We come across brands every day of our lives. We make decisions and purchases based on a series of factors, but ultimately it comes down to communication;
- Attractive packaging communicates quality
- Information presented simply and "honestly" by posters, packaging or TV ads communicates respect to the consumer, allowing them to feel enlightened about their purchasing decisions.
- Giving the brand a background and a personality communicates "made by humans" people like you, but better and cleverer made this, they are your friend, they make you smile but they also care for you.
It is this human element that creates the warm fuzzy feeling within, and usually forces the buying decision. Humans respond to kindness; it’s how we're wired.
Think of Coca Cola, Cadburys, Skittles, Innocent Smoothies etc., they all want to be our friend, and thanks to social media they have entered our lives in a way we could not have predicted a few years back. We communicate with brands on Twitter and Facebook to win competitions but once the competition is over, we let them remain in our social feeds because they provide us with funny pictures and silly status updates that make us smile. Before we know it we know just as much about their promotions as we do about our old school friend who has just got married to that guy in the year above we all used to fancy.
This method of advertising is so important that I believe every business, no matter how small should ensure they have a consistent tone of voice. Imagine your business as a real life human. Perhaps a friend or a colleague, how would you imagine they would greet you in the morning? Would they tell you a little joke, give you a smile, ask you how your weekend was? How would they answer a question from a client? How would they respond to a customer complaint? By asking these questions you can begin to establish who your company is, what they represent and how they should start interacting with the public both online and offline
I've seen some great examples of customer interaction from brands, whether they're genuine or not they have been circulating and strengthening brand loyalty, here's a response from Cadburys to a spoof job application or here a letter of complaint to an airline about a damaged bag that received an equally interesting response.
We as consumers have been spoilt by this cuddle treatment, brands spend big budgets of crafting copy for newsletters, advertising and social media and this is why if we now get a dry response, we feel disappointed and brand loyalty slips away.
For example I sent this message to Barry M cosmetics this morning, hamming up a genuine disappointment after they discontinued my favourite eyeliner:
"Dear Barry M,
I was heartbroken to discover a few months ago that you are retiring your range of intense eyeliner pens, the kingfisher blue and beautiful bright green have been my trademark eye paint for many years now, we are so very saddened to be parted :-(
I have got by until now by stocking up on these pens wherever I can still find them, but unfortunately now they truly seem to have disappeared forever.
I have tried to move on and find a replacement, but nothing else comes close within your range or any other range. My bedroom is littered with discarded eyeliners, each purchased in the hope that they will be a suitable replacement for my beloved eyeliner pens, and each ending in bitter disappointment and occasional tears.
I am not usually a begging person, but please, please, please can you start making these amazing waterproof, long wear formulation in a retractable pack for easy use?
And if you don't start making them again, please could you allow me to buy any stock you have left? There must be some lying around in your warehousing waiting to be taken home like an ugly puppy at the dog pound wishing to be adopted?
I hope you have a beautiful day,
Love, Emily Trotter"
I backed this email up with a tweet to @BarryMCosmetics and eagerly awaited a response to my conversation opener.
Imagine my disappointment to receive this response:
"Dear Emily Trotter,
Thank you for your message and interest in Barry M Cosmetics.
Unfortunately those eyeliners have been discontinued and we no longer have any in stock.
We apologise for the inconvenience caused.
It felt like a friend had let me down, like Barry M truly don't care about my custom, where is my warm fuzzy response? I am fully aware of the situation, but was hoping for a little human interaction, some respect of my sorrow and perhaps advice on which of their products to try as a replacement. Barry M are missing a trick here, they did not deliver.
So the moral to my story is: give your brand a personality and open doors of opportunity wherever possible; because you clearly can't afford not to!