Social media has made the world a smaller and highly inter-connected place today. A place where consumers, in matter of minutes, can build or destroy a brand simply by sharing their experience (of a brand) to their network groups. This “Word Of Mouth” recommendation has become a key influencer for many a brand where sales are concerned.
This consumer world (of social media) has a key lesson in developing value of a relationship for a brand. A lesson that highlights one simple fact—provide value in order to gain value. Yet, there are many a brand (across certain categories) out there who communicate with the sole intention of the short term sale and not to develop a long term relationship!
As brand marketers our entire strategic process is aimed towards achieving value maximisation. Both in terms of financial value and brand loyalty value. This begins with a “what am I getting?” query at both ends.
Whilst (as a consumer) I’ve seen consumers try the brand — give it the opportunity to provide the expected experience—as a brand marketer I’ve come across the (all famous) need to simply have the “sale” and move on! Both aspects of this scenario answer the “what am I getting” query. But for the brand marketer focussing on just getting the sale is a very, very short term and myopic answer!
The proliferation of social media and internet penetration and usage has changed the way consumers are now clustered or grouped. It’s also changed behaviour resulting in very differring habits in terms of internet usage. The online consumer is found in communities that are” interest” based. Such communities cut across age, income, religion and geographic locations. Friends, family, colleagues and associates form various but specific networks for a single individual depending on his/her interest area. Each of these interest based communities is extremely powerful and need to be taken into account whilst developing a brand’s strategic progress within a consumer segment.
The question that’s oft asked is how is it possible to take into account the huge number of interest groups of the consumer segment?
Well, just like identifying the key consumer segment (in the earlier days of marketing), one needs to undertake research (within identified consumer segments) to know which interest groups would be the ones for the brand to be in and if those groups, geographically, provide enough consumer numbers in order for the brand to have a sizeable market presence.
FMCG’s (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) have already done this very well.
Non-FMCG businesses but directly consumer oriented, specially those in service categories (retail finance, hospitality, telecommunication for e.g.), would benefit from taking the learnings from the FMCG category and utilising the same in identifying rich, sustainable consumer target groups. Understanding, through research, the key needs, wants and interests of these groups. Then taking those insights to develop their brand direction whilst ensuring that the brand identity and values (accross geographical borders) remain constant.
Entreprenuers and medium business owners need to keep in mind, that whilst generating revenue is important (for day to day survival), ultimately having a sustainable business strategy that clearly delivers value to the consumer is what’s going to bring about growth and profitability.
A quick way to be able to do this is to bring on board professional expertise that’s experienced in cross-industry practices in order to develop strategic brand direction and brand experience with the single objective of giving value in order to gain value i.e. meeting or delivering beyond the consumers’ expectation and obtaining positive “WOM” referal which then makes the brand achieve sales. Thus achieve revenue targets and dominant market share.
The other way is to develop the “value proposition” is to look for creative, innovative and consumer benefit based product solutions a la “Apple”– who leads through product innovations year after year and keeps their leadership position based on their competitive advantage of being innovative.
Alas, both options (for an entreprenuer or medium business organisation) goes back to the core issue of “finance”! If financing is available to implement a sustainable (long-term) business strategy perhaps more and more organisations would bring on board (widely available) professional expertise and then move into ‘developing value propositions” as their database of “consumer interest & community benefits” get more populated and more insights are available to make strong strategic decisions.