Do you love your consumer, or is it their money that you love more? Now, how you define this and how you answer it will greatly change your business fortunes in the not too distant future. We’ve all heard the research reports telling us that consumers are getting savvier, better informed, more environmentally and socially conscious and more demanding to boot. We all hear how technology and globalisation is rapidly changing the marketplace, and how the next generation of consumers are going to be harder to please than the last. So, how do you stay on top in such challenging times?
An answer to this is that you should start loving your consumers. Yes, apply the LOVE word into your dealings with your consumers. You see, love is such an endearing and engaging emotion. For those who’ve been in love, you’d know that there is no greater feeling, no stronger emotion than the bond created by people in love. With love, the worst of times can seem a blessing; and without love, even the best of things become absolutely meaningless. When you love your consumer, and not their money, they way you deal with them changes dramatically, and so will the way they feel about you.
Listening to all that, one may ask, how does this make business sense?
Well, if you’re only looking as far as the way you do business now, then of course, it seems ridiculous to go overboard with this notion; just cut prices and the consumers will love you for it. But if you peer into the future of business and the future of consumers, you’ll see how you’ll have no choice but to love.
The future of consumers.
To navigate our way through marketing maze, we look not only at where consumers are today, but where they will be tomorrow. What we’ve uncovered is that the future consumers expect a lot of things out from the brands that they buy into. But it’s not the kind of things that you’d expect.
For instance, in the future, companies are expected to have bigger goals than just be profit maximisers; they’re expected to promote the greater good in their business ambitions, and be socially and environmentally sound in their business practices. These are companies that consumers in the future will love, and when they have a loving relationship with you, your brand can weather through a lot more than your competitors can throw at you.
Companies of the future should be more integrated into the society. In some countries, companies are seen as a powerful force, not just in the market, but in the society at large, and a lot is expected of them. So companies that wants to be a positive driver of social change and promoting the greater good as an essential part of their business will win hearts of the future consumers. But don’t just expect to do it with corporate values and CSR initiatives. The best place to show how much you care for the greater good is through your products and your communications. The most successful corporate brands will be those that address these twin pulls of selfishness and altruism, and help consumers feel that what’s good for them is also good for the world.
On the other hand, just as consumers want you to be an integral part of society, they too want to be an integral part of your company. The want to be a part of the process; to involved in product development, creating ads for you, be your brand evangelist, and so on – and you can’t have this relationship if you have no love.
Future consumers are also looking for an emotional connection with the brands they love. So successful future brands have to go beyond product, prices and discounts to engage their customers; to communicate similar values, if not endearing values. Be a part of their world and pop culture. It has to interact with consumers on a platform that builds engaging relationships; or risk not having a relationship at all – and to do it well, you need love.
You can run, but you can’t hide.
If you think you can circumnavigate your way through all this rising consumer power, you’re wrong. Among other things, the internet has democratised information, not only making it widely available, but more importantly, easily accessible. It doesn’t take consumers much to Google their way to information about what you’ve been doing in your own backyard, or on someone else’s backyard. The future consumer will be more interested and aware of corporate policy and corporate practices. That makes it all the more important in defining how you should be engaging them. Beyond that, the rise and popularity of independent blogs mean that consumers are turning to non corporate communications to become informed – consumers themselves are increasingly playing an important role in defining an image of any company. So if all you’re doing it talking the talk and not walking the talk, they’ll see right through you at a touch of a button.
What is love?
Loving your consumers more than their money releases you from the profit driven tunnel vision to relationship building broader vision. It’s about building an emotional connection that cuts through everything else: the competition, the price points, product differentiation and even the mistakes. Loving your consumers for more than their money means you respect them more than merely being a market to exploit, but a community that you live together with for a long time to come. Consumers are looking for companies that don’t suck up wealth from society, but recycle that wealth back into society – through more meaningful engagement and contribution into the community with environmentally friendly products, more engaging communications, and corporate social responsibility.
Loving your consumer means you’ll be more in tuned with their needs and desires. It’s enhances your ability to listen to them, and get a feeling of where they’ll be and where they’re at. Loving your consumers means creating products that are not profit maximisers, but life maximisers. When you love your consumers, the way you speak to them changes. It’s about creating communications that respect their ability to think and imagine, communications that are truthful and real. Instead of product centric communications that merely peddle products, you’ll find a more profitable relationship with communications that entertain and engages. It’s not just talk at, but talk with. It’s not just about profits, it’s about relationships.
We now know very well that consumers are looking for and are rewarding companies that do that. The question is, is your company ready to move to the next stage of building that relationship? If you don’t love your consumer, what chance have you got of them loving you.