Like romance: “relationship” is only a good word if you never have to say it…
Yesterday Mitch Joel wrote a though provoking blog post on this theme: do people want relationships with brands – and should that always be the point of social media business efforts? And while we agree with his general conclusions, web Beg to Differ is thinking it might be the question itself that’s the problem…
No! People aren’t looking for relationships with brands
Try this sometime. Ask any average human: “do you want a relationship with your brand of dish soap?” Which of these responses do you think you’ll get?
- They will question your sanity;
- They will laugh so hard that the latte they’re drinking will spray out their nose; or
- They will earnestly lean forward with a sparkle in their eye and say “oh yes, I’m quite passionate about my life-long commitment to Palmolive ™ Dish Soap – softens hands while you do the dishes!(tm)”
If you answered #3, congratulations, you are ready for a lucrative career as a brand manager – on a mystical planet where simple product choices change human lives in dramatic ways. In that world, the idea of building “relationships” with consumers sounds great.
But out here in human-land, it sounds a bit creepy. That’s because in human-land, the word “relationship” is not a word we associate with the products we buy, the services we use, or the brands we use to find them. “Relationship” implies humans relating to other humans – as humans, and equals.
Sorry brand managers, the shocking truth: brands are not equal to humans. Your customers actually own your brand in the same way they own their goldfish – and they will never care as much about your brand as you do.
But there is one thing your brand can do for humans…
People want brands to serve them
In human-land, we don’t have relationships with brands; we have expectations of them.
My Mazda is in the shop right now. And while I don’t think of having a “relationship” with Mazda – my car’s brand – I definitely have expectations of what Mazda as a whole brand should be doing for me.
I expect my Mazda (the car) to “Zoom Zoom” along. But when it breaks down, I call Mazda Roadside Assistance (a third party service), I visit Mazda online (a Web site) expecting answers about a potential Mazda (the corporation) recall, and then I bring it back to Mazda (my local dealer) and expect them to fix it. All the while, I expect Mazda (the people I deal with at all points) to be honest, helpful, and hopefully even cheerful.
So yes, there are human “relationships” involved. But more important are my expectations: I’m the owner of the brand expectations I hold of Mazda. Mazda’s responsibility is to make me happy.
The new three R’s
So forget about relationships brand managers. Here are the three “R” words I am looking for as a customer: