Marketing heavyweights around the world are coming to terms with the fact that consumers control their brands and that this power shift has far-reaching implications. As Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley noted, "We now have a greater opportunity to move beyond transactions to relationships, but to do so requires that we strike the right balance between being in control and being in touch. Ironically, the more in control we are, the more out of touch we become. But the more we're willing to let go, the more we're able to get in touch with consumers."
Gone are the days of repetitive, one-way communications urging your target market to buy your product or service. This means your trusted print campaign may not be getting the best ROI. Today's brand strategies have to include methods to engage with your consumers by capturing their hearts, minds and conversations throughout the purchase and relationship cycle, while remaining brand-centric™ at every touch point.
Brian Phipps author of “Brands Create Customers” explains the pitfalls of “old school” brand strategy versus the benefits of “new school”. Old school branding is based on a top-down approach that seeks to build perceptions, not value and assumes your customer is passive, simply waiting around for you to sell your brand to them.
New-style branding is all about customer engagement and involvement. Today's consumer generates their own brand commentary and content and as a Director, you would be remiss not to facilitate this. Personal consumer involvement with your brands is a trend that is not going away.
Get consumers to collaborate
Empower consumers to drive brand strategy and messages. Many companies have rightly embraced word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing as a way to get in touch with consumers and involve them in the brand-building process.
Open the channels
Remember what you resist persists. If you're weary of allowing your consumers to actively engage with your brand then you might as well close your brand in a glass case and throw away the key. In which case you can also expect sure death of said brand. Rather give your customers the tools to communicate with your organisation and with each other about your brand.
Make sure you have a tracking programmes searching for mentions of your brand online and in the media. In addition a dedicated PR manager should be ready to engage with consumers when necessary. Some brand teams assign full time PR managers to ensure that online brand interactions are met with immediate responses.
Brand conversations should be just that - a natural conversation. Forget carefully crafted copy and shoot from the hip, all while remaining true to your brand values in a brand-centric™ manner.
Engage online and offline
Research conducted from 2006 - 2009 in the US proves that face-to-face interactions account for 72% and phone conversations 18% of all word-of-mouth brand conversations. Only 7% of WOM takes place through various online channels. Marketers who place all their WOM bets on the web, are missing out on the bigger opportunity.
Don't abandon your current marketing strategies specifically your below-the-line communications as a surprisingly large number of conversations include mentions of below-the-line marketing, such as point of sale and promotions. Find out when your consumers are talking favourably about your brand and engage your customer evangelists where they live, work and shop by seeding products, creating in-store events, and providing opportunities for consumers to congregate and share their impressions. These messages ripple far beyond the first wave of target market exposure, and you will gain the increased credibility and impact that comes with consumer interaction and recommendation.
Don't forget that consumers spend most of their lives in an offline world and marketers should join in conversations during these offline moments. And always make sure your activities are brand-centric™ and focussed on your core brand values.
Desiree Gullan is the Creative Director of Gullan&Gullan Advertising (Pty) Ltd. Gullan&Gullan's propriety brand-centric™ methodology forms the basis of every communication service ensuring that brand equity is enhanced through congruent, consistent expression at every touch point from the board of directors, to staff, to customers and in the media. www.gullanandgullan.com 011 887 6591.
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