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Customer relationships are built on shared values.

This may sound like heresy but the term “brand relationships” has been so over used in the marketing vocabulary that it’s meaning has become – meaningless. Customers don't want relationships with your brand.

With so many various definitions out there in brand land, it’s little wonder business owners and their marketing teams tend to forget the dynamic aspects of relationship building with customers and clients is not about branding at all – but shared values. At the end of the day, we are all customers and consumers of something. As marketers, we tend to forget this and lose our empathy. As consumers and customers, we buy for deeper reasons beyond our needs. (By the way, the stuff we “need” is always purchased at the lowest price possible).

Customers build relationships with your business based on your shared values.

So much marketing simply talks at people. The idea of brand marketing being a real conversation with a beloved customer is still a lofty ideal in most organizations. For many marketing organizations, it’s still about selling something to somebody – commonly referred to in the parlance of our time as “brand engagement”. Call it what you will, the mission of marketing has always been to create demand and sell stuff. As the saying goes, people hate to be sold but they love to buy. People buy from people they like and have affinity with.

People aren’t lured into enduring relationships because you have a cool logo, make funny ads and offer coupons to convince them to buy your stuff. People (like you and me) want authenticity and trust in our relationships.

Before we allow brands into our world, we need to perceive them as just like us. Like a trusted and valued friend who has our well being at the heart of the relationship, your “idea of value” must represent a shared value not in abundant supply elsewhere.

The idea of value you bring to the marketplace must be genuinely based in the greater good of the community served, not in greater profit margins for your enterprise. (By the way, when an enterprise serves its community in this way, they command premium pricing from customers who are more than happy to pay). When the idea of value is shared, vibrant customer communities will grow and flourish around it. If you’re just selling something, you’ll be playing a numbers game and all you will create is a halfway house of transient customers coming and going in a place where need and low price intersect.

It’s high time for business owners and their marketing teams to stop branding and start contributing more and greater value to people. Doing real good is good business. The key to real customer connection, engagement, and loyalty lies in providing more use value to them than you take in cash value from them. Shared values is the only path to competitive advantage.


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