Lending a Helping Brand


In the face of the economic downturn, consumers have had to make significant choices to keep pace with the impact of a changed economy. And brands have suffered as a consequence.
In the slow and unpredictable process of the economy righting itself, as well as the ongoing progress of technology as a brand driver, brands should focus on how they can help consumers, not only in these trying times, but in the times to come. Now is the time to solidify loyalty through understanding, people and always being there to help.
First, focus your brand's messaging on value and empathy, not discounting, which tarnishes brand strength in the long term. People don't forget when a company compromises its brand values for immediate gain, especially if that gain is for a person's hard earned and hard kept dollar. 

Taking the above into consideration, brands should communicate promotions that help consumers minimally sacrifice the experience they've had with the brand to date. Immediate and tangible empathy will go a long way in retaining customers.

In this spirit, Hyatt's Random Acts of Kindness allows staff to offer free meals or services to their Gold Passport members. Similarly, Hyundai's Assurance campaign -- in which it would take back a new car if a consumer lost his/her job -- has been successful precisely because it communicates empathy, addresses a real customer concern and allows customers peace of mind, all without compromising their experience with the brand or its value.
Second, engage your frontline staff in your social networking initiatives. In a time where a personal touch is invaluable, face-to-face contact inevitable and the impact of social networking incredible, there is enormous opportunity to deepen connections. People are going to be the ones to restore consumer confidence and trust.

This is especially relevant given the higher expense associated with acquiring versus retaining consumers and the value of highly engaged enthusiast brand advocates.

Success is dependent on staff clearly understanding how they and their brands are expected to behave in the social networking arena, and a commitment to maintaining the relationships carried over from the face-to-face to the digital space. A vital component of that relationship is listening. Once your staff engages in conversations at the "digital picket fence" it is imperative that they are empowered to react to what they hear.

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