The internet is awash with news stories about how millennials are abandoning brand loyalty, but recent examinations of business upheaval are suggesting another story lurking beneath the surface. Studies and surveys indicate that millennials simply have different standards for brands they will be loyal to. This generation is more inclined to follow a brand that shares its values, and that means that companies will have to take a different approach to branding to stay competitive. Here are some measures companies can take to build stronger relationships with their customers.
Social media personalities understand the strength of these platforms. The bite-sized posts that are the bread and butter of platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow them to project their unique personalities in bite-sized formats and some businesses are using this to their advantage. Wendy’s has recently garnered headlines due to its bizarre social media presence – one that draws from an irreverent sense of humor, pop culture cues, and a sometimes antagonistic relationship with their rivals. The reason that they’ve managed to succeed so well is that they’ve built a unique identity for themselves, and they understand that “humanizing” their brand doesn’t necessarily mean sanitizing it. By allowing their social media team to take the lead and let their personalities guide the ship, they’ve managed to create a unique identity that’s distinct and human, even if it isn’t all that warm and fuzzy. A similarly bizarre diatribe about millennial struggles on the Steak’Umms social media account created an identity that would have seemed anathema to public messaging just a few scant years ago but that resonated with their millennial audience.
But not all brands are trying to court controversy with their outreach, and they don’t need to. Most major brands have learned that they can connect with their customers by sharing memes, and while letting social media operators take the reins behind an otherwise faceless social media account can be a great way to build identity, it can be just as effective to put your team members front and center. Highlighting your staff directly and allowing them to talk about their personal experiences with your company can create a human face that connects the customer to the brand.
Just as important is making sure that customers are engaged with the company. Humans are social creatures, and being humanized requires building direct lines of communications between business and consumer. That’s why so many companies are engaging their customers on social media, whether that takes the form of photoshopping or captioning contests or involves providing special benefits to social media influencers who share their love of your company.
Humanizing a brand is important, and it’s clear to many that the battle for customer engagement will be waged on social media looking forward. Many companies will have to reframe themselves in new terms in the coming years – creating a model where they’re selling a culture, a lifestyle, or a philosophy rather than simply pitching a product or service.