Lending a Helping Brand


Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is a stellar example of company personnel being available in a meaningful way not only to consumers, but to employees as well. His regular blog and tweets provide a new level of transparency to even suppliers and competitors.  
Finally, "informationalize" every step of the brand experience. A consumer's brand experience is marked as much by the product and service as it is by the points of sale and "sites of sale," as well as by the surprising times when the brand isn't expected to be present but is.

With over half of the world's population carrying a mobile phone and the likelihood that, as McKinsey & Co. predicts, applications will become "the new Web sites," brands have an opportunity to entirely "digitize" and expand an individual's experience of their brand.

Yelp's blended reality application allows consumers to point their camera at a physical destination to bring up the relevant reviews for the destination. Using GPS technology, the application is able to provide consumers with similar alternatives in the immediate vicinity.

So far, few branded applications have proven successful, simply because they've jumped into the app race without fully understanding how and what to deliver consumers that complements their particular brand experiences. As brands take a step back to appreciate what consumers want from them when, the brand apps market will undoubtedly soar. 
No matter the industry, and no matter the economic times, brands have always had to stand for something and provide meaningful value to a consumer. Today, that value begins with clearly understanding what the consumer's personal circumstances are and, as a result, their needs from a brand. Today, those needs are met through product and price, but also information and inspiration that makes sense for the brand to provide.
The people behind the brand are vital in proving that a brand "understands" and are essential in forging and furthering a relationship with a client. People empathize and inform, not products. With employees being ever more loyal to their companies, leverage this depth toward deepening consumer loyalty to your brands.
And, while the trends and tendencies have been to manage consumer relationships online, use the digital means only as a means, not the end. While we can and do keep in touch with an e-mail and a status update, there is nothing like a "personal visit."
The real lesson, as it always is, is a simple one: always lend a helping hand.

Eduardo Braniff is global insight director of Imagination. He can be reached at