Brand-Customer Relationships – The Long Walk Down The Aisle
Photo: Mike Petrucci via Unsplash


relationships can sure be hard

They love you. They leave you. They’re back with a box of chocolates. Who knows how it’s all going to end? You just have to take it on faith because sometimes all the statistics in the world can’t tell you what will be. 

Speaking of stats, did you know…

  • *57% of customers make purchasing decisions based on a company’s ethical values?
  • *61% believe that boycotts, speaking out on social media, and other types of protest influence how a company behaves?
  • **92% would drop a brand for another that had a compelling social purpose?

Uh huh. That brand-customer relationship is fraught with love and heartache.

the usual back-and-forth

Want to know what your customers are saying and thinking about your business and your products or services? Use these listening tools:

  • Surveys Ask the right questions and you’ll end up with a birds-eye view that reveals your customers’ thoughts.
  • Social Media Read the comments and questions that consumers post on your social channels. That, my friend, is instant (sometimes brutal) feedback. 
  • Employees Your frontline staff are more perceptive than you might think. They hear what customers are saying, and they see changing buying patterns in action. Ask them what they know.

Well, you know, any time you ask for someone’s opinion, there’s a chance that you won’t like what you hear. That’s ok. Take what you’re given and run with it.

I like Ikea’s example. As popular as Ikea furniture is, there’s a reason why it’s so cheap. (Also, assembling the pieces can inspire some pretty creative language use. But, that’s another story.) It’s meant to be disposable, which contributes to landfills … which is baaaad. So, in an effort to refresh their product (and their image in this time of heightened environmental concern), Ikea asked customers to help them design useful products. The result was a fantastic new product line called Open Source Ikea. Under that label, Ikea produces pieces that customers can combine in infinite ways. Need a crib? Add sides onto the base. When baby grows bigger, you can remove the sides, add arm rests and turn it into a chair. So. Many. Possibilities.

brand-customer relationship  – the old ways

For the longest time, we thought of influence as running primarily in one direction – from business to customers. We convince customers to buy and they follow through. We ask customers to tell us what they think of our products or services, and they do. And why wouldn’t they? Answering surveys has always been a way to be heard, to speak directly to the company, to hopefully convince that company to listen to your ideas. 

brand-customer relationship – the new ways

So, I’m not going to say those old ways are gone forever. They’re still around, and still effective. There’s just … well … more now. Social media has been a mighty “empowerer” of people – mostly good and sometimes not so. Set up some listening tools for mentions about you and the products or services you sell to learn how consumers see you. A fairly simple listening tool is a hashtag that relates to your business. Read what people are saying under that hashtag. The information might be very useful. Consumers are less likely to tell you when they’re happy or dissatisfied. Instead, they log into their social accounts and spill the details. They’re not just venting. Consumers express their thoughts on social media to effect change. 

the content writer at work

COVID-19 has certainly put things into perspective. Social, labour, environment, and health concerns reign. Take your business blog and use it for the good of society. Oh sure, you’ll get some negative feedback. There will always be people who don’t believe businesses should speak out on political or social issues. Forget about them. Show your customers – through blog posts and community action – that their well-being (and your employees’ and society’s as a whole) is important to you. 

Stepping into the fray can be scary. But, you and your business live there already. You might as well embrace it.

Over to you: How much time do you put into planning and writing your blog posts and social media updates?

* “Majority of Canadian consumers buying from companies that take a stand on issues they care about and ditching those that don’t, Accenture study finds.” CNW

** Social Purpose Now A Key Driver in Canadians’ Purchasing Decisions


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