Is Your Brand a Good Lover?
By Alison Klein | February 14, 2016
Be honest – I promise not to tell your spouse / partner / Tinder date – do you love a brand?
A recent study compared the experience of interpersonal love to the experience of brand love to determine whether people love brands in the same way that they love people.
The findings suggest that while interpersonal love is far more intense than brand love (duh), brand love produces physiological reactions and subjectively described feelings similar to those evoked by people we like. Perhaps even more significant is the finding that interpersonal love can be emotionally one-sided but beloved brands are always described in rational, highly reciprocal terms. That means that if your brand is going to be a good lover, it’s gotta give back.
There’s no better time than the present to consider whether your brand has what it takes to woo a crushing customer into a long-term love affair. Brands built around the quadruple bottom line should have customer-pleasing covered since benefiting people is part of their approach, but in my experience, that’s not always the case.
If your company does good things for people and the planet, there’s no reason customers shouldn’t be all over your brand like maidens on Casanova in a Venetian nightclub. Here are four ways you can make sure your brand is a worthy lover (Click To Tweet!).
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1. Be reliable and authentic. If that fails, be transparent.
Since Cyrano de Bergerac, hopeful lovers have tried to mislead those they adore into believing them more desirable. In the romantic comedies everything tends to work out but if you try to mislead people into loving your brand, your story might not end so happily.
Gallup defines customer engagement as “the emotional connection between your customers and your company” – essentially what I’m calling “brand love.” Gallup measures engagement using the three questions with the most conclusive links to customer outcomes. The first of these is whether a customer feels a company always delivers on its promises.
A company’s ability to deliver on its promises relates largely to brand alignment, but even the most well-aligned companies experience mishaps that jeopardize follow-through. The solution is to be as transparent as possible when something isn’t as it should be. This is especially important for brands that define themselves by their authentic commitments to “clean” supply chains and other good operational practices because noble claims so often elicit intense scrutiny.
B Corp Patagonia does a great job addressing issues in its supply chain. Following the release of a video that revealed Patagonia’s wool supplier to be less than humane in its treatment of sheep, the company posted this letter (excerpted below):
We took some important steps to protect animals in partnering with Ovis 21, but we failed to implement a comprehensive process to assure animal welfare, and we are dismayed to witness such horrifying mistreatment.
In light of this, we’ve made a frank and open-eyed assessment of the Ovis program. Our conclusion: it is impossible to ensure immediate changes to objectionable practices on Ovis 21 ranches, and we have therefore made the decision that we will no longer buy wool from them.
We apologize for the harm done in our name. We will continue to update you on our progress to do better.
Here, Patagonia owns the fact that it didn’t live up to its promise and ensures customers that it still plans to. If Patagonia didn’t respond or tried to pass the buck, customers might worry that the company’s dedication to the environment isn’t authentic or feel that Patagonia can’t be trusted to deliver on what it promises: products that cause no unnecessary harm.
This letter tells customers that they can trust Patagonia to live up to its promises, to let them know when it falls short and to relentlessly pursue its values-based goals. That’s the kind of brand that people can love because they aren’t worried that it’s pretending to be something it isn’t.
2. Be responsive.
The Foundations have a song you might know called “Build Me Up Buttercup.” It’s a staple for weddings, long car rides and my shower. The chorus goes like this:
Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around
And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby
When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still…
Pay attention to the bold lines. In this song, even though “Buttercup baby” does not call, s/he remains loved. THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN TO YOUR COMPANY.
We can forgive people we love but we’re less forgiving when it comes to people we merely like or companies. If you’re not communicative, available and responsive, your customers will not “love you still.” They will ditch you and you will find yourself unable to grow a community of supporters.
How can customers get in touch with you if they have a question or issue? Is this information inconspicuously placed on your website and social channels or is it front, center and obvious? After a customer reaches out, how long does it take your company to respond? Do customers know when they can expect a response?
No one wants to be “home / Beside the phone waiting for you / Ooo-ooo-ooo, Ooo-ooo-ooo.” They want to get their issue addressed by someone responsive and helpful, then be on their way.
3. Be helpful.
In college my friend Kim served as an orientation aid, helping freshman boys with their freshman boy problems. When one presented her with an issue that didn’t pertain to her role, she would say “That sounds like a you-problem, not a me-problem. Go find an answer to your problem.”
You should NOT be like Kim. When you want someone to genuinely like you, their problems are your problems. It’s certainly a key component of successful romantic relationships. My husband couldn’t care less that our walls are a warm cream-white and not the cool gray-white I desire but (bless his soul) he’s going to help me paint.
So often, troubleshooting with companies ends with someone sweetly apologizing that they couldn’t make X happen. My colleague Anne had a bad experience recently when she called Verizon post-blizzard to report an outage. After telling her that outside equipment was damaged and it wouldn’t be fixed for five days, the representative refused to allow Anne access to a hotspot in the interim. The rep apologized but that didn’t address Anne’s lack of WiFi.
If you want to keep your customers around and strengthen their loyalty to your brand, don’t just say sorry – work to make things right. Even if you can’t make things perfect, you can still convey to the customer that your company cares about their happiness. Also remember that these engagements are great opportunities to learn about customer needs so you can improve your products and services.
While the conviction that every customer should leave happy is common at the management level, it isn’t always reflected in how customer-facing staff treats people. Work hard to communicate your vision to those who represent your company and make sure they have the resources and authority required to make it a reality.
4. Be thoughtful.
I remember when my best friend fell for the boyfriend two boyfriends ago. She said to me “Ali, he took out the trash when he left my apartment. It was so nice!” It wasn’t grand and he was going out anyway but it was a small gesture that showed he cared. It won him MAJOR points.
When it comes to customers, anything you can do to provide a little bit of joy will gain you clout as a good lover. If you can convey your brand’s personality while doing it, the sentiment will go even further. For instance, have you ever seen a really excellent 404 error page? Our B Corp friends have some pretty awesome ones.
Ben & Jerry’s 404 page has an astronaut and reads “We spaced out. Our head is in the clouds and we can’t find the page you were looking for.” Method’s 404 page features a multicolor unicorn and reads “We’re sorry. We can’t find what you’re looking for. But we did find this rainbow unicorn, which is almost as good.” This is how companies say “Baby, I’m sorry that I’ve failed you but I still want to make you smile because I really do care.”
Better World Books sends shipping confirmations from the point of view of the book that say things like “We’re so glad to be on our way” and “Is it cold there? Will we need dust jackets?” These personal messages acknowledge the emotional relationship readers have with their books to elicit smiles. They show that the company is thinking of the customer experience and not just going through the motions.
Do you use your social channels to point followers to resources and content they might enjoy? Do you have any kind of loyalty program that provides your best customers with special perks? How do you include little surprises – or “Easter eggs” – in the customer experience to show personality and make sure your customers feel the love.
At the end of the day, every interaction a customer or prospect has with your company influences how they view your brand and whether it’s one that they could ever “love.” Remember that brand love isn’t wishy-washy – it’s described in highly rational, reciprocal terms – and make sure that you’re reciprocating to reap the rewards.
If you’re ready to give your customers an experience that will win love and loyalty for your brand, you could be ready for one of our brand packages. Learn more about the power of a lovable – and Purposeful – brand here.
Main Image Credit: Julian Mason