The New Relationship Between Consumers and Brands, Part 1

Okay, so my old blog got sadly neglected but I rather missed it so decided to start a new one over here on WordPress.

To get things rolling, I’m gonna kick things off with a multi-part post about what my agency has been calling “the new relationship between consumers and brands.”

Before we can get into all of the aspects of just what exactly constitutes this new relationship and what the implications of that new relationship are for us as marketers, we need to take a step back and look at what happened to bring about this new relationship in the first place.

I warn in advance that the first post will be pretty basic and obvious to people in teh business. But I need to set things up, right?

If I were to give the first chapter a title, it would be:

“Nothing Has Changed. And Yet Everything Has Changed.”

So, to summarize: brands and branding haven’t changed.

And since some people still get confused as to just what the hell we’re talking about when we use words like “brands” and “branding”, lets clarify what a brand isn’t.

A brand is not:

-a name

-a logo

-a trademark

-a slogan

Rather, here’s how I like to define a brand:

“Collectively, what people think, feel and say about your product, service or company.”

Consequently, “branding” is:

“Using marketing to influence peoples’ attitudes towards, and perceptions of, the brand.”

Those things haven’t changed.

And here’s something else that hasn’t changed: Brand loyalty will still be earned over time through consistently positive experiences and engagements with the brand.

What has changed is pretty much everything else.

The old ways of building brand loyalty – the ones marketers could count on consistently, decade after decade – are becoming increasingly obsolete.

That old model was based upon the following:

-captive audience

-short bursts of information

-built around interruption

-repetition, repetition, repetition

And success was measured by:

-reach

-frequency

-number of impressions

Well, we now live in a world where that model can no longer adequately serve us as marketers.

First of all, the audience got fragmented. We’ve gone from 3 channels to 30 to 300 and growing every day. Putting an ad (even a really good one) on a popular show and then putting your feet up and knowing that everyone will see it is no longer feasible. For one thing, what constitutes a “popular show” has changed dramatically. You’re not competiting only with what’s on the other 2 networks. Or even what’s on the hundreds of other networks. Even if you do have a great show with a huge fanbase, they’re not necessarily watching it at a set time on a set day in a set location where they’re captive viewers for our ads. They may PVR it and watch it the enxt day and skip all the ads. They may watch it online. They may jsut wait till the season’s over and get all of the DVDs and watch them together, ad-free. So, in short, the old model of pushing messages at a captive audience and counting on the mass reach of the TV medium is a model that is rapidly dying out.

And the clients who hire us agencies and pay our fees and count on us to deliver their messages have taken notice.

Here’s a quote that I love from Trevor Edwards, the VP of Marketing over at Nike: “We’re not in the business of keeping media companies in business. We’re in the business of connecting with our consumers.”

Exactly. Those mediums are great as long as they’re serving our purposes. Once they fail to do so, nobody on teh client-side is going to prop them up out of a sense of loyalty or nostalgia. What they care about – and because they care about, we have to care about it – is being able to connect with their consumers. If the old ways no longer work, we need to create new ways.

How do we do that? I’ll explain in Part 2.

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