The Social Life of Brands: Understanding How Customers Think About You


Connecting with customers used to be easy, now it seems incredibly complex.  So complex that, if you are like me, you start to shut down.  This article, entitled The Social Life of Brands, is not an easy read, but it is worthwhile if you want to start seeing your customers in a new way and a new perspective.

…this trend — the increasing use of social engagement by marketers — to the rise of online social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, fan sites, and social marketing websites (also known as private-label media) created by companies themselves. But the trend represents a more fundamental change in marketing practice, linked to insights from social psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience and brain research. Every form of interaction between companies and consumers — taking place online and offline, in stores and over mobile devices, in branded content and by word of mouth, and indeed through all direct consumer experience — is now understood to be shaped by the social nature of brands.

As marketers put this insight into practice in sophisticated ways, a one-way message or image can no longer compete. The value of a brand is linked to the relationships it fosters: the social connections among people who buy the product or service. Managing these connections at every scale, from an individual contact to a message that reaches millions of people, is the fundamental task of marketing today.

With the right conditions in place, a brand can move beyond a purely transaction-based relationship to become a platform for an experience that feels like friendship. Great marketers have known how to do this for decades, of course, but it is now possible to make authentic connections more consistently. Tapping into the social nature of a brand this way means thinking differently about the expectations that consumers have for the product or service, their view of the company that produces it, and the values they share about it. Some marketers, like Whole Foods, Ikea, and eBay, are consciously evoking a shift in attitude that grew more prominent in the Great Recession: a desire for less acquisition of goods (or even experiences), and for more meaningful, lasting forms of fulfillment. Companies that promise simplicity, connection, and sustainable benefits can gain the most from this shift — but only if they deliver….More at The Social Life of Brands – strategy+business

What I Would Do:

Years ago a couple of fellows by the names of Ries and Trout wrote a book named “Positioning”.  It’s a classic strategy book and I recommend it strongly.  In it they describe what they call a consumer ladder.  Basically, all vendors are given a rank by consumers on a preference ladder with the vendor or product on the top rung typically holding twice as much market share as the next product and so on and so on.  I talked once with Al Riess and asked if they had ever done any work in funeral service.  He said they had and it was among the most interesting they had ever done.  It was the only market where there was only one rung on the consumer ladder.  A funeral home was either on it or not.  So “top-of-mind” awareness is king.  I understood right then and there that regular unabated advertising, not buildings, was the key to building market share…assuming you have the right message of course.