A Relationship Is More Than A Moment

Sometimes it seems as if 2014 is the year of the "moment" in mobile marketing. But moments are, by definition, transient, short-lived and often irrelevant. A moment without a connection before or after it, with nothing to ground it, has no hope of driving genuine and lasting behavior. 

Do you ever come home from work to find one of those fat envelopes stuffed with local coupons in your mailbox? While this may be very targeted, is it relevant? If these advertisers know where I live, have a good idea of the makeup of my household, my income level, and possibly my political leanings, why do these envelopes mostly go directly from my mailbox to the kitchen trash?

The reason is simple: I don't have a relationship with these vendors, they don’t “know” me and they have not built trust with me. Yes, this is a targeted moment, but the "spray and pray" reach-focused approach is roughly the same as your child guessing the number you are thinking of between one and 100. Maybe, in the extraordinary case, he guesses correctly, but the vast majority of the time he is wrong, leading to exhaustion and even frustration on both sides.  

Now let's rewind that scenario, and imagine instead that I come home from work and run into my neighbor who tells me about a great new café in our town. Suddenly everything changes. I want to hear and learn more. Why? Because I know this person, we’ve attended the same block parties and wave hello while dropping our kids off at school.    

In short, we have a relationship. This is why the best marketing is based on relationships, which can truly encourage behavior and an emotional response in a way that banner ads, coupon offers and pop-up messages cannot. The conversations you engage with your audience must lead with respect and integrity. This is true authenticity...and, they know the difference.

This phenomenon is especially relevant in the mobile environment, where consumers have a deep and emotional relationship with their smartphones. They expect the experiences they engage with from publishers and advertisers to be equally tailored and relevant. This is the goal -- to build the relationship through strong, relevant content and enable consumers to participate, thus enabling your brand to join the conversation.

The brands I admire most cultivate long-term relationships with their audiences, who then become advocates and consumers. It must happen in this order. American Express is a classic example. The focus on relationships shows right on their card: "Member since 2004." They have been around since 1850, but as their new partnership with Uber shows, they are continuously evolving and discovering new ways to enhance the relationship and provide value to its members.

It is not about moments -- it’s all about the relevance throughout the daily routine of people's lives. Starbucks is another great relationship company. Think about the familiarity you feel when you walk into any Starbucks store, or even better, when you visit "your" cafe with the barista who knows just how you like your coffee. It's no surprise that Starbucks is also a heavy player in mobile; the new Starbucks card is an app. Because more and more, mobile is the place where you build relationships and connect “at your fingertips.”

Some brands fall into a common trap and attempt to substitute volume for quality. But consumers are numb to moments. They see millions of them every day. Some may be relevant, some even funny... but, in the end, what moves people to act is a relationship. It can be hard and must be calculated, but there is no compromise for investing in building a true, lasting connection with your audience.

1 comment about "A Relationship Is More Than A Moment".
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  1. Chris Westerkamp from Apogee Partners, November 6, 2014 at 2:37 p.m.

    There is no doubt that creating a relationship with a brand is ideal and powerful. However, comparing American Express to companies that typically use direct mail such as ValPac is a bit of a stretch. Different tools for different jobs. Consumers use a car wash or window replacement company very differently than your credit card/financial services company. The coupon system works - they've been around for a long time. They deliver an ROI or they wouldn't get repeat customers. They move the needle. but they are not for every body. Don't unfairly put a viable advertising vehicle down just to make a point - one that frankly is pretty obvious.

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