Do consumers want relationships with brands?

SUMMARY: The idea that consumers don’t want relationships with brands is not entirely correct. It depends on the product as well as the brand. There are some brands that consumers love to talk about on social media, but most others just give me a good product at a good price.

The Ad Contrarian says “in the real world, consumers are massively not joining conversations about our brands. They are not committed to having relationships with them. They do not want to “engage with our content,” and are not fascinated by our “brand stories.” They do not consider themselves part of a “community” or “tribe” that has our brand at the center”.

The Contrarian further says, “according to Nielsen, 46% of consumers say they are more likely to change brands than they were just five years ago. Only 8% say they are strongly brand loyal. Our world is not what we believe it is or what we would like it to be”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to all products and brands.

I’m a cyclist and very loyal to Trek bikes, my preferred brand. I’m not the only one either. Trek bikes are a powerful brand that has a lot of followers that share their new products as well as accessories. Other brands have a strong brand base in which consumers have an excellent brand relationship. Starbucks, Subaru, Vizio, Apple, and other brands also have strong following loyal customers. However, consumers don’t want relationships with 99.9% of the brands in grocery stores.

The Contrarian got it right in that too many brand marketers have bought into the fantasy that consumers want a relationship with them. People trying to build their personal brands often use “brand relationships” to convince brands that they need social media. The reality is that when you sell a frozen pizza, the relationship is based largely on taste and price.

The other point the Contrarian got right was the idiocy of telling brand stories. First, consumers don’t have time to read brand stories; second, who cares? Just give me a good product at a good price, and you’ll have won your customer’s hearts.

What about advertising? TV ads are still a great way to let the public know about new products, but running ads with too much frequency actually leads to a decline in brand metrics. Online ads can be effective if brands spend as much on creative as they do for TV ads and ditch programmatic advertising, which is ripe with fraud.

To me the real issue I talent, or lack thereof. There is an art to good marketing and we just don’t don’t have enough artists. We have marketers who rely too much on MBAs with spreadsheets trying to quantify consumer behavior.

If brands want to convince consumers to buy their products use ads to inform and FSIs and displays for pull-through. Hard good companies need a level of customer service that exceeds consumers’ expectations. Save your relationships based on what consumers want and need in your fantasies.

Do consumers want relationships with brands?