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People are fed up with companies that overpromise and underdeliver. So, what does this mean for brand owners?

Achieving brand admiration starts with awareness. This is followed by relevance and ends with love, trust and respect. Together, these are the building blocks that allow businesses to enable (solve problems), entice (provide pleasure) and enrich (reinforce a sense of identity and belonging). 

In the past, marketeers have focused largely on enticement to attract consumers to their brands, using storytelling, emotive advertising and celebrity endorsement to elevate ownership of a product, or use of a service, and equate it with an aspirational lifestyle.

Consumers, who are increasingly marketing savvy and experiencing the pain of a cost of living crisis, are ready for brands to get back to basics and concentrate on doing one thing really well. The pandemic and resulting economic crisis have reminded us all that at the heart of any brand-consumer relationship is human connection.

Think back to the days when, instead of a chatbot or automated phone lines, bank managers knew their clients and their families. Today, we’ve lost this to efficiency, cost-savings and so-called convenience – and now is the time to recapture it. 

These examples shed some insight into how organisations can fail when it comes to generating brand admiration:

  • Broadband: Many have tried to change their broadband provider at some point, only to find their current provider is determined not to let them leave. Spending hours on the phone to be offered a 50 per cent discount on the current package is not only deeply insulting when you have paid full price for several years, but the interrogation about why you are switching can be tantamount to brand bullying. 
  • Apple: Representing a branding benchmark to which many aspire, Apple has a devoted fan base. The ritual of unwrapping a new MacBook Air can leave an Apple Store in hushed silence and the customer feeling like a celebrity. But purchasing a new model directly from Apple on the day of launch requires dedication: failure to pay online and reserve it beforehand could easily mean there are none left by the time you make it to the store. This may be part of Apple’s strategy to fuel desire by making its products difficult to acquire, but it’s a strange way to treat loyal consumers.

It’s not that difficult to engender a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction among customers (which can very quickly be banked towards long-term brand loyalty), but every point in the transaction process must deliver on the brand's promise.

Here are five tips on how to effectively develop brand admiration:

1. Make sure your brand promises are authentic. Know and articulate what your brand stands for and ensure this runs through the organisation.

2. Remember your employees are your primary marketing tool. You should value and empower them.

3. Get back to basics. Concentrate on enabling rather than enticing, and you'll overdeliver on one promise instead of underdelivering on several.

4. Make life easier for consumers in every interaction you have with them.

5. Invest in the human connections – and really know your customers. 

This is all about investing in relationships – with all their nuances, messiness and heartache – not about brand surveys. Connections solve problems, so smile and create a sense of belonging, and this will ultimately lead to consumer happiness.

This article draws on research explored in "Brand Admiration" by C.W. Park (University of Southern California), Debbie MacInnis (University of Southern California) and Andreas Eisingerich (Imperial College). 

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Andreas Eisingerich

About Andreas Eisingerich

Professor of Marketing - Academic Director, MSc Strategic Marketing (online, part-time)
Dr Andreas B. Eisingerich is Professor of Marketing at Imperial College Business School and Programme Director of the Full-Time MBA.

You can find the author's full profile, including publications, at their Imperial Profile

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