How Brands Become Relationship Brands
In Part 1 of the Relationship Brand Basics series, you learned what a relationship brand is and why relationship brands matter to consumers, marketers, and companies. Now, it’s time to learn how brands become relationship brands. It’s an easier path for some brands than it is for others. Some brands are inherently more emotional in consumers’ minds, such as entertainment brands, while others, like utility brands, have to work harder to develop emotional connections with consumers. However, any brand can grow to be a relationship brand with consistency, persistence, and patience.
The key to successfully developing a relationship brand is to allow customers to freely experience the brand in their own, individual ways and allow them to develop loyalty to the brand. This leads them to talk about the brand and their experiences with it. Word-of-mouth marketing is essential to relationship branding because it enables non-users and prospective customers to hear about the brand and feel like they’re missing out or not part of the club.
A powerful emotional trigger for consumers is a feeling of belonging, and brands that can create that emotional connection with consumers are well-positioned to grow into relationship brands. The growth of the Harry Potter brand into one of the most recognized relationship brands in the world is a perfect example of a brand that grew through word-of-mouth marketing and consumers’ desires to see what everyone else in the Potter club was talking about. Millions of people love the Harry Potter brand, but each person has his or her own reasons for loving it and their own ways of experiencing it. They can also choose to experience the brand with other people in a wide variety of ways.
In fact, it could be said that the Harry Potter brand was the first to grow to a cult brand, then a relationship brand, and finally a global phenomenon via the social web and at the hands of consumers who created their own brand experiences online and shared them with other people around the world. Relationship branding works exceptionally well for market followers who can carve out a niche audience, develop it into a cult brand, and later let it grow into a full-fledged relationship brand.
The high-level steps of building a relationship brand are:
- Research customers and identify audience segments and sub-segments for targeted brand marketing and customer relationship management throughout the lifecycle of the brand.
- Create brand messages and experiences that speak to each sub-segment personally while still leveraging the power of the larger group.
- Focus on a key differentiator and a niche audience to work toward developing the brand into a cult brand.
- Foster the development of brand loyalty with marketing tactics that focus on both rational and emotional brand evaluations. This leads to word-of-mouth marketing.
- Allow consumers to experience and discuss the brand individually and together.
Keep in mind, once a relationship brand is established, the brand manager’s job isn’t done. Marketing tactics must help to maintain brand momentum by communicating with sub-segments while referencing the larger group at the same time. As the success of the Harry Potter brand demonstrates, the social web is a perfect place for ongoing relationship brand marketing.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Relationship Brand Basics series to learn more about the research and customer relationship management that is involved in developing a relationship brand. If you missed Part 1 of the series, follow the preceding link to learn what relationship brands are and why they matter.