the bond would make it difficult for the consumer to turn to a rival brand. Today many marketers still hold a firm belief in the power of brand loyalty, even when it has been proven that it is extremely rare – A recent study by Nielsen found that 78% of consumers are not loyal to a particular brand.
In fact, brand loyalty may not even exist at all. We now know that consumers who repeatedly buy the same product from a certain brand, seemingly their most loyal customers, are actually more likely than an average consumer to be fickle and disloyal. As these consumers tend to be drawn to the product category rather than the brand that provides it, they’re more likely to have their head turned by a lower price or an attractive deal offered by a competitor.
Unfortunately for marketers, heartfelt emotion rarely factors into the equation on the customer side. Instead, customers see their relationship with a brand as a series of value transactions. If they’re not purchasing a product from a brand, they expect value in the form of useful, helpful or entertaining content. And they want to access this content on their own terms – when, where and how they want to. They certainly don’t want to be bombarded by a slew of brand messages every time they log into Twitter or open their email. It’s well known that younger generations are especially put off by overzealous marketing and at Karmarama we’re starting to see how this is affecting their association with brands. We recently carried out a brand loyalty study that found that 55% of 18-25 year olds don’t feel they have any kind of a relationship with a brand.
Of course brands still need to interact with their prospect consumers, so what should they be doing? Well, firstly they need to facilitate situations where mutually beneficial communication is able to take place and make the most of these opportunities when they crop up. Modern marketers have a wealth of consumer data at their fingertips that can be harnessed to create tailored, positive experiences for the customer that will keep them engaged and interested.
Instead of aiming for a lifelong love affair with customers, marketers should be using data to establish themselves as valued sources of advice, entertainment and interesting information. In return, customers may be willing to look at that brand’s products, share data about themselves, or at the very least come back for more. To expect anything more is presumptive – and will likely result in heartache.