Behind every consumer-brand relationship there is a story. A story of how they met, what first attracted the consumer to try the brand, how that relationship developed from flirtation through occasional use to loyalty.
There will be instances where the relationship was tested – sometimes quite severely – but reasons for the consumer to stay – or maybe reasons why they did not.
Your brand may have hundreds, thousands, or millions of consumers and every one of them will have their own individual relationship story with your brand. The interesting part of this tale, however, is the extraordinary amount of commonality that can be found between these individual stories.
The common factors of the original attraction, the reasons that your brand enticed them away from their previous behaviour. The circumstances that cemented the relationship from occasional use to loyal partner and even the incidents that tested the relationship and what caused the final breakdown or reconciliation.
Within these stories – and particularly within the commonalities between them – lay the strengths and weaknesses, the success and potential failure of your brand.
However, if we are to truly understand these stories and their powerful implications for our brands, it is not just the incidents that occur, the catalysts that cause a change in consumer behaviour that we need to understand but, much more importantly, it is the consumer’s emotional reaction to these incidents that matters.
We must Focus upon our Consumers’ Emotional Reactions to these events
If a consumer has a poor experience with your brand – one that crept through quality control or through their own mis-use – they might just dismiss it as a one off, or it may disillusion then sufficiently to cause them to take a closer look at the competition. If there is negative publicity about your brand, your company, your category, your consumer may choose to ignore the whole story (many meat eaters choose to avoid T.V. documentaries they suspect will show them something that they do not want to see), however other consumers may react in a way that causes them to be temporarily or even permanently turned away from your brand.
Our consumer’s relationship with our brand is a romance. It requires hard work on our part to maintain and nourish that relationship. But, if we think about it only in practical, logical ways, if we focus on the events – some of which we have little or no control over – we miss the point. We must focus upon our consumers’ emotional reactions to these events.
They may over-react to an insignificant event, they may completely ignore something much more significant, but it is that reaction and why the consumer has that reaction to that incident, that we need to understand, not the event itself.
If we can focus upon and understand our consumers emotional journey over time with our brand. If we can focus upon the romance, then we can nurture and nourish that relationship. We can build it over time, we can weather the inevitable knocks and, perhaps, live happily ever after.
Chris Lukehurst is a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Understanding the connections between the consumer experience and emotional responses.