If you want to create emotional connections, drive brand loyalty and influence consumer behaviour, you’re in the right place…Are you being true to your brand?
No, we’re not delving into your personal life, honest.
But if the work you do comes across as honest and truthful, upholding your brand mission and values at every turn, chances are, you’re doing a great job.
The thing is, as good as that may be, it’s time to raise the bar.
What with new data rules affecting marketing and increasingly sophisticated consumers demanding more rewarding brand experiences on social media platforms and beyond – well.
There’s a new sheriff in town: brand authenticity.
It’s this consumer quest for honest and believable brand interactions that is driving conversations and creating powerful results for marketers.
IT’S TIME TO GET DOWN TO EMOTIONS
You won’t be surprised to hear that the Harvard Business Review found that ‘emotionally connected’ consumers are worth a whopping 52% more than ‘highly satisfied’ customers.
It’s the reason why brands are falling over themselves to turn up on social media, the ultimate playground for consumers seeking authentic brand stories.
Yet, as you well know, it’s not enough just to show up. It’s about thinking long-term and building on those all-important emotional connections.
As Sodexo’s ‘Boost the Best Behaviours’ research shows, if you create emotion, your consumers will really start to respond. Once you do this, you begin to create business success stories that are hugely motivating and rewarding.
For brand marketers, that’s where authenticity comes into play. And in our view, that’s where brand loyalty marketing is totally at for 2018.
David Schwarz, writing in The Drum, says, “If a brand is willing to settle for “shares” over more meaningful, lasting connections, it’s heading down a troublesome path. Inauthenticity can mean death to a brand when authenticity is only becoming more important to consumers.
So, what can you do to take steps to build brand authenticity?
1. PUT HONESTY AT THE HEART OF WHAT YOU DO
When even companies like Facebook and Apple are talking about ‘fixing’ their problems, you know brand authenticity is entering new realms of importance. Mark Zuckerberg is apparently addressing the issue of fake news and “people’s ‘lost faith’ in in the power of the internet to decentralise things”.
Top that with Apple’s apology about its low performing battery life and it’s one big wake up call for businesses – consumers really are still king and honesty is the best policy.
You can’t dupe customers and you can’t expect to get away with bad behaviour. Even if the solution is ‘fixing the internet’. No problem too big, as they say.
It’s ok to saunter along doing your thing – you might not be changing the technology landscape, saving puppies from drowning or whatever super hero task springs to mind. But it’s still important that your brand values as a company shine through at every customer touchpoint.
Whether that’s tackling your company’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme or making sure everyone gets back to customers within a realistic time frame, if you’re honest in your business approach, it will be noted.
The point is, emotion has great power in influencing consumer decisions – so it doesn’t matter if people are buying into a new clothing brand or choosing whether to log on to a website like Facebook; even business leaders like Zuckerberg know the importance of being direct and upfront about company failings.
It makes them seem good and that builds brand authenticity. We don’t like to mention the ‘Innocent’ word at this juncture, but we will anyway. Think drinks brand Innocent and you soon get the drift.
2. BE DIRECT AND COMMUNICATE WELL
What you say and how you say it is so important, as any marketer will know. But naturally, there are times when brands don’t always get it right. Often that boils down to one thing – less the act and rather poor communication.
Who can remember when United Airlines got it very wrong when a man was forcibly dragged from a plane in 2017? Their response was to sully the customer – with outrageous consequences. Then they changed tack.
There’s nothing worse than saying one thing and then saying something else to totally mess up a situation, is there? It’s just bad management. With the right communication, all sorts of PR disasters can be averted.
For United Airlines however, it was all very confusing but the take out was that the customer was badly treated. And if it can happen to them, it can happen to us, right? It’s a big fat no-no in terms of brand loyalty.
It seems good communication can work wonders for brands willing to dive in and get amongst it. If you respond quickly to queries or comments on social media platforms, you’ll cut any negativity off at the pass, and build positive dialogue with customers.
In fact, consumers like it when brands hold their hands up and say, ‘We messed up and we’re sorry’. So, don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes. Just address it well if it happens.
What’s more, to ignore customers is just about as bad as messing up. Give people plenty of opportunity to leave reviews and help them to feed back to you beyond social media itself.
Reward this behaviour and create reasons for people to believe in the brand.
3. MAKE PEOPLE WANT TO OPT-IN
When you offer a reason for consumers to be a part of your brand story, you can really drive authentic connections. It might be giving price discount offers or creating brand promotions that require customer interaction like online competitions and giveaways.
Marketers who think outside the box and opt for promotional campaigns that lead with personalisation or unique experiences can really bring home the bacon. A well thought out brand campaign will feed your customers’ imaginations, thereby massively boosting customer engagement.
What’s more, when you use engagement specialists to help devise and control your brand promotions, you can rest assured that you have a compliant promotional campaign. You’ll also get extra peace of mind knowing you have an effective risk management plan in place.
We predict that simple brand campaigns that tap into the ‘share’ culture are going to be more in-demand than ever before. And with new GDPR data rules coming into effect, people will have more say over how they’re targeted by marketers.
So, you’d better add a fair dose of authenticity and creativity to your next promotional campaign just for good measure.
You have been warned.
4. TURN UP SIMPLE EXPERIENCE-LED CAMPAIGNS
The way your brand makes its customers feel is often experience led. That’s fine if you offer a service or lifestyle purchase, but if you’re usually selling ‘distress’ purchases, that may become a slightly tougher persuasion – but not impossible.
If the Meerkats can do it with insurance, anyone can, right?
Don’t be deterred – sometimes it’s the simplest marketing ideas that create the largest impact.
Pizza Express is one company that has really thought hard about harnessing the power of word of mouth marketing. In some branches, it’s been reported that staff can give away free meals to customers a couple of times a month.
Staff randomly pick a table and give the reward on the spot. It’s an instant marketing win. This delights and surprises in a way that just makes everybody feel good, frankly.
Simple marketing ideas that involve instant rewards and also create social buzz online work well. Consumers are compelled to share their exciting bonus on their social media feeds and that drives customer engagement big time.
Plus, now we all want to eat at Pizza Express in the chance we could be next – but crucially, because they’re a ‘nice company to eat with’.
It’s the ultimate customer experience that leaves everyone – customers and staff alike – feeling warm and fuzzy, totally ‘emosh’ but also, cared about. It’s brand authenticity at its best.
It’s a demonstration that Pizza Express is ahead of the curve when it comes to creating authentic business success stories. And it’s also an indicator that it’s time for marketers to rethink how they create emotional connections for their consumers.
5. SHOW YOU CARE AND KEEP AT IT
It’s also time to ditch the volume and go for the less is more approach. Should be a breeze if you truly know your audience. And you do. Don’t you?
As Sodexo’s ‘Boost the Best Behaviours’ study states, “creating a connection comes right back to knowing your audience – the people that already love what you’re doing. It’s about remembering the value of your best and brightest consumers and shifting your strategy to help them give back even more.”
For a start, you might want to offer customers birthday loyalty incentives and rewards by way of a unique discount code or, even better, something tangible like a film voucher or gift card.
Go one step further and tie it in to your business offering – if you’re a restaurant, how about a free bottle of bubbly with a meal for example? Or personalise your customer retention activity and you’ll soon have a memorable promotional campaign.
Bill’s restaurants offer loyal customers a birthday bottle, as well as small giveaways via their Facebook page at times when you least expect it – like their ‘beat the January blues’ daily giveaway prize promotional campaign.
We say prize, but actually, the perceived wins are for Bill’s, as a free burger voucher will increase bums on seats for the restaurant chain. Nice work, Bill’s.
The point is, prize incentives and rewards can really boost customer engagement, but they can also have a positive impact on your bottom line.
To show you really care about your customers, think about how you’re communicating and responding to your customers’ needs on every level.
For example, a customer on Twitter commented that they were doing ‘Dry January’ so they couldn’t use their free bottle of Prosecco in the time frame it was meant to be used within.
So, the restaurant in question let her have her birthday voucher early. They sorted it for her immediately, just like that. Now wasn’t that nice of them?
The more brands can do something for nothing, the kinder they appear. And in today’s crazy world, that can only drive customer engagement in our view.
THE FINAL WORD…
At the heart of your marketing mix needs to be the understanding that we live in a world that seeks positive affirmation at every turn. While brand authenticity is customer engagement on an altogether different level, it also oozes positivity and flies in the face of cynicism.
Ultimately, if you say ‘yes’ more, you’ll soon create brand authenticity that will truly engage consumers.
The bottom line is, if you’re brave, you’ll soon see how emotional connections can make a difference to your business. When you inspire people, they’ll come back to your website and spread the word.
Now if that hasn’t got you itching to book a brainstorm, we don’t know what will.
Go forth and be authentic. Your customers will love you for it.