Humanizing the Brand

Salesforce.com released a piece of technology named the “Engagement Console”. According to the “Radian6 Engagement Console Preview” video, this program allows you to observe the comments of customers, as well as “tag your customers, hone in on particular instances” and note “which individuals should be listening to you.”

During an interview with Arbitrage Magazine, Lebrun emphasized the importance of trust between customers and the companies they buy from.

“Once I know you, I can pretty much predict how you behave,” says Lebrun. “So if you do something out of character, I can say : that’s not her.”

This applies to businesses as well. If you put your trust in a brand, and it ends up harming you or not living up to your expectations, the customer’s trust in this brand will quickly decline.

“With most institutions, consumer trust has been in decline,” says Lebrun. “Do people trust their governments more or less? They’ve seen all these issues. People trust companies less. Companies have fallen short, and disappointed them, and not done what they said they were going to do. Generally, consumers trust institutions less, but they trust their friends more. People believed that more than they do today, that a company would not harm them.”

This is why the opinions of customers are instrumental in the success of a company or a brand.

Trust isn’t based on the principle of mere familiarity. Between people, there has to be more than blind trust; for instance, a person would be apprehensive if their friend encouraged them to hop off a plane with no parachute based on their years of friendship.

“Trust isn’t so much: ‘I’ll follow you everywhere’,” Lebrun says. “Once I know you, I can predict how you behave. It’s the same with a brand.”

The idea of a distant, impersonal corporation is not an uncommon piece of imagery used in media. If a company wishes to create a good relationship between its clientele, then they have to create an image that shows care for its customer’s needs, wants, and most importantly, opinions.

Data Collection

Collecting this data is not incredibly difficult. There are many different mediums to choose from, like Facebook, Twitter and online blogs that are easily accessible on the internet.

According to Grant Blank, a professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, “data can be obtained without the subject being aware they are being observed.” This may appear slightly invasive to Twitter users – but then again, when individuals make their information public, they can’t blame analysts for taking advantage of it.

“Since the data are already in digital form they are much easier to gather, store and manipulate, compared to paper,” writes Blank. “Social media often record actual behaviour or actual communication in the form of Tweets, emails or blog posts, so researchers don’t have to depend on self-reports and the uncertain memory of respondents.”

However, there are issues with this form of data collection.

“Hard-to-reach populations like the elderly, the poor and the uneducated, remain hard to reach online,” Blank explains in his article.

Since the internet is accessible by a large percentage of the world’s population, forums and reviews are becoming more and more trustworthy. Businesses may claim one thing or another about their product, but with the use of social media, a brand’s image relies more and more on individuals using their products.

“The customer has now a lot more power in shaping and influencing the perceptions of your brand than you do,” states Lebrun, in an interview with Brian Solis.

Sylvie Roland, et al., professors at Dauphine and Grenobles University speak to the same message by quoting Vargo & Lusch in their article “The benefit of social media”:  “Marketing is no longer a case of diffusing value to consumers but of co-creating value with them.”

But does the producer-consumer relationship go beyond values?

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