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From the discomfort Zone: Befriending brands in frontierless business

Continuous creation of Brand Friendship with customers can emerge if the brand delivers substance that’s distinct and trendy.

Written by Shombit Sengupta | Published:May 18, 2014 12:13 am

Continuing Brand Friendship from last week’s column, I’ve termed it industry-customer social relationship that’s beyond mere transactional business sales. Digi-tech power is driving human behavioural change every moment across the globe. This real time connect is frontierless; it’s revolutionising the customer’s relationship with a brand, leading to its purchase and repurchase in a new branding culture.

Brand Friendship at work: Development of human capital at the workplace is the key to talent creation for sustaining business. To deliver Brand Friendship to customers, a corporation has to first create employee Brand Friendship. For example, often not all customers understand the corporate jargon of sustainability. You have to tangibly prove your company’s friendship with the environment through your corporate social responsibility activities. Customers will then better appreciate your respect for social causes which is priceless, and understand it’s not a PR eyewash exercise to hide something or promote the company. I call this healthy CSR Brand Friendship with the environment and society.

B2B business Brand Friendship: One-to-one relationship with customers is the key to B2B business discipline. It’s included in the Brand Friendship strategy facilitated by 5 aspects: (1) How you understand your customer’s business in the customer’s competitive environment, (2) What industry pain areas you highlight, (3) How you portray the future of your customer’s industry, (4) How you help your customer shape business strategy and execution as per the requirement of the customer’s customers, (5) How you align to the culture of your customer’s industry and local culture. Very often B2B business leaders say the end-customer domain is not their sphere of activity. This is a monumental mistake. No business in the world exists without end customers. B2B business has to polish these five elements to create customer relationships that reflect Brand Friendship.

QCW is quality customers want. Continuous creation of Brand Friendship with customers can emerge if the brand delivers substance that’s distinct and trendy. Customers don’t understand technical quality processes like ISO certification among others. They go for looks, how relevant, adjustable and friendly it is for their different needs, and whether it’s reliable and affordable. These attributes build QCW to consistently deliver repeat purchase. QCW’s three strategic attributes reside in the customer’s subconscious and conscious mind, and blend seamlessly to establish QCW:

a. “I believe in it” (reliability)
b. “It works well for me” (relevance and friendliness)
c. “It looks good” (certain aesthetic appeal that gives pride of ownership)

Quadra-effect orbit of QCW: QCW has a sequential quadra-effect orbit which cannot be dislocated with product, brand, point of purchase and communication. You have to handle these four attributes in the fast-paced world of changing behaviour with perceptible addition of the Brand Friendship element. Minute execution creates continuous friendship of your brand with customers, resulting in continuous growth and profit.

1. Product/service distinction surpassing competitors: At inception, the product has to have some perceptible element of Brand Friendship and perceived as superior with tangible functionality. For example, Ilkone has designed a special mobile phone application for the Middle East that points devout users to the direction of Mecca.

2. Transmitted through humanised branding: The geometrical school branding of stylised graphic design upto end 1960s as used by Chase, AEG or Exxon, among others changed to elaborate etching style trademark at the beginning of 20th century. Since 1970s, digital technology has literally changed the branding rule. A totally new industry dimension not dreamt of earlier was created by virtual companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, among others at end-1990s. Even Nike’s “swoosh” logo symbolises the new through Greek Goddess of Victory. These radically different, perceptible attributes, not old-style, post-War stylised graphic, can establish friendship with customers.

3. Magnetic power at the point-of-purchase: You may create Brand Friendship from product development upto branding, but unless customers experience it at the retail, everything will be lost. At the point-of-purchase, your brand presence has to be bigger than reality to instantly get noticed over competitor brands. When your brand displays magnetic power tantalising customers to the retail, instant Brand Friendship is created. If the trade is not friendly with your brand, your brand will fail. A theatre director, for example, creates strong friendship with the lightman, to be sure the show will not go awry. In the same way the brand’s friendship with its distributors will give it the right light at the retail to magnify the brand’s friendship with customers.

4. Sociable communication: A brand has to have power to befriend customers socially. Brand has to play a role in a customer’s body and mind, in the family, at school, college and workspace with a social element to create peer effect. Traditional ways of advertising on TV, press and billboards are losing the credibility because customers know such hallucinating communication is virtual and ephemeral, removed from reality.  Unconventional peer effect, like documentary films, will create better Brand Friendship.

Connect to Brand Friendship all day long: As a business leader, you have to absorb and action business operations to match the radical behavioural change of today’s customers all over the world. Whether in manufacturing, service or retailing, your regular mandate is profitable growth.  When you engage in Brand Friendship strategy in your daylong activities, it will enormously impact both renovation and innovation of your company’s product and service brands to create Brand Friendship.

Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at

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