Thursday, February 14, 2013

Brands with benefits

Apparently my message isn't getting through to some people who manage brands in this country. I realized this when I read this article about Panera Bread's new "Purpose Marketing" campaign.

Purpose marketing, conscious capitalism, cause marketing, or whatever you want to call it, is essentially building the social values and beliefs of your target into your business and focusing on them as a key component of your marketing. It's a great strategy and it works when your purpose is a feature of your product and relevant to your customer.

So what's my problem? This quotation from Mandy Levenberg, VP and Consumer Strategist for the otherwise very cool and useful research company, Iconoculture:

"Consumers are seeking authentic emotional connections with brands."

No, they're not.

People are looking to make choices they can feel good about. They are looking for brands that reflect their values. They are looking for emotional benefits. What they are not looking for is an "emotional connection" or relationship with the brands they buy.

It may be a fine distinction, but it's an important one. Because the minute you think they want a relationship, you start thinking about consumers as friends instead of customers. You start asking what they can do for you, instead of what you can do for them. You start taking them for granted, instead of serving them.

Your social responsibility platform – whether it's paying a living wage, feeding the hungry, using natural and organic products, supporting veteran's organizations, etc. – is a benefit, just like good fuel economy, great taste or low prices. In many cases it is a powerful emotional benefit that tips the scale in your favor and provides context for all the other benefits you offer, as is the case with Chipotle.

It is not the foundation for a relationship.

Your relationship with your customer – and I use that term purposefully as the only business relationship that matters is one in which people trade money for goods and services – is this: Give them a product that works with relevant functional, emotional and social benefits, at a price they're willing to pay and they will give you money. If you do it right they will do it over and over and over again.

Don't for a minute, however, starting thinking that the relationship is anything other than a transaction.

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