As I’m putting inscribed candy hearts into the last of my Valentines (Be Mine…Luv U…Text Me) I can’t help thinking that the only thing that ultimately matters in marketing is the relationship between the brand and its audience. In the absence of a special relationship with its customers, a brand cannot help but drift toward commodity status. The question is, how do you build the kind of personal relationship that supports a premium position for your brand?
Of course, a real personal relationship is a connection between two people, whereas a brand is a kind of useful fiction. Because of this, I believe it is helpful to think of your brand as if it were a fictional character. Audiences establish real emotional relationships with fictional characters all the time, that’s what the suspension of disbelief is all about. Without it, no one would ever cry at the movies.
For a marketer, the question becomes, what kind of character is your brand? Especially, what is the objective it pursues and what are the conflicts it wrestles with in pursuing that objective. Understanding the brand as a character is the key to developing a relationship in which the audience identifies with the brand and feels connected to it–a relationship, to put it in story terms, in which your customers feel like they know who your brand is, what it believes and how it thinks.
I could use your help with this exploration, if you are interested. I’d love to know if this metaphor–the brand as a character–seems useful to you as you approach the idea of building the relationship between a brand and its audience. Is it meaningful to you based on your own experience? And if so, could you describe the character of a brand to which you feel some personal connection? What has the brand done or said that led you to feel connected?
A long time ago a wise anthropologist who had (like me) drifted inadvertently into the world of marketing, taught me this:
Most brands spend their time desperately trying to get their customers to love them. Really successful brands manage to demonstrate, by their behavior, that they love their customers.
Happy Valentine’s Day!