The role of the brand in peoples’ lives has changed dramatically over the past few years. Consumers have spent two years decluttering, throwing away, updating, and changing what they need. As they’ve assessed the results, people’s attitudes towards certain brands have also changed. Brands that invented themselves decades ago are not necessarily communicating successfully or coming across in the same way anymore because people have changed and moved on.
Consumers now want a less transactional and more emotional relationship with brands. According to a survey by Motista, customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have three times higher lifetime value and will likely recommend the company at a rate of 71%, instead of the average 45%. It is this personal approach to building relationships that brands should develop. Like with any personal relationship, it should be built on key psychological principles.
1. Good listening skills
One of the key elements in any two-way relationship is the ability to listen and understand someone’s concerns. We are in a global environment where inflation has become very real and persistent for people everywhere. Therefore, from a brand perspective, you are going to have to work a lot harder to persuade somebody to buy your product.
As consumers, we have become more considerate in our choices of what we buy and where we want to spend our money. The first question consumers are now asking when considering any product is, do they really need that thing in their lives?
As a brand, are you confident you’re listening rather than just broadcasting your messages? How are you adapting your approach and enthralling your customer over the entire sales cycle? This approach is especially crucial in the considered purchase space.
The answer is in addressing a customer’s underlying needs state and responding to what they’ve said. Not what you think they need. For example, it’s said that, on average, it takes 12 days for somebody to buy a washing machine. So that’s 12 days from first consideration to researching online to getting to the point of purchase. During that window, consumers have plenty of opportunities to change their mind, especially in crowded categories. Brands that don’t listen and fail to address the shopper’s needs during that journey will lose out.
2. Offering connection
In any friendship group, you will want to feel like you belong – to become part of a tribe. In many ways, a timeless virtue a brand can offer. But this has been given added importance in recent years. When a brand evokes a true sensation of inclusion, we feel a connection.
When we buy into a brand, they are offering us more than products and services, we are buying into a lifestyle. We become part of their tribe. This is a particularly strong trait for technology users. People define themselves by the gadgets and brands they favor – for example, whether they are an iOS user or an Android user. Apple achieved such success by the ability to move technology from the practical to an emotional, tactile, beautifully designed and built piece of hardware product that created the real ‘love’ of users.
In a time where we have perhaps felt more isolated the ability to bond with others over shared interests is crucial. This is something all generations have been yearning for and are looking to experience.
3. Sharing the same values
We increasingly buy into brands because of their ethics or how they contribute back or give back to society. Also how they conduct themselves behind the scenes or the manner in which they go about developing their products. This is becoming more strong with Gen Z. According to a recent study by Attest, “more than 60% of Gen Z say they’re likely to stop buying from a brand that doesn’t meet their personal values – 42% say ‘likely’ and 20% say ‘very likely’.”
Brands should connect with the values of their audience to build a stronger bond, rather than just perhaps providing them with a product or service they need. People will want to buy into a product because they appreciate they are dealing with a responsible brand that gives something back.
4. Being financially empathetic
Ethics are, of course, important but let’s not be naive. A recent study we commissioned also showed ‘price promotion’ was one of the most important factors in making a considered purchase.
Indeed, according to an article by Psychology Today, having compatible financial values is a key predictor of relationship success and is also one of the biggest reasons relationships break down. This also applies to brands. Brands should ensure they don’t lose their customer base because they have a tin ear to their customers’ financial concerns.
For everyone contemplating buying into a brand, it needs to be at a price point that works for them. In other words, a reasonable price. No one wants to feel like they are being overcharged so that they suffer buyer’s remorse. It needs to be the right product at the right price that does what they need.
People want to trust the brands they buy from. In order to be trustworthy, it is vital to be consistent. If brands are saying one thing on their social media feeds about supporting sustainability but then a quick Google search finds they are not following this through, there is likely to be a backlash and a push back. People have more ability to find a brand and hold it to account.
I think we are moving away from people buying things because it is just a thing to buy. I do genuinely think that people buy products and into brands because there is a genuine need. And if there’s a choice in that category, they will make a considered choice.
It is also not necessarily about being the most ethical brand on the planet, but about being consistent and honest. There is nothing worse than that disappointing out-of-box experience. When you open a box and you feel like you’ve bought a dud or it’s just not the thing that you had anticipated having due to a brand promise that isn’t then delivered upon.
6. Fun experience
As we look at the more worthy elements of building a sustainable relationship, let’s not forget about the fun. This is the reason so many retailers are moving into ‘feel good’ retail. It is why a brand like Selfridges is offering free therapy and sex counseling alongside DJs providing ‘feel good’ sounds. By creating a climate of enjoyment, people are likely to feel more positively about the brand.
The same applies to car brands Tesla and Genesis, which have created vast immersive experiences in Westfield. The huge cost of these activations is not going to convert that many people. We’re talking about a significant amount of square footage in a serious location within one of the UK’s busiest shopping malls. But it is 100% about the experience.
In many ways, this isn’t a place you come to transact. This is a place where you come to be immersed in the wonders of Genesis. Whether it is the luxury, the technology, the innovation, and being immersed into the brand – it’s done very, very well. It engages all the senses and creates enjoyment. The fun factor and visual experience is something so many people have missed out on these past two years and brands that proactively bring that back to life can reap the benefits.
Creating an unbreakable emotional bond
In conclusion, brands need to think very hard about a new approach to creating a genuine emotional connection with consumers who have quite a changed perspective. This needs to be beyond solely transactional. Brands need to apply the same principles they would apply to fostering any relationship. This involves focusing on good listening skills, offering connection, showing they share the same values, being financially empathetic, trustworthy, and fun.
If they can get these elements right, they can create an unbreakable emotional bond. According to author Sue Johnson, “Love is a survival imperative we experience from the cradle to the grave. Loving connection is the only safety nature ever offers us.” Brands that want to survive these tumultuous times would do well to follow that advice.
Cover image source: Andrea Piacquadio