Creating Relationships Built to Last
Imagine that you’re at a backyard BBQ enjoying some sun, overcooked hotdogs, and beer that’s fine, but not your favorite. As you turn to get a handful of Ruffles, you get a handful of someone else’s hand.
“Hey, I’m Rick!” the man attached to the hand exclaims. “Hi, I’m – ” you say before he interrupts you.
“Will you marry me?” Rick asks.
Chances are, despite being single, looking for a relationship, and Rick being exactly your type, you’re going to decline his hasty proposal because, despite Married at First Sight, no one should marry someone they just met.
The same logic works when it comes to brands and their relationship with their audience. With more general skepticism in the market, brands are now confronted with consumers who are beginning to question why they should buy one brand over another.
So, what’s a brand to do?
Good old-fashioned relationship building
If you want a long-term relationship (hell, any relationship!) with your audience, you gotta build one the old-fashioned way – you know, get to know each other and establish trust before you – ahem – seal the deal.
These days, relationship building can be tough – there’s a lot to navigate in terms of audiences and their spending habits and a whole lot of competitive noise to cut through.
One component that is particularly vexing is the idea of a brand as an extension or expression of the self. This isn’t anything new, but brands that have done it well know who their customers are.
Take Patagonia, for example.
Even before their CEO’s crusade to fight global warming, this eco-friendly outdoors brand was popular with people who wanted high-quality outdoor apparel. Initially, the brand’s support for stewardship of the environment might’ve been evident, but perhaps secondary for consumers. However, as they built their audience, they were able to lean into their support of the environment so much so that now their idea of saving the environment is completely entrenched in their identity.
Patagonia built trust through authenticity – they put their money where their mouth was – and now their customers are relatively price inelastic because of the intrinsic value the brand offers to their ego.
Tesla is another great example, but for different reasons. The electric car maker run by Elon Musk is such a cult brand that they have spent $0 on marketing. [insert image here] Love Musk or hate him, Tesla has been valued at over $1B even despite overpromising the product. Why? Because a certain type of person will always be attracted to Tesla and what Tesla represents – being on the cutting edge, no matter the cost.
However, not all brands are cult brands and at the end of the day, a cult can quickly become a cheap pastiche if not anchored by an authentic mission or values.
Another example? Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. Initially perceived as groundbreaking for its inclusion of models of color and models of different body shapes, it did indeed put the brand at the forefront of changing conversations around beauty standards and photoshopping. However, nowadays, you can’t swing a dead cat on Instagram without hitting a brand that doesn’t offer a wide range of models, skin colors, and sizing — see Parade, ABLE, and Ilia.
No one:— cancela lansbury (@gossipbabies) June 4, 2021
Theyfluencer w 68k in a Hinge ad: Identity is so community! That’s why it’s so authenticity to make proud. My exist isn’t for sale—and what’s more pronouns than that? Phone
Does this mean that Dove isn’t inclusive? No, not at all, but now it doesn’t feel special, so it doesn’t set it apart. With so many other options trotting out similar values, it dilutes the brand.
So, again, what’s a brand to do?
It all comes down to trust
People don’t trust advertising anymore. As brands have become savvier, so too have consumers — and this is a good thing when it comes to building long-lasting relationships with your audience.
Building trust takes three things – time, effort, and authenticity.
Easy peasy, right? Right-ish.
Like a friendship or a long-lasting romance, a brand relationship based on mutually shared interests or values with your audience means your customers are more likely to stick around for the long haul. With that longevity comes loyalty, the likelihood that they’ll recommend you to a friend and even stick it out with you when times are tough. Building goodwill takes time, but there will be a day when you are glad you banked that goodwill for a rainy day.
How to build trust
- Ask questions – Like a good first date, ask your client to talk about themselves …and then listen, listen, listen.
- Dive into data – Find out who your customers really are – what are their shopping habits, what do you know about them as people, and where do they live.
- Do a competitive search – Look at reviews, social media replies, and subreddits for your primary competitors. What are people saying? How can you start conversations with your own customers based on those hot topics?
- Share your expertise – You’re in your industry for a reason – because it’s your passion. Show how you developed your expertise and why. Be useful, entertaining, and informative.
And it should go without saying, but if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it. Believe it or not, there is no value in noise for the sake of noise. Don’t dilute your brand — and its trust — by “just popping on” social to say “hi.”
When it comes to building relationships, every brand can do it – and even become a cult brand – but it takes time. Put in the work, know your audience, and trust the process and soon, you’ll find the people who love what you do. Hint: It also helps to love what you do too.