Listen, Build Relationships and Empower

Here’s to Manila Austin who has a good commentary in MediaPost about what works and what doesn’t in branding. Here are some excerpts…

Millions of marketing dollars are spent trying to understand and predict consumer behavior. Rather than predicting a consumer’s next move, marketers should focus on forming meaningful brand relationships by listening to and actively engaging consumers.

No two consumers are exactly alike is a given in marketing. Consumers may represent themselves one way in the LinkedIn business network, and another on Facebook with friends.

Marketers need to listen. Listening is critical for a more meaningful relationship between brands and consumers. Before this happens, however, brands must embrace today’s cultural shift toward more open and adaptive communications across the social Web.

Marketers need new strategies and approaches that are built around continuous and programmatic listening.

If you want to understand, engage and sustain, you’ll need to embrace three tenets of new consumerism: listening, relationship-building and empowerment.

Marketers too often confuse willingness to buy as evidence of a relationship; it’s not. Brands must earn the right to have meaningful relationships with their consumers.

Effective listening must be done with sensitivity to nuances and with a finely tuned ear for discovering unexpected insights. One way to effectively listen to customers is through private online communities where brands can begin to understand how customers negotiate changes in their lives.

Empowerment is the final misunderstood tenet of new consumerism. When you master listening and build a relationship with a consumer, you owe them something in return. And, contrary to conventional wisdom, what they want isn’t coupons or free stuff; they want to impact your brand. That’s real empowerment for today’s consumer.

In the end, consumers are most engaged when they realize a brand — perhaps yours — is actively helping them negotiate the changes in their complex lives, from how and where they communicate to what they consume.

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