The self is the continuation of the brand. When we consume a brand we continue the story of the brand in our own lives, as a kind of ambassador. A wise brand will allow the customer to become part of the brand.
There are numerous benefits to such a strategy. Perhaps most importantly this allows for a brand’s unique evolution over time and space at the pace of the customer. All products, people, companies, governments, et al change. A well positioned brand will move with a customer, not the other way around.
Both a product and it’s customer are defined by each other. Today I sat in a coffee shop with twenty others, nearly everyone on a Macbook. Each user fit the profile of the computer, as each computer fit the profile of the user. You could see plainly how a brand is an extension of the user, much as the user is an extension of the brand.
Today we can each create our own brand online. We have social media that will freely advertise us being our very best. We can choose to show off only the best selfies, meals, or travel spots. We create our image and show this to the world. Like PR agencies we police our self image and only allow the best to be shown.
And the world, like us, knows that this is utterly insincere. As we each perform this action we are reminded that others are doing the same. Corporations do the same. Brands also do the same.
But if everyone is doing this, what should then be the reaction of the thoughtful brand? Some might pursue further flash and pomp. Some might try to yell louder or extend their customer base. But perhaps it is wise to consider the opposite.
What would sincerity and transparency look like in a brand? What if brands admitted weakness and limitation? What if through social media brands encouraged people to show their dark side, their weakness, their mistakes?
There is a wonderful trend in marketing that is gaining considerable strength. Storytelling is replacing older models of advertising and usurping in a new era of messaging. This important trend is shaping a new generation of marketing materials.
It will always be a struggle to measure the performance of such marketing using existing metrics. The emotional impact of building connections between customers and brands is not easily quantifiable.
Sure, we can measure the number of tweets or percentage of return customers. And these are important. But just like how it is nearly or completely impossible to judge the level of caring one person has for another based on gifts or time spent, it is equally difficult to equate the same level of connection between a customer and a brand through the actions they take.
Though challenging to develop and measure, the impact of these emotional connections will far out last any short term campaign. A customer who writes a product or service into his or her life will not soon forget or move on. They will tell the story that they lived.
I believe companies should begin to listen as much to the qualitative as they do the quantitative as the impact of each story on the emotions of both the user and the observers can not be converted to an easy number.
Just like we are each not a number but a rich and complex personality built from experiences and continually changing, the product consumer should be recognized and understood for being the same.