April 1, 2017

Relationship Redefinition - New Development in Branding

Earlier consumers had relationships with brands. But in this social media age brought about by digital progress, brands are the relationships. There are existing traditional relationships in every industry. But by defining that relationship, some companies have created  greater engagement, differentiation, and loyalty.

In the evolution of brands, this is a new developmentg.  Branding started out as an identifying mark. Cattle owners used particular symbols stamped on their cattle to indicate ownership. This “brand as object” model is still in the American Marketing Association’s definition: “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” The definition says, brand is something applied by an organization to what it makes.

The next development is brand as an idea. Al Ries and Jack Trout  define a brand as “a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of a prospect.” In this view, brand of you is created in the mind of the consumer by the cognitive processing of him, You can only facilitate this process and hence you can only try to manage.

Then "brand as experience" made its appearance. Sergio Zyman, in The End of Marketing as We Know It, says: “A brand is essentially a container for a customer’s complete experience with the product or company.” The brand for your product is the cumulative sum of experience with you, your product, your marketing activities. You can only influence it from now on by delivering the expected experience at every customer touch point.

Some companies are redefining the very nature of the relationship they have with their customer.

If the first three waves in branding were brand as object, idea, and experience, the next wave will be brand as relationship.

The way to put “brand as relationship” into action is by identifying the present relationship and redefining it. Relationship is described by the roles and responsibilities of the company and customer. The default brand relationship in any industry is provider/consumer. It’s a one-directional and asymmetrical relationship.

Brand innovators now are focusing on collaborative and reciprocal relationships.

Airbnb has a mission of “belonging,” Airbnb has cultivated a neighbor-to-neighbor and citizen-to-citizen relationship on a global scale. It is reciprocal, symmetrical, and collaborative. Persons who stay in a place may offer their rooms and houses in their city of living. They exchange ideas on improvement.

Uber and Lyft established new relationship in transport industry. The shift from driver/passenger to friend/friend. You do not treat the other man as a driver for life. He may be anybody offering you lift as a friend. To emphasize it, Lyft passengers are encouraged to “sit up front” as if they were getting a ride from a friend. Uber developed an entrepreneur/supporter relationships with owners of cars. Uber is a platform that fits the demands of lifestyle of its car owners.

In the airline industry, Southwest brought in a relationship that might be described as “fun friends.” JetBlue, with the mission of “Inspiring Humanity,” has promoted a “human-to-human” relationship.
Virgin America's innovation is being described as a brand relationship bewteen the hip friend,  and host of the party and his friends and guests.

The concept of brand-as-relationship now identifies past successes of some organizations due to redefining relationships. American Express redefined the roles card issuer/card holder to club/member. Disney redefined the relational roles as cast member/guest.

Marketers have an opportunity to redefine brand roles in every industry. There is an opportunity to create a new relationship based on co-creation and collaboration. Do it. The successes achieved with this brand innovation indicate that there will  be greater engagement, differentiation, and loyalty if you successfully redefine the relationship. Do market research, find out what consumers need and then take the decision.


The article in this post is based on the above.

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