Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
“By combining companies, we believe will be able to…enhance the customer experience, increase customer value and put ourselves in an even stronger position to help shape and lead the next generation of shopping,” So said Mike George, QVC’s president and CEO.
But will they?
When brands merge are they diluting the brand message and connection with consumers? With so many mergers and acquisitions recently, you have to wonder what it means for brands and their connection with consumers.
L’Oréal which owns 34 brands has a unique perspective—let the brand be itself and be what consumers want. Jean-Paul Agon, L'Oréal CEO, noted, “Brands have to be authentic, but for [consumers], it means the brand is transparent and there is sincerity in what they express… We have to adapt permanently, or even anticipate permanently, the consumer’s demands…”
The lesson for brand managers going though mergers it that it’s essential to both respect and reassure consumers who have made a financial and time investment in selecting and patronizing “their brand.” When things “change” due to merger, an emotional connection could be at jeopardy if doubt sets in that that their original decision to become a customer is no longer valid.
The Harvard Business Review noted that an emotional connection between a brand and its consumers is a significant differentiator. “On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.”Here’s a bit of insight they share that brand managers should take note of:
- “Most companies lack a strategic objective that spans the customer journey.”
- “Our research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows that the most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond mere customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level – tapping into their fundamental motivations.”
The advice In our ERDM learnings from 15,000+ hours of VoC researchinterviews, consumers told us that understanding them and developing relationships is a competitive differentiator for maintaining a strong brand connection:
- “Your generic communication make it obvious that you don’t understand me. You are trying distill my complex needs into simple generalities to make it easier for you … and useless to me!”
- “You marketers don’t understand that personalization is valuable … it forges strong ties when there is the almost-certain outreach from competition.”
One of the issues in meeting consumer connection needs according to Adobe Digital Insights (ADI), is that brands think that they are delivering this experience but according to consumers—they are not.
Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at ADI, explains why value is always the key to connections.“[Brands] have to demonstrate value to the consumer. Companies are still not built to be able to do that…. At a time when marketers are competing for time and attention…Organizations, themselves, are fragmented, and, on top of that, their technology is fragmented, making it difficult to make progress…We’re in a really high-pressure environment where marketers need to not only protect their loyal base, but also efficiently steal from the competition… The winners are going to be the companies that have the technology and chops to serve relevant, personalized communications to consumers, consistently…”
- Consumers want meaningful relationships with brands. When doubt creeps into a consumer’s mind they lose the original motivation that sparked their connection in the first place. Brands need to be sincere and clear in all touch points so that the value “reason” is continually reinforced and present.
- An emotional consumer connection with your company is a primary driver of engagement. Actively involved consumers are far more likely to be not only be top purchasers but also vocal and authentic brand ambassadors. But this takes a continual commitment to demonstrate understanding and develop highly personalized experiences.
- To grow, companies need to protect the investment they have in their already loyal consumers while simultaneously reaching out to new prospects. And, finding ways to be relevant to both.
With so much merging and blending, the question is; will these combined companies thrive or not? However, one thing is for sure; consumers will want proof that any new union deserves their patronage. In an interview, Doug Rose, SVP of programming and marketing for QVC, said, “Amid the rapid transformation of our business, our recipe for cultivating loyalty has not changed: To deliver a shopping experience that fosters enduring relationships, rooted in trust.”