‘Brand Relationship’, it’s a term that’s often tossed around in the marketing world and critical to the ongoing success of your business. It is a phenomenon that has churned out myriad definitions and has been the focal point for marketing scholars for decades. What does it mean? Perhaps most simply, it is a relationship generated by ‘repeated interactions between a brand and a customer that starts to reflect similar characteristics of relationships between people’. A customer is not simply a passive bottom line to business, they are an active partner in a relationship that is generated over time. This relationship is built through repeated, consistent interactions in which the customer will begin to develop a number of characteristics, perhaps the most important of these – commitment and interdependence. Understanding that customers are an organic marketing opportunity, building a successful brand relationship both reinforces this opportunity and creates new avenues of marketing.
Over enough time with successfully reinforced brand interactions, the brand and customer can become psychologically interdependent, in which the customer believes that brand loyalty and support reflects a component of their personality/identity. Many companies have evidenced successful brand relationship building, earning the title of a ‘cult brand’. Perhaps the oldest and most notable of these is Harley-Davidson, beginning simply as a motorcycle company they have built a brand relationship around lifestyle in which consumers are not only loyal but believe repeat purchases reflect positive aspects of themselves and their life.
So how does a business go about building successful brand relationships? Especially when in the era of social media, the relationship begins with potential customers before they even interact directly with your business (through friends/family and online). There are a number of methods, some of the more notable are:
Customer Success and Experience
Steering away from a bottom-line focus and prioritising customer success and experience is vital. Focusing specifically on customer success is one of the more critical aspects of building brand relationships. Particularly in a client driven business in which you deliver a service, you are not simply selling your service to them – you are enabling a customer with the ability to succeed in their own life and business and this must matter to you.
A consistent social media presence that opens a two-way channel of communication with customers is fundamental. Listening to and validating customer voices demonstrates your ability to adapt and grow with them, delivering a product that suits their needs.
Reflecting and Learning
It’s not simply enough to deliver consistent customer experience and communication, as a business you must reflect internally on both your successes and failures with a willingness to learn and adapt. You can’t always chalk something up to a ‘bad client’ or something ephemeral like a ‘bad mood’, try and understand where you did/didn’t go wrong and constantly strive to be better. Developing and utilising metrics and tools of analysis are vital for an effective postmortem.
Building successful brand relationships can provide an enormous advantage to your business. While there are many methods to start building these relationships, it is perhaps most important to be open to learning and evolve with the customer. The world and your customers are ever changing and in a state of flux, so just like any healthy relationship – listen, communicate and adapt.