Digital Communication Continues To Change People and Brand Relationships

How people engage with communication differs for Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers. Do you use your phone to tweet, Snapchat, text, post, email, or call? Communication is now less face-to-face; it is more device-to-device. If person-to-person communication has become this diverse, how is your brand communicating? How is it engaging people? How are you developing lasting brand relationships?

Brand Relationships in the Digital Era

The world is moving to a digital connection culture. People connect with more online friends, followers, colleagues, and contacts than they connect with people they know in person. We know far more about the likes and beliefs of online friends than we do with the people we work with each day. Friends of friends may want to add you as their friend, or they may follow you, but they may never meet you in person. More and more, we are moving from live, personal relationships to a digital connection culture.

In a world where the number of digital relationships increases faster than live ones, brand referrals and brand relationships are changing. Seeing that a friend “likes” a brand is less likely to influence you than spending time together talking about a brand. Multiple research studies show that people trust friends and family for brand referrals much more than brand advertising. How consumers learn about brands from digital friends will continue to evolve. As communication evolves, brands will need to identify new ways to connect, gain trust, and build relationships. Brand teams must find new ways to engage consumers directly and build brand relationships.

Beyond Digital Advertising and Storytelling

The advertising world continues to evolve. The world of digital has continued to fragment advertising options. You can buy digital ads any number of ways, but often the click through and conversion rates can be very low. If you are a big company, with big budgets, you can afford to analyze “big data” to find the big trends and targeting data. For organizations that are not as “big”, a different approach is needed.

This is one reason many organizations are moving from an advertising strategy to a storytelling or content strategy. People do not want to be “talked at” by brands. They value brands that understand them. They value brands that:

  • Are authentic.
  • Listen to me.
  • Understand me.
  • Make my life better.
  • Share information that is helpful to me.
  • Develop a valued relationship with me.

Brands developing a content or story telling strategy are off to a great start. But how we develop that content or stories can make a difference. Telling stories is not enough. Telling stories alone is one-way communication. We need to communicate our stories and content in an interactive way that builds brand relationships.

Developing lasting interpersonal relationships takes both listening and sharing of stories and experiences. If we want to develop relationships with consumers, it is helpful to:

  • Understand what your consumers want and need.
  • Ask for and listen to their feedback.
  • Share stories of how your brand has delighted others like them.
  • Share stories on how the brand could help them.
  • Ensure your content is relevant and helpful so consumers will take time to engage.

How Can Your Brand Develop Relationships in this Connection Culture?

Let me suggest a different way to think about communicating with your target consumer. We know that to be an effective marketer, you have to know who your target consumer is and what they want or need from you. If you want to be effective in developing relationships in the digital world, you will need to connect in a way that will develop experience and trust with your target consumers. Consumers are using Match.com and other services to find an ideal mate. Help them find their brand match by sharing the right things about your brand.

If you want to start a relationship with someone you meet, there are steps to do that. I believe these same steps can be applied to build a dating relationship between your brand and your target consumers. So…if you were to approach new consumers as you would a dating relationship, what might that look like?

Be Prepared To Answer these Questions

Here are some of the questions that your target consumer will go through in any new brand relationship—either consciously or not. If you prepare to provide relevant content and stories for the early interactions (or “dates”) in your relationship, you will be more successful in creating brand connections and relationships. The following questions are familiar in any new relationship. How and where does your brand provide the answers to these questions today?

  • Who are you? Who is your brand, what does it stand for, what does it offer, why is it unique?
  • Do you understand me? Does your communication to current and targeted consumers show you understand who they are, what they want and need, and what is important to them?
  • Why are you the right one for me? In a world of many societies, why should your brand come into their life? What do you have to offer that others do not? Do you satisfy wants and needs? Is your brand worth the time and money a consumer invests in you?
  • Why should I trust you? Give them reasons to believe and trust you. Is your communication and content believable? Do you consistently deliver what you promise?
  • Do I want to be seen with you? Do they feel good when others see them use your brand or are they embarrassed?
  • Does being with you truly make my life better? After time together, does your brand truly make an ongoing or lasting difference in your consumers’ life? Do you at least make their lives a little better? Can you become a brand they do not want to live without?
  • Am I ready to have a long-term relationship with you? Do you provide a solution that fits well into your consumers’ lives? Can they stop searching for a solution and bring you into their life for years. Answering the questions above will help answer this question.

This approach may seem silly, but if you can get consumers to engage in your brand and believe that you deliver well against all of these questions, it is likely that you will develop strong brand relationships and loyal customers.

Enhance Current Customer Relationships and Create New Ones

Start with making sure you have the right target consumer. Just as some people are a better fit for one relationship over another, your brand will be the right fit for the right target. No brand is the perfect fit for everyone. Know who you fit with and why. Strengthen your relationship with customers who fit and reach out to new consumers who fit your “ideal consumer” profile.

Create and distribute your communication and content in places that your target consumer is likely to frequent. You don’t hang out in a bar if the type of person you want to date does not go to bars. Don’t spend a lot of time and money to advertise or distribute content in places where your target is not.

Ensure your communication and online content strategy is relevant by addressing the relationship questions above. You will start to attract and engage new consumers. Over time you will build lasting brand relationships with your current customers, target consumers, and perhaps event their followers, friends, and fans.