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Building Brands Online in the Post-Sales Market: Branding Strategy Insider
Customers will talk about your company, its products and services, whether you want them to or not. And online there are a multitude of places to do so. The question is, do you as a brand facilitate or participate? I will argue that you should do both, and tell you why.
It is not unheard of for customers to eulogize - one only has to browse Trip Advisor to see that. It is most definitely not unheard of for customers to complain, or to seek answers to questions or solutions to problems. Consider Apple and BMW. They collaborated on the first proper integration of the iPod and the automobile, and are the only two brands I would consider getting tattooed, were that my thing.
Apple provided a forum for their customers back in 2000. Duane, who has posted 113,365 posts so far, is a 'Level 5' and the number one poster. A blogger said of Duane, "I'm guessing that if you play "Apple Related Trivial Pursuit" with Duane, Duane first kicks your ass and then takes your name." Apple describes the service as a user-to-user support forum where experts and other Apple product users get together to discuss Apple products. You'll find a wealth of information about your favorite Apple hardware and software products that will help you get the most out of your purchase. You can participate in discussions about various products and topics, find solutions to help you resolve issues, ask questions, get tips and advice, and more.
BMW, on the other hand, does not provide a forum for its customers. As a result, a plethora of home-grown forums have arisen from bimmerfest.com to model specific e46fanatics.com , meaning a time-consuming and sometimes fruitless Google search for information. It is still not too late for BMW to enter the fray, and provide value to its customers. Disenfranchising the people who have filled the void is not something I would do - rather BMW could provide:
- a central directory of the forums
There are five key reasons why I think BMW and other brands should do this:
1. It creates a perception that they care about their customers beyond the initial sale.
2. It builds loyalt...
Strength for Online Brands: Branding Strategy Insider
What do United Airlines and Starbucks coffee have in common? Take one of United's U.S. flights, and you'll find out.
On every domestic flight you're served Starbucks coffee. In fact, the deal between the two companies requires flight attendants to say "Starbucks Coffee" when offering in-flight beverages.
What we're seeing is the trend toward brand alliances. Brands that are mutually complementary team up with each other and with their partners' brand missions. A quick look at several major U.S. supermarkets reveals they offer Starbucks coffee. Starbucks cafés are situated in the stores. Starbucks analysed its traffic flow and concluded people are in the mood for a cup of something while waiting around. Successfully selling coffee to such customers optimises revenue flow for both the coffee chain and host establishments. Thus, brand alliances are born that benefit both the consumer and the bottom line.
What's this got to do with online branding? Brand alliances, as we know them, are in the midst of an interesting change. Some years ago, most brand builders would have been aghast at the thought of their brands being seen alongside other brands. Brands should be perceived in exclusivity, they believed. That theory is no longer applicable. It's impossible to be the best in each and every way. That's why complementary companies need each other. Brand builders must identify the best companies within fields/disciplines/product categories that are complementary to their own and team up with them.
The potential for creative thinking in this type of cooperative brand building is massive. Key to its success is to ensure the values and brand propositions of potential brand alliance partners bear clear, relevant relationships with each other.
Australia's national airline, Qantas, built a brand alliance with Hertz. Through it, the airline secures a referral fee and ostensibly offers customers an enhanced service. The World Health Organization (WHO) teamed with British Airways to collect money for its cause.
Be prepared to see some innovative and interesting brand combinations in the future. Expect to see the trend mirrored online. The strategy ensures consumers are exposed to favoured brands in new contexts, their product knowledge expands, and their brand use becomes more versatile.
Think through every aspect of your brand's use. Determine how to fit your customers' current product utilization into new contexts. If you sell flowers, team up with a vase manufacturer, teddy bear supplier, or balloon merchant. If you sell computers, get together with an education provider and offer educational programs to help customers learn more about their computers. Think intuitively. What makes sense to your customers? Identify a potential use area for your brand, select a brand whose values marry well with your brands, and propose a branding partnership.
Brand alliances are set to become a dominant market...