The relationship between brands and consumers has experienced enormous changes over the past few years. The times when brands used to tell consumers what they needed or wanted are over. People know exactly what to buy because they ask questions, google products, read reviews, research and compare… Consumers have changed and therefore, they relate to brands in a completely different way. So what do brand-consumer relationships look like in a consumer-first world?

Multi-directional communication between peers.

Thanks to the emergence of new media formats and possibilities like blogs and social media, communication has changed. People have immediate access to information and all they need to share their opinion with the world is just a click. Brands and consumers meet in the same virtual space and the whole interaction happens at the same level. It is not top-down anymore. One-way messages have transformed into dynamic peer-to-peer conversations where brands have been humanized.

People connect with brands that share the same values and ideals and that are not afraid to defend them in public. In other words: consumers demand from brands that they behave in a more human way. Though, they are still brands and therefore, they should find the right tone and balance between too friendly and too impersonal.

Subjectivity and individualization matter to each one of us.

The constant exposition on social media from brands, institutions and individuals has largely contributed to reinforce the unique needs of customers. People can stand out of the crowd and speak loud and clear about their wishes and hopes and brands need to engage.

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The challenge is understanding how to use tons of anonymous data to connect with individuals. The solution is to listen. To reflect upon customers’ insights and to look around and pay attention to the changes and issues of the world we are living in. The next necessary step is to communicate in the same language. That has to happen on the same channels, at the same time. Moreover, brands need to talk about what really matters.

In other words: people want brands that are transparent and ethical. Also, brands that care for them and contribute positively to their lives as individuals.

Action and brand transparency go hand in hand.

However, people are pretty tired of a world where so many promises are broken and so many words don’t mean a thing. We all appreciate a certain level of consistency, don’t we? Customers demand deeds AND words from brands. The right words are just the first step for brands to establish a real connection with their customers. They will choose brands that say that, what they want to hear. This means that, in general, we all prefer brands that share our same ideals. But this alone is not enough.

Customers want brands to act with consistency and transparency. This involves, for instance, not just supporting the movement Black Lives Matter on Twitter, but being actually diverse. Not just saying “there is not planet B”, but selling eco-friendly products, etc.

Every brand has its own voice too.

Brands have to speak up. It’s time for them to become more than some kind of impersonal entity that tells people what to buy. Now, people are demanding that these online communities become real and that brands and customers become effectively part of the same space, virtual or not. Therefore, brands need to show their humanity, support people, improve their lives and be transparent.

Does it sound challenging? Then look at it the other way around: a customer-centric perspective on how to strategize brand-customer relationships is all brands need to have in order to take advantage of this opportunity. People are saying what they want loud and clear. Brands need to listen and take action.

How has brand-consumer relationship changed?

Before it was the brands who had the upper hand and told consumers what they needed. Today, consumers have a lot of information and they can choose what to buy, positioning themselves at the same level as brands.

What do consumers expect from brands?

Consumers are looking for transparency, accountability and genuine relationships with the brands they consume. Just selling products is not enough, brands need to have a higher purpose in order to catch people’s attention.