Sometimes you walk into a pub and you feel invisible. You end up feeling rejected and do your best not to go back there. More often someone says hello, and you order a drink. You may even order a meal. On other occasions it all feels rather friendly and you make sure you go back to that pub in future.
Once you’ve got a customer through the door an astute pub landlord is really only interested in two outcomes. More spend per person. And more frequent visits per person. As a punter all you’re really after is a pint and maybe a meal. The landlord’s method of conversing with you is by and large incidental, although it can leave you with a certain feeling. Be that negative or positive.
There is of course a crucial difference between real human relationships (be they with your pub landlord) and those people have with brands who ‘engage’ them with marketing communications. It’s far easier to ignore brands. Whether that’s physically through conscious actions such as ad-blocking and ‘unsubscribe’ buttons, or mentally through subconscious processes like ‘banner blindness’.
To retain the right to be in a relationship with customers we need to focus just as much on people’s response as the ‘innovative channels ‘through which we can talk to them. What’s more, we need to think of their response as simply another step in an ongoing evolution of our relationship.
At Digitas we believe every single step is another twist, turn and learning opportunity in the story of creating relationships worth having between a brand and its customers. But even making okay relationships great takes hard work. Every interaction needs to be positive, earning people’s trust along the way, generating ongoing interest and desire in the process. Woe betide the single slip up. Time and time again people turn their backs on brands because of a simple, generally avoidable, typically minor faux pas.
For example, in hundreds of Digitas surveys about brand relationships, companies who have enthusiastically bought into programmatic retargeting often end up getting labelled as ‘stalker’. Banks who’ve ‘accidently’ sent out a threatening email if a customer has gone over the limits are frequently labelled as ‘on the rocks’. Any attempt to subsequently smooth it over gets interpreted as some sort of passive-aggressive bullying tactic. Consumers no longer think they’re in a relationship worth having. And it turns out they’ve got labels to damn brands with.
A lifetime of goodwill smashed by a single moment of inappropriateness.
In order to make sure you’re building relationships worth having with your customers it’s well worth remembering that the more you use increasingly numerous channels of communication the more you run the risk of giving people a reason to dislike you.
The only real way to create relationships that are at least as valuable next week as they are now is to create relationships that are relevant and meaningful to both parties. In the long term. It’s not enough to see the world solely through the customers’ eyes, just as it’s not enough to be focused on the goals of the business and internal stakeholders.
Focus on the pint you’re hoping to serve your customer. And the way your brand makes them feel. Don’t make them think you’re simply flogging them the bottom of the barrel because you know their name and their email address.
DIGITAS GLOBAL BRAND PRESIDENT