Brands compete in saturated markets, where communication channels have multiplied, leading to the satiety of messages. Trust in brands has declined in recent times. Without that trust, customers lose interest, divert their attention, and their loyalty decreases. If brands want to build trust – the essence of any relationship – they need to individualize their efforts and build more personal relationships.

We all understand the importance of having healthy relationships in our lives, and we shouldn’t forget how relationships affect our businesses. Of all the success metrics, if we measure brands the way we measure healthy relationships, we can effectively assess where we stand in the market. Just like human relationships, brands need to take elements of traditional relationship building and apply them to their strategy.

The concept of brands as relationships has already been adopted by the most advanced companies. AMERICAN EXPRESS redefined its functional relational roles, starting from “Card & Cardholder” to a much more aspirational concept: “Club & Club Member”. STARBUCKS not only elevated the figure of the bartender to barista, but transformed its bars into “Community Hubs” as a point of connection for a group of people with common interests. This is the new way forward.

Customers want to find long-lasting relationships in brands, not one-off transactions. Brand relationships are strengthened by sharing beliefs and delivering experiences that fill them with meaning. That is why it is essential to have previously defined a territory and a meaning for the brand. That is the strength of branding, which nourishes the very essence of business.

Creating strong relationships requires consistency in each of the channels where the brand interacts with its audience. It also implies a sense of community, of being part of something greater. All this will help to reinforce the customer’s own personality, which feels reflected in what the brand stands for. And to achieve this, brands will need to leave a place for customers in their day-to-day lives.

Technology has brought speed, the desire for immediacy. Customers now expect their issues to be resolved without calling or emailing customer service. They take their grievances directly to social media, as this also naturally amplifies their voice. Their opinions can even go viral and negatively impact the brand’s reputation. As a result, companies have had to take a proactive approach to solving customer problems by incorporating tools such as active social listening. Today, recommendations or user-generated content are more reliable than traditional media.

Build ties with the target

The most innovative companies are redefining not only how their brands are seen and perceived, but how they are lived. They are redrawing the very essence of the relationships they have with their customers from more collaborative roles and through bidirectionality. To achieve this, there is a fundamental factor: empathy. Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes is the first step in putting the customer at the center of your business strategy. Identifying their needs, speaking their language, thinking from the customer and not from the company will be crucial in this process. It sounds simple, but carrying it out is not so simple. The well-known DOVE and its “Real Beauty” campaign are a magnificent exponent that has created a movement that places the brand in a territory of its own, away from its competitors, and frames it as a “Love Brand“.

The Importance of Relationships

Customers will prioritize those brands that understand them, reinforcing their commitment to them. The beginning of this relationship is found when the brand and the customer start from a position of equals, where the brand acquires a human and personal role that connects it more easily with its community. They share values, share actions, and trust in the brand grows.

How to create more emotional connections?

  • Build trust. Trust is an important part of every relationship, so make sure you keep your promise at every touchpoint. It is not a question of words but of deeds.
  • Show who you are. Brands must go from being entities to reflecting humanity. It’s time to break down barriers, lose fears and show up authentically. Let customers in to see who’s behind the company. Take advantage of social media to introduce your team and share personal stories. Create community, open dialogue, invite your audience to share their stories. Including them in the conversation is a great way to build a deeper relationship.
  • Share your beliefs. A brand goes far beyond a product or service. A brand is the representation of who you are and what you are for. In a changing world, where an emotional bond is created with the brands that attract us the most, it is essential that you know how to identify among their values those that make them unique. While the image projected from signs of identity and voice can help build notoriety, it is the values that are responsible for creating a brand meaning and beliefs that will achieve true engagement with its target.
  • It adds value. Beyond the products and services you deliver, customers expect to be valued as individuals and for their voices to be heard. For this reason, brands today are called to compete on multiple levels of value: the mind (reason), the heart (emotion), life (experiences) and action (purchases). When a brand manages to be present in these four aspects in people’s lives, it enters a higher stage and protects its position in the market.

The digitalization of the experience

The increase in e-commerce has been massive in recent times. The pandemic has only accelerated what was already anticipated. Right now, the majority of consumers say they’ll shop even more online post-COVID. But the transition to digital is not solved by e-commerce alone. A recent study found that 83% of consumers said they needed a positive online experience to stay loyal to a brand; and 39% said this was critical. Personalization can help you on this journey and to achieve this you need to know your audience. It won’t be easy to know what he thinks, you’ll have to add value. Perhaps a prize package in exchange for the prospect’s information can be of great help. Be honest about what you’ll do with their information, start the relationship through consistent, non-invasive communications. Make it easy for customers to interact with your posts. Try to recognize customer interactions in a way that makes them feel important in furthering the relationship they have with your brand.

Build trust from the start

A relationship can only be maintained as long as it is nurtured. Attracting new customers costs much more than retaining existing ones. No customer wants to feel like a number. Follow up by continuously optimizing the customer experience, whether online or offline.

For most companies, 20% of their customers drive 80% of their sales. Therefore, offering satisfaction is absolutely crucial, not only with every transaction, but with every contact with the brand. After all, a good manual is enough to offer a good service, while building trust involves the heart.

 

Carlos Puig Falcó
CEO of Branward