Is there a serious issue with the whole customer-brand relationship thing?

I came across this great quote from Anthony Robbins on relationship and I want to share it with you:

The only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place THAT YOU GO TO GIVE and not a place that you go to take.

Coming across this quote has rekindled the struggle that I have had with the relationship thing between the organisation/brand and customers.  Why?

We live in a self-seeking, self-interested, self-centred ideology and context. Customers are expecting companies to reward them for their loyalty. These rewards can be in terms of price discounts, higher levels of service, special privileges etc.  Brands/organisations have engaged in the relationship thing because of promises made by gurus/consultants/marketing professors. What promises?  Promises of  higher revenues, margins and profits.  How? According to these ‘gurus’ customers in a relationship will paying higher prices and buy more from the brand.

Do you see the issue?  From the brand viewpoint it is worth entering into the relationship so that the brand can take more – revenues and profits – from the relationship.  From the customer viewpoint it is worth entering into a relationship if they can get more value (price discounts, higher levels of service, privileges..) out of the brands.

This reminds me of the prisoners dilemma where the ideal course of action is for you to encourage the other party to cooperate whilst you defect.  And as such this occurs to be the use of the word/concept of ‘relationship’ masking a ‘selfishness/greed’ orientation/behaviour.  Which may explain why it is that with all the talk of ‘relationship’ there are so few brands that actually build relationships and cultivate loyalty.

Oh, if you are up for a refreshing take on the customer/brand relationship thing then I recommend the following slide deck from Martin Weigel, head of planning at Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam:

This is the deck that brought to the surface my unease with the relationship thing.  And it shows up for me as a great deck – one that speaks uncomfortable/unsettling truths. I’d love to hear your take on this.

Posted on February 24, 2013, in Customer Engagement, Customer Loyalty, Customer Philosophy, Marketing, Social and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Hi Maz, could not agree more on relationships. Mike Muhney (Co-inventor of ACT!) and me wrote a book on the subject – ‘Who’s in your Ornit?’

    Many great posts BTW …

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  2. Maz, that’s a great quote; it’s so applicable both in life and to the customer experience. And thanks for sharing the slide deck. Wow. It has some amazing stats that should be depressing to any marketing department!

    Annette :-)

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    • Hello Annette

      You and I must be from the same tree of life! What you share here is the experience that I experienced. And what I found myself saying to myself.

      Maz

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  3. Maz,
    I love the slide deck…like a machine gun of truth bullets!

    Reminded me of a quote from an interview I did with Mike Mullen the CEO of first direct where he said “we must understand the limits of interest of our customers”. Enough said.

    Adrian

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    • Hello Adrian
      Yes, a “gun of truth bullets!” – that is how it showed up for me and it did make me laugh at us, human beings. Specifically, how our commitment to what feeds us, keeps our game of survival and status going, prevents us from seeing/being with what is so.

      Thanks for sharing the Mike Mullen quote. Love it.

      “We must understand the limits of interest of our customer.”

      Yes, customers have limited interest in us. Yet, they have unlimited interest in themselves. And to the degree we contribute to their world – what matters to them – we matter and are given attention.

      Maz

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