The 21st century brandscape is hugely competitive with businesses in every sector leveraging their brand equities to the max.
Marketing in the form of online relationship building and data capture has seen an explosion of new, entrepreneurial brands who rather than rely on bricks and mortar sales through third party retailers are creating their own, direct to consumer channel through dedicated websites and direct to home delivery services.
Others are utilising e-commerce portals such as Amazon with their scale and distribution capability providing significant logistics efficiencies, which smaller businesses find difficult to match both in terms of service levels and cost.
These established e-retailers present their own shop window of course where would be purchasers can browse thousands of products, compare prices and ultimately make a purchase. The game here is about volume and frankly do Amazon care if they sell more of brand X than brand Y when their margins are the same – probably not.
Away from dedicated brand-owned websites, brand communications on third party websites are at best thin, and building a strong relationship with consumers is challenging with product equities reduced to the tangible rather than the intangible attributes that shape brands and our relationship with them.
Hence it is all too easy for brands to be chosen on price and for brand owners to be drawn into a trader mentality where price is everything and product equities and brand values are reduced to the insignificant.
The brand customer service interface becomes the e-retailer customer service interface – their communication style and language becoming both synonymous and confused with those of the brand, weakening the customer/brand relationship and replacing it with their own.
And through this awkward, symbiotic partnership it is the e-retailer brands that benefit most, gaining customer data and enhancing their relationship through the transaction rather than adding value to their branded goods suppliers.
So what can brands learn from this increasingly important route to market, how can they equip themselves to counter the loss of direct communication with their customers?
Only 20% of our purchase behaviour is conscious and this correlates directly to the tangible assets of the brand. The remaining 80% of our purchase decision relates to the intangible assets of the brand and indeed it is these assets which separate brands from commodities – without them a brand is merely a commodity.
Hence our relationship with brands is complex and indeed the limbic part of our brain which is responsible for our emotions has no capacity for understanding language and yet it has an ability to create an emotional connection with the brands that we value and choose over those that we don’t.
One often says a decision ‘doesn’t feel right’ or ‘my gut feeling tells me this is wrong’ but these emotions are born from our limbic brain rather than other parts of our anatomy.
Sophisticated brain mapping techniques have demonstrated how electrical activity within the limbic area of our brain increase significantly when subjects are exposed to brands that they value compared to those that they do not.
Amazingly, this increase in brain activity is mirrored when a subject engages with another human that they find interesting and attractive.
It seems that our brains are capable of discerning the ‘personality’ of brands that are important to us, just as we do with humans, and it these equities that define our relationships with brands.
The stronger and more relevant the emotive attributes of a brand are, the stronger the connection it can create with its audience.
Every conversation starts with a single word and those brands which can powerfully and engagingly say ‘hello’ to its audience are the brands which are best placed to succeed in an every-increasingly competitive market place.
Creating such brands takes expertise, insight and courage, a willingness to do what feels right.
Like all relationships, that between a consumer and a brand grows over time, becoming more powerful and more special – and as it does so it achieves loyalty and gains a special place in the minds of its audience – equities that elevate it and remove it from a brand value destroying price comparison with its competitors.