By: Courtney Bearer
Brands can no longer maintain a competitive advantage by only selling products and services; instead, they must compete to be your BFF. As the world of traditional advertising and utilizing basic marketing tactics is diminishing, businesses must attempt new ways of reaching consumers to stay afloat. Brands have now taken it upon themselves to try forming personal connections, becoming your friend. Successful companies have most recently taken part in humanization efforts. This is a brand’s effort to act like an individual connecting with consumers on a deeper level instead of a corporation. The new human-like branding era is beginning to take over social media, social issues, consumers’ shopping experiences and more. As brands continue the fight for a spot as consumers’ BFFs, consumers want the brands they support to have similar values or any values that contribute to the greater good.
Brands Personally Interacting with Consumers on Social Media
The simplest form of using social media as an advertising tool includes posting paid and organic content about a brand and its products and services. Today, marketers have adapted their strategies to fit the evolving societal norms and consumer wants. Brands interact with users by responding to comments, which makes consumers believe the organization values building long-lasting friendships with customers. Along with this interactive tactic, some businesses have begun being casual when posting social media content. Examples include brands swearing and posting content solely to entertain users. This content usually does not directly promote the company or its products/ services, but it aims to attract consumers by being relatable and memorable. Brands like Chipotle do an outstanding job of being comical on social media while being relatable to consumers and maintaining a consistent brand personality.
Wendy’s is another brand that has taken humanization to the next level. Its marketing team created a campaign that occurs annually called National Roast Day. The brand takes this day to roast (make fun of) other brands and consumers by request. This hilarious effort became extremely popular on the platform of Twitter. The underlying purpose of the campaign was to promote a free medium fry deal. Still, it had become the brand’s way of mirroring a real person who would comment negative messages on social media. This tactic further developed the concept of humanization and encouraged a shift to informal marketing tactics.
While some frown upon the idea of brands acting casually, mimicking human-like qualities, the strategy has proven to stand out among the abundance of social media marketing content. Others believe this movement is unethical and takes advantage of human’s attraction to others’ feelings and relatability. Sometimes from a brand’s perspective, the risk of offending someone may outweigh the reward, deterring it from using this tactic. If done successfully, this movement allows users to laugh and relate to brands as if they were a people. Brands then hope this relationship will translate into sales, word-of-mouth advertising, interest and more.
Brands Can Be People-Pleasers Too
Today, companies commonly post public statements about the brand’s feelings and efforts toward specific current events. In all reality, the brand itself cannot have feelings because it is an entity made of many people/ assets; it is not an individually acting human with beliefs and emotions. Along with this comes brands’ effort to be socially responsible. Whether this is ethically practicing or working to help a cause, businesses have larger tasks than just selling products and services. When a company promotes its efforts to support a cause, it is unfortunately not just for the sake of doing what is right. Instead, brands attempt to connect with people emotionally by acting as an individual with feelings. In all reality, these organizations are mainly concerned with building friendships with consumers, not the results of the charitable act.
Airbnb is an excellent example of a brand taking a stance on a social matter while promoting its service. The brand addressed a relevant issue while launching the We Accept campaign using media including photos, videos, hashtags, formal statements and more. Its commercial advertisements were even aired during the 2017 Super Bowl. Airbnb’s campaign required users to agree to treat everyone equally regardless of their differences, or they would be banned from the platform. During this time, acts of racial injustice were occurring, leading to divides and hostility. Airbnb addressed the issue with its new platform requirements and message that including others creates a stronger, more beautiful world. Although the work was an incredible piece, it is hard to say whether brands that attempt to help an issue are there with good intentions or are trying to use their acts of goodwill as a form of publicity to pull at viewers’ heartstrings.
It has become mainstream for brands to state opinions on matters by acting as individuals to remain relevant. Taking a stance on current events is almost expected of brands to attract consumers’ attention by being seen as a caring entity. Brands that stay silent or represent a different attitude on an issue than consumers will likely be frowned upon. Brands act as people pleasers by connecting with consumers as a friend and giving people what they want to hear instead of what the business wants to do.
From One-on-One Friendships to One-on-One Consumer Experiences
Businesses aim to outperform competitors and be favored by consumers to remain relevant. To do so, brands are no longer responsible for selling goods and services but also for providing memorable individual experiences. Being personable is a quality only humans present, but businesses try to mimic this connection. Successful personalized brands try to make no two customer experiences the same to create unique relationships similar to the bond that two individuals share. A tactic like addressing consumers on a first-name basis is a way for companies to catch viewers’ attention in emails, rewards programs and messages to make promotional communication more one-on-one.
Amazon is a strong example of a brand that creates personal connections. It suggests potential products based on users’ previous purchases and search history. The helpful strategy can attempt to be relatable and build relationships that others cannot imitate. Amazon, like a friend, is always interested if the experience was good. While this advanced technology aids Amazon in captivating more significant sales and making consumers feel special, it can also be viewed as creepy and too close for comfort.
Snapchat is another example of brands interacting with consumers on an individual level. The brand uses the tactic of Bitmojis, a cartoon image that users can customize to make it look like themselves, to provide a more enjoyable experience. This interactive one-on-one experience between Snapchat and consumers leads to more memorable, positive user involvement.
What Does This Mean for the World of Advertising?
As brands try to blur the line between being a business and an individual, consumers are put in a vulnerable position. While this strategy of reaching customers in a new way stands out by being entertaining, eye-catching and effective, it also takes advantage of people’s desire to form meaningful connections. Brands will continue to be casual and behave like a friend of the consumer as it is an uprising strategy. As consumers’ needs and technology advance, relationships may grow even stronger; good friendships will never go out of style. Brands will progress and find new ways to interact with consumers closely, become more humanized and eventually become your new BFF.