Getting people to genuinely care about your company is the ultimate goal of all marketing communications strategies—it’s also the difference between casual and strong brand preference, and by extension near- and long-term profits.
When a brand consistently makes clever commercials and has the bankroll to run them repeatedly, the ads may in fact work to instill casual brand preference among potential buyers. Geico Insurance is a good example of this approach to earning consumer attention and good will. But how does Geico or any company earn, not just interest and consideration, but true brand loyalty?
The short answer is brand loyalty starts and ends with the products and services your company offers. Thus, brand management must consider the operational aspects of the business, not just what new advertising or PR to unleash.
For our purposes here, let’s assume ideal operating conditions for your company. Customers are happy and word-of-mouth is driving organic interest and consistent sales growth. When these ideal conditions are present, you can curtail traditional advertising expenditures and focus instead on priming the brand’s story pump in social channels.
Here are three things to keep in mind, as you develop content for the social web (with the intention of sparking brand love):
1. Think Less, Feel More
Getting people to care requires that you reach them in a genuine and heartfelt way. This is true in film, drama, novels, poems, essays — and it’s true in brand communications, as well. Reaching people on an emotional level is also good business. For instance, Tide deploys a “Loads of Hope” mobile fleet of washers and dryers to areas hit by natural disaster. When you have no clothes but the clothes on your back, you’re going to feel Tide’s efforts on your behalf, and that feeling is going to last well past the storm’s aftermath.
2. Power to the People
Traditionally, brand communications were guarded affairs carefully controlled by brand agents intent on showing only the good side of a brand. Today, we assume radical transparency is the norm and that all information about the company is available in an online forum. In this environment of abundant information, the need to make things up about the brand is severely diminished. Thankfully, chances are good that your company is home to real brand stories just waiting to be unearthed, packaged, and presented to an eager public. Do amazing people work at your company? If you can answer yes, then you have a place to begin your search for real people doing real things for the company and its customers. IBM does a good job of this, highlighting IBMers like the Master Inventor Lisa Seacat DeLuca who got her start in coding from Pac Man.
3. Helpful Is A Happy Place
A great business helps solve real problems for real people, and this is also the framework you want to build your communications strategy on. How can your brand communications help solve problems for your customers? Not how can your product or service solve problems – that’s baked in. How can your communications solve problems? Like many ski areas today, Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area uses Twitter to update skiers and snowboarders about conditions on the mountain, and which lifts are in service. AT&T uses Twitter as a customer service channel, answering customers’ needs in a timely fashion. Ask how your brand communications can serve your customers’ needs for information, for entertainment, and for someone to talk to. Then figure out how to be a resource and a friend.
David Burn is the founder and chief storyteller at Bonehook. Bonehook helps businesses focusing in healthcare, real estate, food & beverage, high-tech B2B, and sports/recreational apparel to shape and tell their brand’s story across a multitude of interlinked platforms.