The bottom line mission of any brand is to build lasting relationships with their customers. Is there really anything else a company wants than to have repeat business from loyal customers? There are 2 reasons for building lasting relationships: 1) A lasting relationship is more profitable than beginning a new one and 2) a lasting relationship is how brand equity is built. Brand equity is the intangible value that a brand holds in the mind of the consumer. A brands equity depends on 2 things: 1) how aware the consumer is of the brand and 2) how positive the consumer is about what they know about the brand as perceived by its image, identity etc. If a brand is able to build a lasting relationship with a customer, the customer will end up being very aware of the brand and will usually hold a positive perception of the brand. The more relationships of this nature the higher the brand equity.
Building a lasting relationship requires the brand to offer a message and a product or service that the consumer identifies with; a message and product that inspires or reflects their lifestyle. In order to inspire or reflect the lifestyle of the consumer, the brand itself has to live the same lifestyle. Conveying a brands lifestyle is primarily done through its voice and corresponding visuals. A brands voice and visuals work to convey a brands character, image and identity, which are the outward expression of a brands lifestyle.
What is voice and how is it established? Brand voice is exactly as it seems. It’s what the brand sounds like in written form and even spoken form. To establish a brands voice 4 things need to be considered:
- What is the character or persona of the brand? Is the brand friendly, warm, playful, professional, or…?
- What is the tone that the brand should have in its written and verbal communications? Should the tone be personal, honest, scientific, humble, or…?
- What type of language should the brand use in its communications? Is its language complex, serious, simple, fun, whimsical, or…?
- What is the purpose of your brands communications? Is the purpose of the brands communications to engage, entertain, inform, educate, or…?
Visuals, like voice are a powerful means to conveying a brands lifestyle to the consumer. Visuals can be even more powerful than voice though because they are an embodiment of the brands voice; they show what the voice wants to say. It can be very effective to show what the brand wants to say even before the consumer reads what it wants to say. This is why some ads that employ the right visual content are more effective than those that rely more so or solely on verbal content.
Take for example Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s hamburger restaurants. There is a reason he starred in nearly every Wendy’s commercial up until his passing. Dave Thomas was a visual representation of the voice of Wendy’s. He was a friendly character (character) that was honest and personal (tone), who spoke simply (language) to educate (purpose) the consumer about Wendy’s. Below is a Wendy’s commercial with Dave Thomas to illustrate the point.
The most effective way to demonstrate a brands lifestyle to its target audience in an attempt to build a lasting relationship with them is to place ads that use both the brands voice and visuals in the places the target audience spends its time. What types of media does the average consumer consume these days? According to a 2011 study, 56.5% of the media used by 5 different generations (Baby Boomers, Generation X, Adult Millennials, Teen Millennials and iGen) is offline media. This includes radio, movies on a TV, TV, console games, personal media players, newspapers, magazines, books and music that is not on a radio. The other 43.5% of media used is online media. This includes news and information, Facebook, entertainment, videos, games and shopping. This information concludes that using offline media would be the most effective for getting a brands message across because of reach, but which type of media is more involving in order to draw the consumer in and have them spend more time with the brand in order to be more influenced by its message, offline or online media?
It’s been said that online media, specifically new media such as websites, social networks, blogs, microblogging platforms, and mobile apps allow both the brand and the consumer a literal voice in a media cluttered world. These tactics allow a brand to more fully demonstrate their voice and employ the use of strategic visuals as well as converse about the brand with the consumer directly, all of which allows the brand to become more live, personal and human in the eyes of the consumer. By being more human the brand is more relatable and relevant to the consumer. Being more relatable and relevant gives the consumer a reason to spend more time with the brand online and be affected by its message more frequently, likely leading to action on their part. In essence, the brand can more easily convey the lifestyle it’s trying to create or reflect through online media.
A company that excels in the use of new media to create lasting relationships with its customers is Threadless.com. Threadless is an innovator in t-shirt marketing and sales. The company mainly makes trendy and quirky t-shirts whose designs are 100% crowdsourced from a large group of loyal designers who are also their loyal customers. All of the designs are submitted by the consumer and all of the shirts sold on Threadless.com are there because the consumer voted to have them there.
Threadless is essentially a maker of makers; a creator of creators. It’s a company that wants to consistently offer something new and unique and its patrons are the same in that they want to create what’s new and unique. Both the designers and the voters end up creating the new and unique stuff that Threadless ends up selling. This 100% crowdsourcing model is what helps perpetuate the Threadless lifestyle and the corresponding lifestyle of the consumer.
How does new media come into play in selling the Threadless lifestyle? The only physical presence Threadless has is a single storefront in Chicago. The company solely uses new media to spread its voice and associated visuals (the visuals are mainly pictures of the newest trendy and quirky shirt designs). They have an online forum for designers and fans alike to connect; a blog that covers news and happenings at Threadless, a YouTube channel featuring news and funny employee and designer videos and social networking site such as Google+, Twitter and of course Facebook, all of which are used to promote the opportunity to submit designs and vote on them. Most of these tactics are the best available for conveying a brands voice and including appropriate visual content which as mentioned previously helps in conveying a brands lifestyle.
For Threadless, the lifestyle they sell, sells the products more than the products sell the lifestyle. This is because the consumer gets to have a say in what Threadless creates. By being part of the creating of Threadless’s inventory, Threadless can almost be sure that the consumers who made the designs or voted on them will also buy the t-shirt they voted on or designed. The creation process created the consumption.
Although the products themselves could in fact sell the Threadless lifestyle, it’s probably less likely because it’s less likely that a person who doesn’t know how to design will end up designing a shirt after they buy one from Threadless (becoming a maker or creator because of the product they bought).
- Facebook or Twitter for Building Brand Equity – Which Should I Use? (dainmcquarrie.com)
- Why Facebook likes could be your new brand value? (trak.in)
- Threadless Weaves its Awesome Customer Support Experience Directly into Facebook, Providing a Smoother and More Interactive Customer Experience (prweb.com)