This week, I’m taking a different perspective on the concept of the “customer sweet spot” I’ve discussed before and in my book, Aaker on Branding. The “sweet spot” idea is based on the fact that brands should consider moving from a digital strategy driven by selling a brand, offering, or firm to connecting with a customer sweet spot by becoming an active partner in a shared-interest program.
A “sweet spot’ reflects a customer’s beliefs, values, activities and passions. The fact is that customers are fundamentally uninterested in your offering, brand or firm – but they are interested in their own things that affect or influence their day-to-day life, and will actively engage in those topics.
I’ve written before how Nature Valley’s Views, “street-view” style portrayal of trails in national parks, connects with hikers. How American Express’s Open Forum allows a small business owner to get advice on everything from human resources to finance to marketing and motivates the consumer to engage with the brand. How Pampers Village, the “go to” place for all issues relating to babies and child care, involves moms and anyone raising a baby.
A shared-interest program can be remarkably good at not only allowing the brand to become a social media player but also creating visibility, credibility and liking as well. In a recent article on The Huffington Post, author Daniel Newman interpreted the shared-interest program concept as a media outlet. Considering a shared-interest program as media clarifies that need to compete or relate to the subcategory of media vehicles in its area of interest. Now your brand is not competing with other brands, unless they also have a media play.
A hiking campaign by Nature Valley must compete with a hiking magazine, The American Express Open Forum with a variety of small business learning options, and Pampers Village with baby care sources. To get traction, a shared-interest program needs to have reason to thrive in the media world. It could have a niche that is under-served by alternatives, provide some feature or content that others lack, or do something better than others.
It is clear that content is king, and the media concept provides a standard by which to set goals and measure results. Newman makes an interesting assertion that trust is a key to brand success and that the reason that a shared interest program will add value to the brand is by engendering trust.
Trust is created because the brand is shown to have a higher purpose, e.g. a passion for hiking, a quest to understand and elevate the management of small businesses, or a passion for babies and baby care. This purpose reflects the value of the brand and enforces the idea that the brand is not only interested in gaining sales and profits. A natural implication is that any brand so interested in the higher purpose should be trusted to create high quality, innovative offerings. There is little question that trust is a brand issue.
According the Gerzema and Lebar, authors of The Brand Bubble, the Y&R BAV databases show that the percentage of brands regarded as trustworthy has dropped from 52% to 25% from 1997 to 2006, and that the trend has continued to today. Those brands that enjoy trust have credibility in their communication also have the edge in likability and loyalty, because there is a basis for a relationship beyond functional benefits. Justifying, developing, managing and evaluating a shared-interest program is difficult because it takes the brand out of its comfort zone and because the likely payoff is in the future without unambiguous measures. The concept of brand as media and the introduction of trust as a potential benefit is a helpful perspective when on such a journey.