We've come to the point of a communication (r)evolution, when the producer's contact with consumers needs to go beyond well-known patterns to build close relationship. Why is it worth strengthening bond with customers? Can customers be truly loyal to a brand in the time of such huge competitiveness? Has the era of Facebook gone and will Instagram and Snapchat take over? These questions and more explained by Bartłomiej Brach, marketing strategist and organization anthropologist.

Why is building relations with customers so important to companies?
In the past 'deficit’ times – let’s call it that way – customers often used to chase certain goods. People wanted to have those goos and companies didn’t even have to communicate, as the initiative was on the side of customers. Today, companies need a permission to communicate with consumers – because they have the power to click the 'unlike’ button, unsubscribe, close the advert window, change the program. A brand needs to build a relationship, which will be the source of that permission. Without relationship we have no agreement to communicate, and so we’re unable to reach our image or sales goals. Relationship is the beginning of everything.

Brand awareness does not always translate to building a customer relationship or sales results. What can we do to develop customer loyalty?
Loyalty is the outcome of trust – I don’t want to search anymore if I know this brand gives me exactly what I need. I also need to know exactly what the brand has to offer and what problem it solves. So in order to build loyalty we really must define what the company tries to communicate, and create an expressive story. If we take Zara, for instance, they give a promise of Valentino-like chic at a price closer to that from H&M. This promise is unique and as long as it remains so – and as long as it is attractive to you – you will return to that brand because you know it will give you the latest prints, fashion or accessories at an affordable price. Being consequent at defining your brand’s uniqueness means in the end you will get consumer’s loyalty.

What do I need to know about the buyer to define his or her profile?
The times of demographic targeting are long gone. We have two iPhones here on the table. When you think of how varied the target group of this device is, including both a 50-year-old and a teenager, you know that information about their age or birthplace is not enough. Naturally, there is always data like 'status’ that still matter, since it would be hard to afford a phone that costs PLN2500 when you earn PLN1900 working at a supermarket checkout. You need to earn a certain amount of money, be part of a certain social class. But what is becoming gradually more important is the formation of various communities. It’s not about thinking about your target as an individual having some demographic or psychographic features, but as a member of a group.

Despite the popular opinion that contemporary culture does not favor individualities, it is quite the contrary, that is we search for group identities. For instance, the success of Paweł Kukiz in the recent Polish presidential campaign is a success of a person who was able to build a movement and give people a feeling of participating together in an important event. Kukiz is not a brand for people who think they are unique, because he doesn’t say anything about my personal identity or my demographic factors – instead, he talks about whom I want to identify with. I think that trying to find out in what groups people want to be is now an important trend when it comes to choosing target groups.

I think it’s not easy for marketers nowadays – there are so many so very different generations living shoulder to shoulder: BB, X, Y, Z. How do we target each of them?
With so varied groups we must remember we need to use different languages to communicate with them. It is a challenge, but not as big as it appears. Each generation has specific channels through which we can communicate with them, so we can divide and adjust the message. When we want to reach someone who is 50, we should probably do this via a sponsored newspaper article, as traditional press is still an important medium to that person. And even if it’s not traditional paper magazine then an online magazine will do. With a teen consumer we should probably communicate via Snapchat. It is a matter of choosing the right media and how you use them. If you act naturally for a given channel, the readers will not decide at some point that our brand is incoherent or that it does not understand its consumers.

BartekBrachA brand needs to build a relationship that allows to communicate with consumers. Without that relationship we have no agreement to communicate, and so we’re unable to reach our image or sales goals.

 

What would you advise in choosing communication channels?
There are several myths regarding this question. The first one is, you should not communicate with young people via Facebook, but Instagram, Snapchat, or that Periscope or Meerkat are important media for the Z generation. As it turns out, this isn’t true. Most people from that generation – over 70 percent according to research – are still using Facebook. From the reach point of view it is hard to imagine a brand that does not use Facebook or Youtube to communicate with young people.

The second myth is thinking that when we want to reach a very varied group of people, we need to be on television. Even in Poland the reach of Youtube – when it comes to the Y generation, or even the Z generation to some extent – is so wide that using this medium we can easily reach as many people as via television, but without the typical TV limits. Another myth says that press is dying. It is true it no longer sells as well as in the past, but since it’s no longer so popular, it can return to its earlier opinion-making role and become a medium for a selected group of readers. So, if we want to reach opinion-formers, we don’t necessarily should try to find them on blogs, which they run to support their PR communication. It is enough to reach them via the media which we unjustly thought outdated.

Is there still a place for a written word in the era of the Internet, video and audio?
The written word is still very convincing and attracts attention, even if not as strongly as it used to. In the past it was respected and appreciated. Today, we are more critical, the content must be interesting to us. I believe there will come a renaissance of the written word. With more and more communication based on images or audiovisual messages, there will come a moment when we’ll start to miss something we can focus on. You need to focus to read something – audio or video materials and images do not provide this because they are ephemeral. They flash for a moment and disappear, we watch a clip that lasts for two minutes and turn it off. The more audiovisual and image communication there is the more attractive the written word will become. Contrary to appearances, we do not want life that is super-fast, blinking and pulsating, but one allowing us to focus on something for a longer time and just be with it – typical features of the written word.

Bartłomiej Brach: Marketing strategist and organization anthropologist. Deals with the practicalities of storytelling in companies. Consultant in storytelling methods and practical use. Member of the collective Markidobrzeopowiedziane.pl