THE BRAND – CONSUMER – CAUSE CONNECTION

While running errands sometime back, a Shiksha logo on a pack of a detergent caught my eye. I saw four words that stuck to me and made me to buy the product. The four words – ‘Padhega India, Badegha India’. Given that I have a blind spot w.r.p to detergent brands …this message did make me pause and I picked it up thinking all things being equal let me contribute towards their cause , and I felt good doing that.  Crazy isn’t it how sometimes mere words can have such a strong effect. But that’s how we’re wired I guess. We’re emotional beings, and we respond to emotional appeals.

I think these days too many brands rely on functional and linear stories with lots of product facts, laboratory stories and scientific jargons. I am not saying that it’s not important; however brands need to pay equal attention tothe consumer verbatim that drives emotional benefits. It is imperative for Brands to comprehend consumer’s needs emotionally.

Cause marketing is one such way of connecting emotionally .Organisations need to understand that cause can be interwoven within brands…. Since the inception of Cause starts with a brand’s target audience. The additional layer is what your consumers are concerned about in their eco system .Cause Marketing is an extension of the consumer concerns and therefore an intrinsic part of the brand construct. Consider Cause Marketing not as an added ‘value’ rather part of the values. How you would expect from a corporate, a citizen and the society.

The Approach

We all believe that products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the minds. In today’s time, brand experience cannot be separated from any marketing practice. We as marketers invest our time , energy and budgets in understanding how consumers experience our brands or how we intend them to vs. competition and this understanding is critical for developing marketing strategies.So I am starting with simple steps we all know when we build our brands ….

The basic fundamentals:

  • First the brand needs to establish and define what it stands for. What are its identification, heritage and values.The scope is to understand key characteristics of company’s target market, customer profile, service & product, and category & positioning.
  • Secondly, what are the product’s benefits and functions and how will it help the potential consumer. What role will this play in his/her life .What will it replace or add.
  • Then how will your brand be introduced or approach the consumer and what emotion you want to evoke in them.

The above mentioned elements take care of the functional aspect of the brand. But creating an emotional bond with customers requires more than this…It involves designing a range of experiences that customers and prospects will find meaningful, memorable, and associate explicitly with the brand. Doing this is the surest path to building brand trust, loyalty and advocacy. Hence,

  • Brands need to know what are the biggest burdens and the problems our consumers face, the relevant social issues.
  • And most importantly how do Brands intend to affect these and/or how can they contribute in solving the problems.

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Hence, a two-pronged approach i.e. functional as well as emotional. In many cases the emotional benefits overwhelm all other functional benefits and become the crux of the brand.

I won’t be wrong in saying that products features can be matched. A claim can always be challenged. But an emotional plea is something that can harbor a long-lasting trust in a brand and help the product as well as the society. You can use all the facts, figures and stats you want, but unless you make an emotional connection with the consumer, you might not achieve what you set out for.

A few examples to illustrate my point could be the initiative undertaken by ‘Body Shop’. Long before organic products were a rage, ‘Body Shop’ established itself around the world as a pioneer of natural beauty products, fair trade ingredient sourcing, and campaigns against animal testing. But when the brand was bought by L’Oreal in 2006 consumers protested against the animal testing the company did for its product thus contradicting the core value of ‘Body Shop’. Ultimately L’Oreal claimed that it hadn’t tested finished cosmetics on animals since 1989 – “except in the case where national legislation required it”. But the damage was already done.

The Emotional Crux

So the question arises if an emotional connect is what holds a brand and consumer together is a relationship, how have brands managed to keep away from the real concerns of the consumer and stay within a happy utopian space? Maybe there were times in the yore when consumers would rely on escapism or were simply unaware of the changing world. Today in the digital age you would even know how the extinction of the Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo would affect your life and you are concerned.

Emotions always play a role in the decisions buyers make and I think for brands as of now, it’s time to rethink their structure and cleverly rope in the Cause Marketing angle to their overall communication. Brands need to treat Cause Marketing initiative with the same level of enthusiasm and commitment, as it does for its other marketing tools. Clearly, customers prefer and trust on companies, which are socially and environmentally conscious.

I just hope that Cause Marketing is not seen as an aberration. Instead Brands wholeheartedly participate and continue cause associations and get the characteristic marketing support it deserves. Brands, we have high hopes from you!

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