Creating brand awareness, preference, and demand leading to purchase is a matter of getting granular about your customers’ journey. Marketers must plot out, anticipate, and service each discrete step from need to brand selection and find appropriate ways to nurture the relationship. The process by which your customer accepts, internalizes, and aligns with your brand is both unique to each individual and common to many identifiable segments. Brand engagement, like lust, can evaporate quickly or swing into emotional reverse in a second, if the love is unrequited in the course of the brand experiences.
Consider this real-life example.
For months, a successful professional woman is thinking about a new personal computer. She reads everything she can find. She talks to everyone she knows. Interested, but clearly a digital immigrant, she slowly rallies to the idea of an Apple MacBook Air.
She scours the Apple website. She visits the Apple store several times to hover over the potential purchase. She quizzes the associates and gets the feel of the track pad on her fingers. She examines the machine from every angle, picturing herself typing purposefully, carrying it to meetings and surfing the Net from bed. She’s emotionally trying the brand on. Seeing the Apple ads in her favorite magazines and being exposed to retargeted ads online reinforces her interest and prompts even more questions.
Slowly and deliberately over a month, she talks herself into the purchase. She knows it’s double the cost of a new PC. She is clearly in touch with her anxiety about learning new moves. Worried that she might not truly be a “Mac person” in her heart of hearts, she discusses the prospective purchase endlessly with her Mac-enabled friends, listening closely for support, validation, and any signs of doubt.
On her 8th visit to the Apple Store, she makes the leap of faith. Encountering the young androgynous salesperson, 30 years her junior, she test drives the MacBook Air for the last time. Her questions are answered. Her doubts are put to rest. She buys the machine and the $99 Apple Care package. Excited by the prospect of one-on-one training, she schedules her session 48 hours later — right then and there.
Giddy as a teenager, she puts the funky bag on her back and struts home feeling like she’s turned over a new leaf and turned a corner in her computing life. She calls all her friends, excited to report her new purchase and eager to be welcomed into the ranks of the Apple faithful.
Fast-forward 48 hours. She is awakened early Sunday morning with a call from the Apple Store. They pre-emptively cancel her first training session, claiming that the store will be hosting a concert at that exact moment. When asked why they scheduled her in the first place, she gets a non-answer answer. The next opening isn’t for five days. The Apple Store rings off.
Our new brand loyalist is pissed off. Feeling heartbroken and betrayed, buyer’s remorse sets in even before she’s unpacked or plugged in her new machine. Her excitement and empowerment turn to dust. She rants to all her friends.
The moral of this tale:
1. Understand how buyers buy.
2. Appreciate the emotional commitment buyers make to your brand.
3. Accept the idea that a purchase is not the end but the beginning of a relationship.
4. Do everything you can to eliminate early disappointments.
5. Anticipate everything that can go wrong and structure your system to avoid those things.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.