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Relationships are powerful: they fulfill our need to belong and can meaningfully alter the trajectory and quality of our lives. We communicate who we are, to ourselves, and to others
, through the people, places, and things we connect with, as we discussed in our last article. Here, we begin to apply this relationship science to the connection between brands and customers. Yes, your brand has the power to impact the emotional and psychological well-being of your customers, but as with most relationships, there are some “red flags” that can obstruct this type of transformational bond.
Being aware of potential roadblocks to developing and sustaining strong consumer-brand relationships will help you cultivate a more thoughtful, high fidelity connection with your customers. We’ve identified three main threats you’ll need to consider and suggestions for how your brand can overcome these hurdles.
Slacking on communication = red flag #1
Since the customer journey is also a relationship journey, good communication is key. In an omnichannel age, every type of communication is an opportunity to build rapport, so don’t chase every sale as if you’re interacting with a consumer for the first time. Imagine if every time you collaborated with a coworker, you treated them as if you just met them! Your coworker would think you’re rude.
It’s the same with the consumer-brand relationship: your customer remembers their last interaction with your brand, from the channel to the overall experience. Without the proper tools or teams in place to track touchpoints or learn how your customer feels about you, you will constantly be in the dark about how to approach them on the second or third interaction—that is, if they even give you that chance. Chasing acquisition burns your people and your budgets, and that does nothing to further your connection to your customers. It has a similar effect on long-time customers who may turn away from you if they feel undervalued.
Delivering lackluster experiences = red flag #2
On the other end of the spectrum, robotic, single-note, and/or standardized touchpoints limit a brand’s opportunity to present their full expression and personality. Similar to the early stages of dating, people want to see a potential partner in different contexts—such as at a nice dinner, on a hike, or out with friends—to learn critical things about them before taking the relationship further. People want evidence that a potential partner’s values and characteristics are consistent across all interactions. But they also want to see that they can adapt to new environments and shine in a range of settings. It’s the same when entering a brand relationship.
Your customers’ needs and priorities are different across every channel, so the customer experiences you provide should be designed to complement rather than replicate each other. Thinking mindfully through the customer experience will enable your brand to display appropriate, resonant messages and multi-dimensional expressions of your values and qualities in every context so you can deliver a richly engaging, consistent customer experience.
Struggling with organizational synergy = red flag #3
In personal relationships, both parties are responsible for maintaining the health of the relationship. But the silos in modern business often mean that there’s no one person who’s on the hook for building long-term relationships with customers. This means that everyone must be responsible for centering the customer in their daily tasks.
It takes an organization-wide focus to ensure customer needs are prioritized from the start of every company initiative and interaction. Observing a frazzled customer service agent and reading a press release about a CEO’s personal charitable donations present the same opportunity to show customers your core values, and each has an impact on the way they perceive the quality of a relationship with your brand.
Be your customers’ type = your high fidelity solution
Building sustainable relationships with your most important customers is just good business. Companies who get this right are what we call high fidelity brands. By Fidelity, we are referring to the strength and quality of a brand’s relationship with its customers. We recognize that the complexity of these relationships makes it difficult to even assess which metrics should matter most—after all, how do you accurately and continuously combine brand tracking insights with the lived-experience data that comes back from your voice-of-customer surveys? That’s why Material created Fidelity.
We’ve ranked 165 of your favorite brands in order of greatest Fidelity. Download the Material Fidelity Index now.
Imagine your customer goes to a matchmaker because they are ready to find a relationship. They start by writing a list of desirable qualities in a partner. They hope to find:
- Someone who understands them on a personal level, has similar values, and respects their culture.
- Someone who is different enough to bring something useful or interesting to the relationship.
- Someone reliable who provides safety and comfort and proves they can be trusted.
When a customer is ready to settle into a relationship with a brand, they’ll be looking for similar attributes—so, how can you ensure that your brand is also your target customers’ “type?
Introducing Material Fidelity™
Material Fidelity™ is a diagnostic tool that considers how well brands align with their target audience and assesses the total health of the brand-consumer relationship. Rooted in behavioral and relationship sciences, this proprietary system of learning illuminates where your brand should focus to achieve a meaningful, transformational connection to your customer. In High Fidelity relationships, customers are 2x as likely to buy and/or try your new products, advocate for and be loyal to you.
The question for your brand is, “How do you become the most desirable partner to your target customer?” Increase your Fidelity.
Across your brand’s experience, you need to be authentic and create a consistent, situationally appropriate dynamic. Material Fidelity™ can help you establish positive alignment between your brand and your customer, who will feel empowered that your brand accurately and positively reflects their values, goals, and self-perception, ultimately leading to greater ROI for you.
Your brand is multi-dimensional, just like your customers. Address the red flags in your business and develop experiences that thoughtfully express the core of your brand, so customers understand what your brand truly stands for. The right customers—your strongest supporters—will be drawn to your brand and maintain loyalty through purchases, engagement, and word-of-mouth recommendations. Fidelity can get you there.