Actionable Bonding Points
- Entrepreneurs and small business create competitive startups in today’s market when they create long-term brand bonding and relationships.
- Prior to the web and social media, marketers focused on the exchange of money and goods between brands and customers, the transaction.
- Relationship marketing and brand bonding disrupt traditional marketing by focusing on the process leading up to and beyond the point of the exchange of money and goods.
- Taking specific steps in brand bonding builds close relationships with customers, and these loyal advocates promote the company in the real world, on the web, and in social media.
Brands That Make Themselves Loveable Through Bonding
I read a lot, but I’ve noticed lately that I don’t read much print. Hard copy. I’ve thought recently of the bonding that takes place between person and paper through reading.
To remedy this absence, I sit here in my office flipping through the March 2016 print edition of Wired magazine, admiring the dazzling old-fashioned quality, photos and text on paper.
A vintage gray space suit jumps from the black cover, an Apollo-era outfit, robotic and stiff. The 1970’s space theme dominates the design of the issue “The Next Giant Leap.” I feel powerful nostalgia from the cover, and memories engage because I haven’t held a hardcopy magazine in years.
I open Wired and the two facing page ads are stunning and connected. The left is the same space suit, now tricked out in bright white, shiny silver.
The whole right side glitters in gold foil. The pimped images evolve the cover suit into the cutting edge, as only Apple can do. A full size, floating iPhone 6s morphs the old to new, promoting the colors and styles of the Apple product and brand.
If you look closely, the Apple version space suit from the left is pictured on the screen of the iPhone linking powerfully the two pages into a ginormous advertisement. Apple becomes the “giant leap” in space exploration and the magazine tells its story.
The branding resonates with me. Apple is perpetually hip. I am a loyal customer, and I daily gush over my iPhone 6s Plus and 15″ Retina MacBook Pro always impressed by their performance and aesthetics. I am a brand advocate and evangelist.
I flip Wired over, and a giant, vivid high-res photo of a handsome young man staring up into black space. This image, I notice, was shot with an iPhone 6 Plus, an exquisite full page selfie, set against a black background. Apple is so cool that the give credited to the individual on the page, bonding the brand with the customer.
Apple perfectly merges their glitzy imagery with the Wired theme, creating a tangible exhilaration for the brand and space at the same time.
The experience is fresh but not completely new. The familiar memories of the Apple brand that I have loved since my first iTouch enrich my experience of this ad set, creating brand nostalgia.
The crisp Apple ads connect neural pathways in my brain, linking the present experience with memories. My relationship, loyalty, and bond are reinforced.
How do they get into my mind?
Powerful brands fuel relationships and continued success with positive bonds and trust, connecting to their solid customer base.
The Internet and social media have created a new paradigm in marketing, focusing brands on relationships and bonding with customers. Powerful marketing now grows exponentially over time as long lasting customers become advocates for the company. Brands can now be more closely connected with their target audience than ever before.
Traditional Branding Without Bonding vs. the Complex New Relationship Marketing
Traditional branding emerged with the industrial age, especially widespread mass marketing. Typically, the brand was defined as the face that a business presented to the public, the logo was the company.
Of course, logo design is still foundational to your branding strategy and always will be, and fortunately, tools like design mantic, logo maker, 99 Designs and Design Contest help you out with this basic but essential parts of your identity. Color and design are starting points for a startup brand.
In the now distant past, the trenches of marketing were in mom and pop stores where shop owners introduced the logo and product to the customer, one on one. Shopkeepers knew both their customers and their products and aligned the two. Marketing was focused on the transaction, and the company was usually distant from the customer base. Customer service and transparency typically were not considered important or necessary.
The goal in traditional marketing was to get your logo and product in front of as many people as possible through production and distribution.
When I was in the fourth grade, for example, I did a project on NASA, and to achieve any kind of connection with them, I had to write a personal letter, mail it, and wait forever to connect with the brand. I’m talking about weeks of waiting for basic information that is now readily available, supercharged on the NASA website. I was painfully aware of the distance to the brand.
The advent of the Internet and social media fundamentally disrupted the old marketing habits, which neglected customer relationships entirely.
This evolution occurred and continues at a rapid pace with changes in technology and communication. The new marketing paradigm dissolves the distance between a brand and its customer base. The Internet brought brands close to their customers and made transparency and connection priorities.
In the new relationship marketing, brands are expected to establish reciprocal connections with long term customers, where both the company and the customer receive benefits.
This connection is sophisticated and complex. The logo, now, is a relatively small part of brand identity, only a first baby step.
“Traditional views of marketing are now being challenged and are slowly giving way to a new age of marketing, emphasizing the process of developing and maintaining an effective level of organizational-customer relationship. The process aspect of marketing is gaining prominence – having both transactional and relational qualities – which strives to establish, maintain, and enhance the relationship with customers in order to mutually satisfy the real objectives of both parties. – The customer is important, these new views say, – we want to retain our customers, not overlook them and have them defect. Relationship marketing (RM) is the key to success under this new era of marketing.”
Relationships are established over time with great care for immediate customer service and satisfaction. Social media makes old-school marketing obsolete by making real-time relationships with customers possible and expected.
Relationship Marketing: Brands Building Trust Through Empathic Bonding
Relationship marketing is now the norm with successful brands. Forbe’s defines relationship marketing as “a strategy designed to foster customer loyalty, interaction, and long-term engagement. … brands develop strong connections with customers by providing them with information directly suited to their needs and interests and by promoting open communication.”
How do you build a positive relationship, uniting your brand with your customers? Positive, repeated, intimate interactions between your brand and customers builds trust, memories, and bonding.
You need a marketing strategy that describes specifically how bonding interactions will occur, and then follow through for years rather than just weeks or months. With long-term relationships, customers move all the way to brand advocates, radiating elements of your brand to the world through social media.
Steve Jobs knew better than most how to develop intimacy between brand and customers, and this quality made him an icon. Jobs had an unusually powerful ability to enter the minds of the public, not just giving them what they wanted, but exceeding their expectations with dazzling products that were both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Actions in the Process of Bonding Through Empathy
Empathy is the human superpower that enables perspective shifting, your brain recreating the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of others as if you had them too. Empathy is key to connecting intimately with your target audience because it allows you to imagine their perspective.
In relationship marketing, you should move through a cycle of empathic understanding and actions, but the path is not linear. In other words, you might start with 1-3 and then realize that you need to jump back to number 1.
This is the empathic marketing cycle that your brand and customers live in if you are successful:
- Empathize with Your Target Audience
- Energize Your Products and Interactions with Elite Features
- Engage Customers in Personal Brand Experiences
- Help Customers Advocate Your Brand Through Social Media
Empathy is the highest evolved and most powerful mental capacity in humans, which is why it ranks so high in importance for your Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ). EQ has trumped IQ in the past decade as the more telling indicator of an individual’s potential for success in life and leadership. At it’s most fundamental level EQ measures an individual’s empathic capacities and abilities to create long-term, positive social bonds.
EQ in entrepreneurs and startups empowers leaders to establish social bonds and create long-term bonds with because empathy allows them to experience another’s point of view seeing through their eyes, hearing through their ears, thinking in their brains, and feeling in their hearts.With empathy, leaders have the vicarious emotional experiences that fuel positive and innovative management, fostering strong emotional ties with employees and customers.
If you aim to boost your startup brand’s relationship making and marketing, you most focus on actions that enable you to connect with other humans through empathy. Potent actionable items involving the use of empathy in branding, bonding, and marketing include:
- Make sure your customers are always number one. In traditional marketing customers, relationships ended with the purchase, but you can engage customers in real-time, authentic communication before, during, and after purchases, using social media in combination with strategies like Facebook Pages, help desks and support teams.
- Communicate customers and adopt their point of view using empathy. Ask questions, use surveys and polls, and engage in interviews. Really know your customers. Find out why the customers purchase your products or services. What eliminated competitors? What value do they see in the product? What would they need to purchase other products from you? How can the company help them? Anticipate needs and exceed expectations.
- Focus on authentic communication and people rather than campaigns. Through your conversations powered by the virtual world, learn how to sincerely help customers, empowering your brand community to be advocates. People don’t like to feel like they are being sold to anymore, but they appreciate a company that wants to help them. Respond to them in real-time with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other tools
- Value and help all people, not just customers. Sincere empathy puts you in the position to help everyone you contact, even fellow employees or strangers. People respect and trust you when they sense that you value them as individuals. Intuitively, they feel the urge to reciprocate. When you build a nurturing community with services, content, resources, and information, people grow to trust you. They want to return the kindness your brand offers to all.
- Craft positive, one-on-one branding moments that customers want to share. Brand loyalty grows from a collection of isolated, individual moments with your products and people, creating memories. The experiences embed your brand in the brains of customers. Personal interactions with your products, services, brand representatives, social media moments, and content keep your community engaged. Make it easy for them to promote you.
- Intimacy and proximity produce influence. The brand associates on the front line with social media, phone calls, and emails must feel empowered by management to do their job of relating with customers. Potential clients will reject superficial measures, so aim deep.
- Create opportunities for customers to reciprocate. Rather than waiting for word of mouth to spread your brand, provide regular and consistent channels where you can receive feedback and customers can share your brand content and message. Conversations on social media assist your customers in spreading the good word about your brand. Consider novel methods that lower the barrier to sharing: interviews, customer reviews, testimonials, polls and surveys.
Empathic Bonding Elevates Your Brand Along with Your Customers
Unlike huge brands like Walmart and McDonald’s, radical changes in marketing are difficult and expensive. Many brands are stuck in the ruts of traditional marketing and are unsure how to approach the new relationship marketing with empathy. I hope you see that small steps and moments add up, and any brand can remodel or redeem their brand identity with empathy.
I would love to hear your ideas on specific actions you can take to build trust and bond with the public. Please share them in the comments below, and I would love to respond and discuss these ideas with you.