Consumer and Brand: A Special Relationship
The importance of consumers to brands is obvious and the significance a brand can have to a consumer is not to be underestimated; that perfect product at a certain time can be the only thing that hits the spot.
But today’s brand-consumer relationship is not as simple as it once was. It has developed significantly over the past couple of decades, mainly due to huge technological advances. The consumer today, and how they interact with brands, is very different to the consumer twenty years ago.
Global economic and demographic shifts including the increase in smaller households, ageing and millennial population shifts and the rising middle class in developing nations have also influenced the change in the relationship. Coupled with the rise of social media, mobile and wearable technology, the internet of things and the further advancement of data analytics, the shape of the consumer industry is now dramatically different.
Historically brands or retailers were the main dictators of trends. They shaped the NPD launch calendar and introduced innovative products that the customer wasn’t even aware they needed but found themselves unable to live without. However the balance of power is shifting and now the customer is much more influential in what products make it to the shelves. If managed correctly this brand-consumer relationship can be very powerful.
Brands can still be at the very forefront of product development; creating new categories and products that cause a stir in their markets. An obvious example is Apple but other recent examples include Mondelez Belvita, the biscuit that according to its marketing campaigns is suitable for breakfast and Weetabix breakfast smoothies, a convenient, easy to consume, liquid breakfast.
It is becoming increasingly common for consumers to push the boundaries of expectation and this shift is helping to drive innovation. Feedback can be instantaneous and if used wisely it can help shape the customer proposition. A very well-known snack business receives 1,500 pieces of customer feedback an hour and it is well acknowledged within the business that this has been critical to their success. Instantaneous demand for products has been responsible for huge changes in the supply chain and businesses that meet that need and continue to evolve hold on to customer loyalty.
Socially networked, digitally mobile customers demand access to more information, instantaneously, wherever they are and at all times of the day. But it is not only the consumer that benefits by technology which allows them to get what they want, when they want it and where they want it. A modern brand can tap into a wealth of consumer information that was not previously available and use it to enhance their proposition. The brand-consumer relationship continues to be mutually beneficial and should be treated as a powerful asset.
Katie Hart is a Consultant in the Consumer Practice at Berwick Partners, she specialises in technical and innovation leadership roles.