How to get out of the ‘friend zone’
We can all remember when Sandy leaned over her balcony in a floor-length nightgown, singing ‘hopelessly devoted to you’, and on some level I guess we could all relate. When you fall in love, you only have eyes for one person, you’re just not interested in being with anyone else.
The same can often be true for brands.
You’ve probably heard of the famous ‘Coke-Pepsi test’. This oft-quoted study showed die-hard Coke fans hooked up to brain scanners were found guilty of liking Pepsi. Yet as quickly as the scanner had shown their brain receiving pleasure signals, it also showed them being scrambled and dampened down, as they told the experimenter they had preferred the Coke. They lied, but in their subjective experience of the situation, they didn’t. They really did feel like they had preferred Coke, and they altered their memory to match their emotions. They were loyal to Coke. Even if they actually enjoyed Pepsi more, huge mental constructs prevented them from admitting it, even to themselves.
The same mental constructs are the reason I will traipse across London for Grind coffee, or have passionate arguments about why I truly believe my Bose headphones to be superior in every way to your cheap rip-offs.
On the opposite side of the coin, we have the ‘friend zone’. A place many fear, where they remain stuck in a platonic relationship with the object of their affection. Similarly, some brands will always remain ‘just friends’, we’ll flirt with them, dipping in when there’s a great offer, but we’re not that bothered. When it comes down to it, there’s always an alternative. The ties of an emotional connection are what every marketer dreams of, so for brands as much as individuals, being stuck in the ‘friend zone’ isn’t ideal.
So, what are 3 tips to take your brand out of the friend-zone to loved up and loyal?
1) Stop thinking like a friend.
Stop playing it safe and start taking some risks. You’ll never get noticed if you continue to repeat the same activities, so stop expecting a different reaction. It’s time for some bold declarations of love.
It was a brave move for Apple to run it’s epic “1984” campaign, there were even last minute thoughts about pulling it completely, but it worked, putting Apple centre stage with the world expectant for its next move.
Similarly, Red Bull solidified its place as far more than a sugary energy drink when it sent Felix Baumgartner plummeting from the edge of space, and would we have given Samsung as much consideration if it hadn’t stood eye to eye with its rival and declared ‘the next big thing is already here’?
He who dares, wins.
2) Use your big data.
At some point you may have been guilty of stalking your crush’s social media profiles and found yourself in possession of a new wealth of knowledge, from her favourite youtube videos to what he does on a Tuesday night. Brands are similarly laden with this ‘Big Data’, a vast knowledge of every aspect of their customer’s lives.
Well, it’s time to use that information to your advantage.
Consumers have seen what social media and mass customisation are capable of and increasingly expect this kind of personalisation in their communication with brands, not just a passive role absorbing marketing messages.
But from facebook knowing youre gay before you do, to Target knowing that you’re pregnant and being able to predict your due date, things just got very personal, meaning the challenge is in engaging individuals, whilst not over stepping the mark into what’s too personal.
By aggregating seemingly public content, companies are able to invade our privacy in ways formerly unimaginable. In terms of Big Data, it’s almost impossible to draw lines that divide acceptable and unacceptable business practices. If you start to reel off facts you could have only found out through going back over several years of our twitter feed and internet browsing history, whether you’re a brand or a lovesick opportunist, it’s going to come across as a little bit too creepy.
3) Show you really care.
The past year gave us a host of great stories of companies giving special attention to individuals: from Sainsbury’s renaming bread, Samsung creating a unique phone case or the Ritz Carlton taking special care of Joshie the Giraffe
The reason these stories gained such traction is because people love to see the human-side of brands. Moreover, with greater transparency, the role of CRM is only growing in importance. Brands can no longer hide behind advertising. So whether it’s delivering your brand promise through your service in store, the way you answer customer complaints or those one-off gestures of true care, the quickest way to the customer’s heart is to show them your own. Reveal your human-side and show you genuinely care about something more than selling more and their loyalty will be yours.
So take risks, get personal and show your human-side, and consumers will certainly be saying “You’re the one that I want” about your brand.
By Frances Deighton, Global Marketing Executive