Become Your Customer’s Friend

By Jon Cohen

Your customers are not your enemies.

This goes without saying, and yet companies often maintain an adversarial relationship with the people they serve, where the objective is to “win” by getting a customer to buy more, pay more, or accept less. Anybody who’s ever bought a car on a dealer lot has felt the pains of a competitive business transaction that didn’t need to be. But what about the restaurant that designs its menu to steer you towards the most profitable, but not necessarily best, menu options? Or the airline that takes away a small perk – a snack or a pillow – and then wants to sell it back to you? Or the online merchant that pre-selects upsell options that you have to manually unclick, if you even notice them before you click the “pay now” button?

Businesses are the beneficiaries of asymmetric information – only they know the true cost to offer a product or service, and they can create offerings or set prices from that privileged position.

Consumers might open their wallets in that moment, but not without a grumble. The marketers at headquarters will give high-fives as the sales charts tick upward that quarter, no doubt evidence of the efficacy of the scheme. But consumers have long memories, and other options.

Your brand is at stake. Your consumers should feel like your success depends on serving their best interests. The moment consumers get the sense that you’re trying to outwit them, they will treat you like an adversary – because that’s what you’ve shown them you are.

Your customers deserve to be treated like friends, like people whose happiness you care deeply about. And that feeling should be true.

Branding in the New Normal

By David Radcliff

Not too long ago, the ability to send someone “electronic mail” through the computer was a mind-boggling novelty. Instantaneous mail? Without stamps or paper?

(Some of us can still hear the whir of our dial-up modems.)

Communication has changed dramatically since that experiment in message swapping.
Today, most of us know exactly what it means to “Facebook” or to “Google” someone.
Many of us have smartphones and GPS devices and personal websites.

Online services such as Amazon and EHarmony have quietly revolutionized the way we find entertainment or love or anything in between. In one way or another, we are each constantly “connected” to the world around us.

But amidst all these connections, how many of us are truly ready to be heard?

As you read this, in “the new normal” of the Information Age, an endless parade of anonymous, college-age coding wizards is busy building a new wave of billion-dollar businesses that will soon be household names.

Meanwhile, seasoned corporate juggernauts are doubling down on their brick-and-mortar endeavors, circulating their brochures at trade shows, refining the figures on their PowerPoint presentations, changing their logos, competing on prices, and wondering why the kids out there still aren’t biting.

The brick-and-mortar crowd is gradually realizing what the coding crew already knows:

The language of business has changed.

In an age of constant connectivity, the new normal demands speaking with an audience, not to it. And only the most accessible, targeted, and honest language can win.

In short, the gap between business executives in tailored suits and wunderkinds in hooded sweatshirts can be bridged only with the help of savvy brand strategy.

Today’s world of social media tools demands each of our efforts (whether professional or personal) be more honest, more transparent, and more targeted than ever before. The winds of social media are not only changing the way we do business, they’re changing the way we think and speak about business and ourselves.

These winds of change are blowing open the kimono on every government, every industry, every campaign, and every rebranding effort under the sun.

These winds are causing everyday consumers to question, research, and interrogate the brands and businesses that shape our world.

If you’re at the helm of a brand or business, don’t run from this interrogation. Engage.
Inform. Teach.

And whatever you do, resist the urge to dig in your heels while waiting for the new normal to slide back to business as usual. Instead, look to master these winds of change.

Who knows where they might take you?