Let’s first say that the online dialogue is already taking place, no matter what, whether you are present and active yourself, participate actively, or not. It’s a generation which talks about brands offline and online. So if you don’t do anything with it, that does not imply that it does not happen. There’s often that cold water fear, CMOs who do not want to react to it, because then we might get critical questions which we do not wish to answer. That’s a mistake, it’s a wrong perception, because the questions are there no matter what. But if you don’t facilitate it yourself, it will happen on other blogs and other forums. And you won’t even realize that negative things are told about you. So the first added value is that you at least know what people are saying about your brand. That you understand what they struggle with. What their reflections are about everything you do, and in real-time! When you launch a campaign, you immediately have a response, within the hour. So I think the first step is simply to be present, to facilitate it and to listen, watch and observe what people say about your brand. Without even having to hire someone who is permanently working on it.
The second step implies that you stimulate people to talk positively about you
It is content marketing, you have to give them content to talk about your brand; if you don’t, then you are again not part of the life of these Millenials, of Generation Y. They are looking for content about your brand, and if you don’t create it yourself they will do so themselves. But then there is also a larger risk that they will go looking for negative stories themselves. Whereas if you step forward yourself and involve them, the chance is much greater that something positive happens for your brand.
The real conversation starters are experiences people have with brands
This could be something trivial, something everyday, that you are not really conscious of. In the research we did for our book, people were talking about Cadbury, a chocolate brand. They said: Cadbury saved me while I was a student, when I needed it. That’s the kind of stories you get. You think ‘it is a bar of chocolate’. Brand fans don’t think that way. At that moment you have an emotional meaning for them. So the positive aspect can sometimes be something very small. A daily experience, a moment when you meant something in people’s lives, sometimes without realising it. Only by listening and observing will you realize: OK, this is the role we play. This is also valid for Red Bull. Red Bull happens to have reached those difficult moments, the achievement moments, the moments you feel blue, that’s when a brand like Red Bull is present. So you get so many chances, so many emotional connections, that you can discover there and that you can act upon. With a little gesture, you will automatically get a positive communication towards friends, when you do something small at such a moment. It has a lot to do with ‘live for the moment’, and social media allow reacting in real time to such an emotional thing, to such a moment. And that is precisely what classic media don’t facilitate.
Emotional connection results in loyalty
People often say Generation Y are the most unreliable consumers ever, and that is indeed partially true. The definition of loyalty for this generation is different than for previous generations, but it is also an evolution which took place in other generations. Because of the fact that the offer is now much broader, the loyalty decreases automatically. There is more choice, there are more options to try something else. So we have to step away from the classic vision of loyalty. The emotional connection is exactly what makes people loyal to your brand. And maybe they are loyal to your brand and two other brands, maybe that is the new definition of loyalty. But the closer you are to them. Everybody likes to vary these days, including Generation Y. But what you want is to be a part of their top 3 of choices. And to ensure that, when they alternate, it’s between you and another brand. So there still is a certain level of loyalty, but it’s another vision of loyalty. Not 100% loyal, but maybe 50% or 25% loyalty; and 25% loyalty is still better than 0%. The classic theory of Reicheld on loyalty: it is cheaper to make an existing customer buy again than to find new customers; this theory is still valid, even these days.
Based on an interview by Mark van de Grift (Brand & Marketing Strategist)