The future of brand – consumer relations in a digital age

Home / Culture Evolved
By Khaleel Haji
@TheBldBrnBar
Mar 07, 2017,  7:35 AM

 This article will look at the meaning of increased transparency between companies and consumers, the movement of campaigns centered upon creating mass awareness to a more daily human interaction, and the technology and tools used in cementing a consumer for life; all of which effect how we as consumers make informed decisions. Transparency between companies and consumers also helps customers sift through the manipulative nature of marketing and influences the way we select our products and company allegiances.

 We undoubtedly live in a day and age saturated with advertisements and marketing efforts in a multitude of different ways and through different forms. The average consumer gets bombarded with a staggering 5,000 advertising messages per day, with brands fighting tooth and nail for your attention. “Advertising has always been how we function as an economy and a society. It’s the connection point between consumers and corporations” explains Carter Brokaw, CEO at Slacker Radio. With this new hyper connected way of life, and an increasing influx of information and technology at our fingertips, marketers are running into some serious issues.  Increased zombification and unresponsiveness of the consumer are at the forefront of problems that brands and companies have to combat in getting their message and product out there. “Companies have to shift away from just saying they are great, to actually being great”, Carter adds in an Interview for The Naked Brand.

With the attention span of an individual being mere seconds, having so much information at their disposal, and with such a lack of consumer trust and satisfaction these days, it is an area where there is a lot at stake for those brands able to make a major marketing breakthrough.

 Why is customer loyalty important?

 Customer loyalty is the backbone of creating a repeat consumer. It is what drives brands into superstardom and creates a fanatical fanbase. Take one look at the line at any Apple store the night before a big launch and you will start to see the depth of the dedicated customer’s purchasing power.

 With that being said, a marketing approach propagated by brand transparency is what gets the ball really rolling. A 2016 Customer Transparency ROI study out of Label Insight (an entity designed to better understand the relationship between the two), shows that a whopping “94 per cent of consumers will likely be loyal to a brand that offers them complete transparency”. It also showed that “almost three in four consumers would be willing to pay MORE if they felt a product had complete transparency in all attributes”. Now you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or have a PhD to know that increased loyalty means increased retention and increased sales, which leads to increased profits (ex. Apple). While these are staggering numbers out of Label Insight, a lot is left to the judgement and proficiency of the consumer in their decision making process. The savvy consumer however, will do their research.

This social media and internet revolution makes it that much easier to find a brand’s dark secrets. These secrets or potential covered up malpractices can be exposed and turned viral at any given moment. This is another reason why increased transparency is the way of the future when it comes to communication, making it the best option for both parties involved. It is almost by no choice that companies have to put aside their “fine print-esque” schemes and deliver an honest pitch and accompanied product.

  In The Naked Brand, a documentary that delves deeper into the transition from the gimmicky, fine print mentality to a seemingly more open, honest, and level way of doing business, we see that brands and companies living in the digital age can no longer hide from the savvy (even sometimes the not so savvy) consumer. With 2.5 billion searches entered in Google a day, hundreds of thousands of hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every hour, and numerous product reviews, questions, and discussions circling the web, a company today can’t afford to hide the truth or be too quiet.

How are brands showcasing their honesty and increased interaction?

 You’ve seen the funny one liner responses from Brands to random tweets on Twitter, or the Facebook contests to win the latest gear that only requires a quick post share or like, but how are brands really involving the consumer in real and honest communication?

Take Seamly for example, a company based in Denver which uses leftover fabric to create custom and exclusive clothing. They collect feedback via crowdsourcing and produce garments based on the feedback; you are placed in the position of the designer and help design clothing that you and other members are talking about.

 This way of doing business hammers home and reinforces how well the brand listens to and values its consumer base. It is tailored in a way that adds brand loyalty to competitors with otherwise exclusively custom creations where you are given the tools and can do as you please with them. This also elevates the trust we gain with our following and approaches them as a friend instead of a marketing entity.

Another way brands can help develop and nurture a loyal fanbase is by keeping packaging honest and real. Selling product is important and although making claims that surpass the scope of your product or service may initially get you sales, it will eventually fragment your consumer base.

 Companies like McDonalds could have kept hiding their nutrition information from the packaging of their unhealthier options but, they decided to make healthy alternatives like salads and apple slices for children whilst adding a nutritional guide on the packaging of the unhealthier options. The customer now has the facts before them and an alternative if they don’t like said facts. McDonalds’ image has gotten somewhat holier in the recent years, with a lot being attributed to this “good guy” move.

Is transparency really transparency?

Nevertheless, companies can often times choose what they want to be transparent and honest about, with the consumer getting tricked into hearing partial truths.  Keeping with the example of McDonalds, the nutritional information provided was very one-dimensional and although it was more informative than before, it still didn’t give customers an idea of the ingredients found in their products; ingredients the average consumer may not want to put in their bodies.  If some of the ingredients they use, such as anti-foaming agent in their nuggets or azodicarbonamide (the “yoga mat” ingredient)  in their hamburger buns, became public knowledge, you could argue that the nutritional information campaign was nothing more than a façade and may in fact just be a sly form of damage control due to their image at the time.

The question we must ask ourselves then, if this trend continues at the pace it’s going, is are we really getting increased openness and communication from corporations, businesses, and brands? Or are we being fed PR statements and loopholes to ease our minds and sway us as customers while nothing fundamental changes.  

The tech involved in moulding a repeat customer

 The technology associated with marketing is one with limitless potential. We are all consumers and families here in the west spending a massive 50K+ per year on average, a number that shows no sign of slowing down. With every Tom, Dick and Harry in the marketplace vying to create a repeat customer, what kind of stratagems and technology do they currently have or will have in the future? What kind of untapped areas of development will we see enter the marketing space as a “go to” tool for advertising.

Although billboards and paper advertisements are being phased out and potentially a thing of the past, the first instinct is obviously the social media movement. It is absolutely necessary for a company, whether in its infancy or in the fortune 500, to have a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Instagram account at their disposal. They also need the algorithms and techniques to target and reach consumers efficiently whilst making it feel more personalized than say TV or the radio.

YouTube, which is a huge platform for growing a business, has an analytics device named “VidIQ” to analyze the potency of the tags, script, closed captioned script, and keywords in gaining views and turning a viewer into a consumer. Google has similar analytics called “AdWords” and these are tools you must have if you are looking to strike on a web based world.

Virtual Reality devices, which is seeing its breakthrough particularly in the gaming and entertainment industry, is now a frontrunner for marketing schemes as it brings about increased immersion, is unique, and is scientifically proven to be more memorable. This gets marketing agencies very excited because the ads we are being exposed to on a daily basis have increased tenfold in the last decade.

Volvo has seen great success with their “Virtual Reality” test drives. The app can be paired with a VR headset where you can choose a model and make of a Volvo car as if you were at the dealership to take it for a spin. The possibilities with this type of tech are endless with the Marriott Hotels also cashing in with their “4D Tourism Experience” using similar technologies to transport you to the beaches of Jamaica or the Swiss Alps.

Impact (ONLY use the 'Paste From Word' button to safely copy and paste text from a Word doc) 

All of these ideas help accelerate a more transparent, real, and tailored customer experience leading to increased levels of satisfaction, trust, and traction within the minds of the consumer. There will come a time where brands and businesses will approach marketing akin to rekindling old school salesmen tactics, coming door to door selling you products with their charm and wit without ever being there. We will be able to test products without ever laying a finger on them. We will be able to bridge the gap in communication using new technologies and shape the way we demand products and services simultaneously.

 Marketing of the future starts with better quality products and hardier businesses which lend to the notion that the consumer is king. It will invest in the old school roots of business whilst using the latest  technology to promote and uphold values of integrity and transparency that help us run an ecosystem of mutualism and not a one sided relationship. The future is looking more and more like a win-win scenario for the producer and the consumer.

Public Release Date: 
2016
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