It’s not just about purchase. More and more, marketers are focusing on an increasingly important form of brand equity: the strength of the relationship a brand has with its consumers.
Our most recent Earned Brand study clearly demonstrated that the stronger the relationship between a consumer and a brand is, the better able a brand will be to weather marketplace disruptions as well as introduce new disruptions of its own.
This is critically important in a marketplace where multiple forces (encroaching competition, start-ups, peer influence, etc.) constantly threaten to tear established consumer-brand relationships asunder while, at the same time, consumers’ expectations of brands continue to increase.
But being an exclusive purchaser of a brand does not represent the highest form of consumer-brand relationship. In fact, we see purchase as merely the starting point. What defines a strong, committed consumer relationship?
First, emotion. Consumers feel a real affection towards the brand — not just the product, but the brand itself.
Second, there are elements of a shared identity or set of values, as consumers see the brand as a kindred spirit, an entity they can identify with or aspire to emulate.
Most of all, the relationship is built on interaction and shared activity. The brand and the consumer do things together, they talk, they socialize, and often they work shoulder to shoulder to make the world a better place.
Another key learning of this year’s Earned Brand study is that this kind of committed relationship can’t be bought. It has to be, as the study name implies, earned. In the end, the quality of your relationships with consumers will depend on how well you execute against seven behavioral imperatives:
The new Edelman Brand Relationship Index measures your performance against each of these seven dimensions and gives you an overall score that represents the average relationship quality that you have attained within the consumer marketplace as a whole or within any consumer segment. The higher your score, the better positioned you are to face whatever the future and your competitors may hurl your way.
Specifically, the index measures a brand’s ability to protect and grow its current market share via a customer base who will:
That today’s consumers are willing to do these things for brands — far beyond merely purchasing it — is a clear sign that relationship building should be the cornerstone of any brand’s marketing strategy.
David M. Bersoff, Ph.D. is a senior vice president and head of Edelman’s global thought leadership research.