asks this question in New Media and

Q: Do brand interactions build relationships ?

What do you think?

Hint: it’s a trick question…

A: And The Answer Is...

“No, they don’t. Shared values build relationships.”

I told you it was a trick question – or at least a tricky one. Consumer research calls into question the common wisdom that there’s a correlation between interactions with a customer and the likelihood that he or she will be “sticky” (go through with an intended purchase, purchase again, and recommend).  Because most marketers assume a continuous linear relationship between the number of interactions and share of wallet, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, well-established retailers like Neiman-Marcus, Land’s End and Toys R Us send customers over 300 emails annually. But might marketers be overlooking a more important motivator?

Corporate Executive Board (CEB), which has done extensive work on shared values, showcasing how brands like Mini, Pedigree and Southwest use them to engage with customers, asked consumers the main reason for entering into a brand relationship. The results:

  • 64% cited shared values – It was far and away the largest driver.
  • Only 13% cited frequent interactions with the brand.

Q. Can Familiarity Breed Contempt?

A. And The Answer Is…

In reality, the linear relationship between customer interactions and “stickiness” often flattens more quickly than expected. Helpful interactions can become an overwhelming torrent, so, without even realizing it, many marketers can just add to the information bombardment consumers feel as they shop a category, which ultimately reduces stickiness rather than enhancing it. The effect of consumers’ cognitive overload is explored in an HBR article “Too Much Information.”

Q. What’s a Shared Value?

A. And The Answer Is…

A shared value is defined as: a belief that both the brand and consumer have about a brand’s higher purpose or broad philosophy.  Here are some examples:

  • Pedigree Dog Food’s shared value: the belief that every dog deserves a loving home.
  • Southwest Airlines’ shared value:  the democratization of air travel.
  • Harley Davidson’s shared value: “to fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling.”

How should you design your marketing to reflect shared beliefs?

According to Harvard Business Reviewbrands that have a demonstrable higher purpose inherent in their missions feel authentic to consumers, and  provide a credible basis for shared values and relationship-building. The way to build relationships is to clearly communicate your brand’s philosophy or higher purpose.

Q. So What’s the Best Way To Engage Consumers?

A. And The Answer Is...

Various research studies – which I have highlighted in this blog before – suggest that eMail consistently trumps social media in ROI and engagement. Other research I’ve recently highlighted shows that online communities are much better to build a conversation around your brand than a Facebook page.  Online communities can serve all your marketing and many business goals, including:

  • Enhancing customer retention.
  • Crowdsourcing.
  • Market research.
  • Customer service.
  • Branding: communities offer the answer.

While brands are investing in content today, Rich Meyer points out that in this cluttered online environment even the best and most widely shared content does not necessarily lead to conversion.  He mentions that a brand’s clickstream analysis showed that customers were going to competitors sites from their own branded site and most ended up purchasing competitors’ products.  His conclusion: “People do consume content but great content is not going to solve bad marketing.”

Karen Freeman, Patrick Spenner and Anna BirdInstead of relentlessly demanding more consumer attention, treat the attention you do win as precious. Then ask yourself a simple question of any new marketing efforts: is this campaign/email/microsite/print ad/etc. going to reduce the cognitive overload consumers feel as they shop my category? If the answer is “no” or “not sure,” go back to the drawing board. When it comes to interacting with your customers, more isn’t better.

Karen Freeman, Patrick Spenner and Anna Bird of Corporate Executive Board point out that more customer interaction isn’t necessarily better. Their recommendation:
Instead of relentlessly demanding more consumer attention, treat the attention you do win as precious.
The litmus test: in designing a new marketing campaign, ask yourself: “Will it will reduce the cognitive overload consumers feel as they shop my category?”