Today’s consumers are more skeptical about brands than ever before. Informed about the subliminal tricks used in advertising, and skeptical about brand manipulation, they have become savvy, empowered individuals who brands must work with rather than sell to in order to be successful.
Martin Lindstrom calls himself a ‘brand futurist’. Author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, he is an expert on the psychological tricks used in branding and advertising, and feels we have entered a new era in brand-consumer relations.
The age when consumers were passive is over. According to Lindstrom, the advent of social media has meant consumers are more powerful than ever before. Lindstrom talks about an ‘old guard’ of companies who still want to maintain complete control of their brand, and a ‘new guard’ of more forward-thinking firms. The new guard are those who are prepared to share their brand with their consumer, putting some of the power in their hands and allowing them to help build the brand. ‘Brand owners now need to push the brand over to the consumer and let them run with it,’ he says.
Smash your brand
According to Lindstrom, if you want to connect with the modern consumer you need to develop a more all-encompassing relationship with them. A strong logo is no longer enough. ‘Smash your brand’ is a phrase he has coined that refers to a Coca Cola bottle being smashed on the floor into a thousand pieces. ‘You can pick up just one piece and still recognize the brand,’ he says. The theory suggests that successful brands are recognizable through every facet of their image. According to Lindstrom brands must reach out to consumers on every level imaginable, such as colour, sound, smell and even rituals. ‘The ritual of sliding the on button to turn on your iPhone is incredibly powerful,’ he says.
Lindstrom says brands must be available 24/7 in order to build a fully comprehensive relationship with their customers. ‘Don’t close down ever because people don’t, and always be instant,’ he says. ‘Live with the consumer, breathe with the consumer, party with them, eat with them. Be fully connected.’ For Lindstrom, the key to appealing to consumers is understanding them and making sure they understand you. Today, a successful brand is one that realizes it must have a two-way relationship with consumers.
Top five take-outs
1. Be new guard. Lindstrom says new guard companies are prepared to share their brand with their customers.
2. Be all-encompassing. According to Lindstrom, a brand should be recognizable through something as basic as a ritual or the colour it uses. People do not respond to logos anymore.
3. Be available 24/7. You can only build a truly comprehensive relationship with your customer if you are always available.
4. Understand your customer. Lindstrom says brands should be ‘fully connected’ to their consumers.
5. Build a two-way relationship with consumers. Modern consumers do not want to feel they are being sold to, rather they are being worked with.