If your brand was a person, what would you think of them? Based on your brand’s social media presence and marketing, would they be a person you could sit down and have a meaningful conversation with?
We have an unfortunate habit of creating socially awkward brands. Brands that blunder into other people’s conversations, brands that don’t know how to deal with criticism, brands that repeat the same messages over and over and over. We often end up with generic brands with generic values, that talk with a single, monotonous tone of voice. These socially awkward brands struggle to engage with real consumers because they simply have no rapport with them.
Rapport is an important part of our social lives. Establishing a rapport with another person is how we set out on a path to creating friendships. We might not want to become “friends” with a brand in the same sense, but we do enter into a relationship of sorts with them, and in the digital age it’s more important than ever that the relationship is natural and conversational.
In the 1960s, Virginia Satir discovered the idea of “mirroring” as a method of establishing a rapport between individuals. By exhibiting similar actions, attitudes and speech patterns as someone, it’s possible to make them believe that you hold similar beliefs and attitudes, and that puts you on the fast-track to some kind of relationship.
So should brands start imitating the language of consumers? Not exactly. There are enough embarrassing examples of brands attempting to mirror the language of millennials out there; the now-dormant twitter account Brands Saying Bae should act as warning enough.
But brands can learn to mirror their customers in other, more meaningful ways by better understanding their journeys and behaviours. Customers are not one dimensional, and brands shouldn’t be either.
Take train travel as an example: imagine the mindset of passengers on the morning commute vs their way home. Passengers’ moods would be vastly different on the way back than they were on the way out. On the outward journey, passengers might be focused on the day ahead, on their schedule and their meeting preparations; the business blinkers would be on. On the way back however, they may be more relaxed and open. A message that would be an irritation on the way out might be warmly received on the way home.
This is why it’s so important to understand all points of the customer journey and analyse the opportunities for conversation along the way. Technology has given us unprecedented opportunity to have these conversations at different parts of this journey too. To continue the train journey example, a brand should be able to communicate with their customer through their website, app, social channels and in person as the customer books tickets, checks times, travels to the station and checks in. At each step along the way, the message should be different, relevant to the time and the place, as well as the mood of the audience.
With so many touch points catching consumers at different parts of the customer journey, it’s no longer suitable for a brand to speak with one singular voice across all channels. Perhaps we ought to see a move away from the idea of a monolithic “brand personality”, towards something more akin to a “brand mood”, a temporary state of mind or feeling that better mirrors the mood of the consumer at key points on their journey.
Perhaps then we can move away from socially awkward brands, and start creating meaningful relationships with our audiences.