5 Reasons Brands MUST View Consumers as Relationships

By Gary J. NixReading Time 4 min

One of the most important elements of BRANDarchy is the brand/consumer relationship. This link, when cultivated properly, is critical to acquiring that which each and every company wants: long-term, return customers. Couple this with the fact that consumers now recognize and realize the power they hold, especially with the aid of social media and technology (a subject we will discuss in detail at a later time), companies must consider where they fit in this relationship for business sake. Thus, while many of us have knowledge of this fact anecdotally, let's look at some statistics provided the good folks at Social Media Link to support the discussion points listed forthwith.

1. Discovery is not what it once was

The olden days of product and service discovery being headed by brands are long gone. The combination of curiosity and technology has allowed consumers to take a more organic approach to discovering products and services to consider consuming. As a matter of fact,

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

Furthermore, a closer look at discovery shows us that Facebook and retail websites lead the way in online consumer traffic with branded websites in third place and numerous other social digital platforms not too far behind.

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

The key here is that brands must understand that while they do have control over owned properties, they do not and never did have full control over what is being said and shared about their product or service entirely. Developing and maintaining strong relationships may not give you complete control, but it can certainly strengthen your message(s) and, more importantly, help you learn how to better your brand.

2. User Generated Demand > Traditional Marketing

Yes, I'm well aware that I often speak about coming from a traditional marketing background. The difference with me and those with whom I work and some others in this industry is that I fully embrace the fact that word of mouth is an effective marketers best friend. Word of mouth does not come from us as brands it comes from conversations between consumers. Therefore, the following stats should not really surprise us when we think about purchase consideration.

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

And to you content marketers out there that go crazy about video, please note that 67% say they use video reviews at least some of the time.

It is clear that when we speak of these recommendations, they can also be categorized as reviews. Hence, we should ask the following questions: (1) How influential are reviews? and (2) Does it matter if the review was sponsored in some way by a brand? Well, according to the study... 

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

Needless to say, we can see here that influence and trust are inextricably intertwined. Once again, proof positive that the relationship has a lot of value.

3. Shared Experiences Surpass Traditional Interactions

When I speak of shared experiences, in this case, I'm referencing how consumers share the experiences they've had with brands AND their products or services. The technology of today has greatly facilitated this type of communication and because of this, brands need to be prepared to answer any inquiries, good or bad. So, what kind of experiences do consumers share?

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

Data courtesy of Social Media Link, Social Recommendations Index, October 2015

All of us understand how damaging a series of communicated negative experiences can be for a brand. These statistics, however, also display the power of positive reviews. Contrary to what some believe, people are more willing to share an actual positive experience and that improves both your brand equity and brand credibility -- two factors that certainly lead people to purchase. And, incidentally, good vibes are more effective in connecting folks than bad vibes according to a popular brand theory.

4. Social Media: The Great Human Communication Facilitator

As a person who remembers the prevalence of more traditional marketing techniques, I fully recall the times when I and my colleagues yearned for the ability to easily communicate with, or at least be able to hear from consumers on a regular basis. I'm not here to belittle focus groups, surveys and the like, however, our capability to cull conversations on social media platforms and hear what consumers are saying about our brands and respective industries. These conversations were already taking place, at a smaller scale, with little to no recognition available for businesses. Now that businesses have access to these conversations at a much larger scale, they cannot be ignored if you want your business to be sustainable.

5. Because Consumers View Brands as a Relationship

As marketers, numbers certainly mean a whole lot. With that being said, we must also remember that some things just are. The reason the saying, "people don't buy products, they buy brands," even exists is because people buy from you based on the relationship and the brand experience within. Keep in mind, at the heart of your brand, the product or service you offer is around to serve your customer in some way. Your company is there for the consumer, not the other way around. This perspective should help your brand acknowledge and execute ways to show loyalty to the consumer in order to strengthen the connection between the parties. 

Relationship building in business has always been important. Nowadays, it is only more important than ever. Make sure you go forth with that in mind, always.