For brands, it is about communication that leads to conversations!

We are living in the times of information overload. Digital media and the internet have ensured that we are increasingly loaded with new information. The numerous social channels have a lot of content about brands- running interesting campaigns and trying to entice the customers by showcasing their value proposition. The common myth is that it is only the B2C brands that need to be connecting well with their customers. However, that is not true in today’s times. Even a B2B brand needs to connect and connect well in the digital era.

It will not be wrong to say that some brands tend to over communicate- leveraging all mediums possible. One a single day a brand could try to nudge his customer via numerous modes like SMS, email, call, app notifications as well as ATL campaigns like a TVC or a radio campaign. This can get too much and while brands do their best to communicate, it might result in disconnected customers, who might get confused, take wrong decisions, feel too intimidated or totally abandon a brand.

Sadly, in the desperation to make an impact, brands resort to copying ideas that have done well without thinking if re-fabrication of an existing idea would really work for them. They come up with bizarre content that can go viral- not realising that it can have a negative impact. There are numerous example of brand campaigns going wrong like campaigns by United Colors of Benetton or the very recent Oreo campaign. Brands need to understand that need to build a convincing story, that is in sync with the brand ethos and also has the power to connect with the audiences.

What is of utmost importance is the right storytelling- to build a campaign that resonates well with the target audience!

Brands should invest in creating convincing campaigns that will strengthen brand loyalty and improve customer connect. The most successful brand campaigns are the ones that can balance emotion with the right amount of information about the brand- it is that fine balance that is important!

A lot of brands run interesting campaigns that help them build a connect with the customers, by touching the society or humanitarian side. A good story tends to have a better impact and ensure a faster recall. A lot of key brand campaigns have been about connecting well with customers- whether it is the famous Zoozoos of Vodafone or the ‘Har friend zaroori hota hai’ campaign of Airtel. If you look at the softer campaigns, a number of FMCG brands have done well to communicate important messages on health.

Interestingly a campaign that surprises, delights, makes audiences think and feel, and motivates them to act, will do well. Only giving information about the brand or the product will not deliver results as it won’t inspire customers or trigger an action. Brands need to touch the right chord and communicate a message that stays with the customer. Brands that can engage in a genuine, real-time dialogue with consumers will be much better positioned in a world of evolving and increasingly niche markets.

Too much personalisation will not help

Today, brands have access to a lot of customer data and hence, tend to personalise their communications. While personalisation is good, hyper-personalisation can make things go wrong. Take example of display ads that follow customers where ever they go. These can get frustrating and may result in the customer totally ignoring the brand.

Brands need to invest in understanding why the customers choose what they do, thereby enabling a better understanding of the preferences of customers. They can leverage technologies like Augmented Reality with voice assistants to offer personalised suggestions at retail outlets, and requisite product information that can convert a boring and static consumer retail experience into a dynamically curated one for each individual.

How can brands build the connect?

Brands need to create a powerful story that has a bigger connect, beyond the services being offered. When mapping out a brand vision, it is imperative to outline what you want to accomplish with your brand. Take example of brands like Tesla and Apple. They have been able to connect well with their customers as they are able to communicate a story beyond their products- a story about technology and innovation. They have been able to sell a dream- of a technologically advanced world.

Also, it is important to humanise and relate to your target audience. It is important to create a vivid picture of the target customers and create specific personas so as to have a better sense of their preferences and lifestyle. For example, stories around dreams and aspirations work well when one is targeting youth and Millennials.

Another critical element is about conversing with customers in a particular region. While a global brand campaign can communicate about the brand at large, to encourage brand connect and conversations, the communication needs to be localised and cognizant of the local cultural nuances. This is a thumb rule followed by key brands that have tried to make an impact in the Indian market, irrespective of their global stature.

Customers can help drive conversations

Brands should focus on engaging with the customers and making them feel that they are an important part of the overall brand story. Collaborative campaigns have been doing well off late. One example is Coca Cola’s consumer crowdsourcing project that asked for ideas from 50 million fans to make the world a happier place. The winning idea was to be Coca-Cola and launched. This campaign was a big hit.

Brands like Loreal have also done some good work in connecting with customers. Loreal has an app called ‘Style My Hair- Try on Hair Colors’ that allows customers to try on hair colors in real time.

If the brand has the right brand communication strategy that is able to connect with the customers, they will become co-creators and brand ambassadors. It is interesting to note that around 80% of the videos, blogs, and messages posted online are user-generated. 

Collaborative marketing is an upcoming trend. The time is near when brands will move to ‘marketing with customers.’ Today, individuals are exposed to their friends’ location, mood, music, likes, and more, thanks to social media. Brands need advocates talking about their products as people increasingly receive information about brands from their social connections. Some of the startups (like Goibibo, Zomato and Swiggy) have done well in this regard and work well because of customer reviews (like Zomato).

To conclude, brands need to connect and engage customers so as to build brand recall. Collaborative marketing will lead a new shift in the way brands connect with customers. This fundamental shift away from traditional communications modes to interactive conversations will enable marketers to have a more engaged and connected customers, thereby enhancing customer experience at large. It will also ensure brands can create better products in line with the customer requirements. 

The future belongs to brands that will connect and engage well with customers and make them believe that they are an integral stakeholders for the brand.

Akanksha Jain
Akanksha is AVP and Head - Marketing Communications and Public Relations at Pine Labs.

She has over 14 years of experience in working across global/ digital public relations, corporate and brand communications, crisis communications, brand and market communications domains. In the past, Akanksha has successfully planned and executed public relations/brands campaigns across India and over 25 other countries. She is a start-up specialist and has extensive experience of working with emerging brands.

Akanksha is an avid traveller, a cricket lover and a tech enthusiast. She enjoys reading about a range of diverse topics, and listening to music, in her free time.

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