Clients should spend more time with their consumers

Regarding Mark Wickens’ feature (DW 15 December 2000), it seems we’ve another buzzphrase, Emotional Branding and Mark Gobé’s book aims to give insight into how to do this.

Regarding Mark Wickens’ feature (DW 15 December 2000), it seems we’ve another buzzphrase, Emotional Branding and Mark Gobé’s book aims to give insight into how to do this.

It compels me to ask: who feels that a brand connects with them emotionally? Everyone cites, for instance, Nike and Apple as great brands, but even they have trouble connecting. Marketers and agencies always strive to be different by coming up with the latest clever phrases about the world of brands. The trouble is, nothing is new.

Worse still, markets have become too big and marketing has become something you do to people. In the old days – 2000 years ago, say – markets were conversations. You bought and sold goods and chatted about the price of fish with the grocer who knew you and your family.

As Rick Levine says in The Cluetrain Manifesto: ‘Customer loyalty is not a commodity a company owns. Where it exists at all – and the cases in which it does are rare – loyalty to a company is based on respect. And that respect is based on how the company has conducted itself in conversations with the market. Not conversing, participating is not an option. If we don’t engage people inside and outside our organisation in conversation, someone else will. Start talking.’

Since when was a conversation something you did to people? A bigger problem is that clients spend too much time with their agencies rather than talking with their consumers. In my view, clients could spend more time in their brands and actually engaging with their consumers.

You can’t understand consumers by sitting behind a glass booth at a qualitative research group in Sheffield; at a research debrief meeting; or by reading reams of research data. It is done by asking and meeting consumers yourself. But this is hard to do and very time-consuming.

Yet the reality today is that as a consumer I cannot name one brand which truly knows enough about me to connect with me. Brands such as First Direct try to connect by taking the trouble to tell me about their latest innovations, such as calling my mobile phone with my bank balance. As markets get bigger and more international, and as companies keep merging, it is getting harder to know who your consumers are.

At a recent new business meeting a client said, ‘We are spending money on Nielsen data to better understand our market. The trouble is we’re a bit nervous because we know all our consumers personally. We are frightened of growing too big and losing our personal touch.’

The moral of the story is: spend less time with your agencies and more time with your consumers and you will not go far wrong.

Paul Stallard

Business development director

The Gathering

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