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When was the last time you dumped a brand?

Yes, a brand.

For me, it was last weekend. I turned my back on a lifelong commitment of ‘always’ enjoying McDonald’s.

As my stomach was groaning for a lunchtime snack, my eye caught a glossy and inviting Burger King sign. I was five minutes away from the closest McDonalds; could I do it? Could I cheat on my beloved ‘Double Cheeseburger – without the pickle’? Would I ever again be able to hear ‘I’m lovin’ it’ and not be racked with guilt for choosing something else?

With my mouth watering, I did it. I turned my back on what I thought would be my forever meal and pushed open the door to my new heaven. Ouch.

What kind of special interaction had I felt or seen from McDonald’s over the past few months? Nothing, really. They had given me cheeky discounts and kept banging on about how they offered cheaper prices. But when Burger King caught my attention and offered the same pricing, I asked myself: why walk the extra five minutes?

How could this happen? Well, let’s break it down.

Today, brands are captivated by advertising that generates quick wins. But amid the fast and furious activity, they lose their secret sauce. So much so that the soul of a brand gets lost in translation. It’s a stock market bidding for the lowest price, but not necessarily the highest value.

This is why you should never compromise your brand while running performance marketing. Let’s put on our marketing hat for a second.

Consumers are more conscious of brand values than ever. A year in isolation has made us all more selective, and younger generations are putting culture at the forefront of purchase decisions. We see brands such as Whole Foods getting ‘canceled’ for not allowing employees to wear BLM apparel to work. Their audience requires more than just an eco-conscious identity.

You see, the relationship a brand has with its consumers needs to be built on shared values. This is in no way different to the relationship between a married couple, or a parent and child – with any long-lasting relationship, there are fundamental qualities to consider when evaluating shared values:

  • Communication: Think about how you communicate with your audience. Is your marketing meeting the needs and desires of your consumers?

  • Honesty: Are you being honest with your audience? Is being genuine something you value over presenting false promises?

  • Trust: How can you build further trust with your audience? Show them that no matter what, you have got their back.

Trust is where I see most brands fail. They jump into the lion’s den without any kind of trust-building strategy. They are fixated on acquiring new customers, but with this tunnel vision, they forget to think about who they actually want to impact.  

The result? A consumer-brand relationship without any kind of shared values. You can expect a divorce within weeks, as the next big thing or deal will replace you.

Trust is a fundamental part of being human. It sets the foundation for how we interact and regulates how committed we are. In fact, we are born more inclined to trust than question. As babies, we are desperate to make social connections to fulfill our need for caretaking – it’s hardwired into our brains.

There is no doubt about how important trust is to grow a successful consumer relationship. Once trust is compromised, it’s hard to get back.

What does this mean for your brand?

Building and maintaining your brand loyalty is as important as acquiring customers. If you ghost the customers you already have, they will leave you without a second thought. Think about what makes you special as a brand. Why should a customer stay loyal to you and not jump ship to your competitor?

A campaign with low CPAs and cheap acquisitions might mean success for you today, but not for your future. Think about the long-term. Think about what kind of partner you want to be. Let’s face it, who would choose a one-nighter over a happily-ever-after?

How can you achieve this?

There are two things I want you to focus on ahead of your next marketing campaign:

Listen: If you don’t listen to your partner and understand their needs, you might be out in deep waters my friend. This reflects how a brand should communicate with its audience too.

So, take a step back and ask your audience what they want to hear from you. Set up consumer groups and run audience surveys – figure out what the common values of your audience are before you start shaping your communication plan.

A great example of this is challenger brand Oddbox. They set up their audience advisory panel ‘The Bunch’ earlier this year – inviting their audience to help shape the future of their brand.

Activate media where your audience is, not where the cheapest prices are: If you are fighting an internal bidding war on where the lowest CPAs are, go back to the fundamental relationship qualities. What will give you long-term trust and stability, and not just an intense flame in the now?

Finally, consider how you take a stand. Your audience requires leaders that mirror the progression of society. Don’t step back and be silent; show your support for cultural movements. Allow this support to become a part of who you are. Posting a black square on Instagram for the BLM movement will never be enough. Your audience will see right through you.

If this sparked something inside of you, get in touch and let’s have a chat.

Because, after all, no one wants to be dumped for a Burger King.

Josefine Östvik is senior lead strategist at Tailify.