Brands get closer to their customers

Everyone from Vodafone to Ocado and Cadbury’s are busy chatting about how they are going to get closer to their customers. There are the older style tactics of Market research and suggestion boxes that can still serve that purpose for some brands.

And then there are the new methods. Increasingly brands want to be your friend on facebook, your follower on twitter and the keeper of your data through new schemes like yahoo-nectars loyalty that was launched in the USA 5 years ago, but has recently evolved to have more direct contact with brands including Cadbury’s who signed up earlier this week.

But how do consumers feel about these brands trying to get closer to them? Not always very happy it would seem. Gideon Spanier’s article this week in the Evening Standard highlights that consumers are still likely to view the recent developments in targeting and tracking, as they did with Phorm, negatively. The week also started with a company I was involved in as a teenager, Dubit hitting headline for their controversial use of children to help promote a variety of brands.

So the question is how can brands listen and show understanding of their customers, without being accused of snooping or abusing their position by involving children in the process?

Seth Godin recent blog What’s expected vs. what’s amazing contains one suggestion for overcoming this dilemma. Real life personalisation, where a stranger remembers your name, what you like and what they’ve talked to you about before, even when it was months ago is certainly a powerful tool.  Really it is what targeting is trying to replicate, all be it in a much more controversial manner.

Before you say it, I know this is nothing new. In fact Dale Carnegie, in his popular book How to win friends and influence people, written in the 1930s, advocates this in a number of his principles e.g. “Remember that a persons name is to that person the sweetest sound in any language”. But if you think back to an example of someone doing this to you, I’m sure you’ll agree that level of personalisation, is a brilliant form of flattery and certainly makes you more likely to respond positively. The question is how global brands can replicate this on a massive scale… and without using controversial techniques.

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