If you were invited to five different barbecues this weekend, how would you decide which to attend?
Hostess with the mostest
Imagine that every barbecue is advertising the best hot dogs, the most succulent ribs, the sweetest baked beans, the coldest limeade—the works. They all say it's going to be the best Saturday evening of the summer: there'll be yard games, awesome people, and the perfect weather.
So how do you choose?
Let’s get down to it. Anyone can have a barbecue. Anyone can say they have the best food, people, venue, or activities at their particular party. Anyone can say anything. And consumers know that. Which is why most people will go with what they know—in this case, the party’s hostess—rather than with what they're being told. Which of your barbecue-throwing friends is funniest/most inviting/least obnoxious?
That’s the barbecue you’ll invest some time in. This guy may not have a pool and you might have to drive further to get to his house, but hey, you like this guy. He's nice. Funny. Not overbearing, and he makes sure to introduce you to other cool people while you eat some rockin’ corn on the cob.
And so it is with advertising. People choose to shop with brands whose personalities resonate with theirs. In a review of accepted research on the subject, experts state that more and more companies are seeking to find the right emotional connection with their customers. “This is motivated by the finding that such connections lead to higher levels of consumer loyalty, which increases company financial performance.” When it comes to a specific product or service, most brands offer similar benefits, and heaven knows they're all saying they've got what you want. But you’re likely to go with what speaks to you—the one brand that seems like a good fit for you and your lifestyle.
So what does that mean for companies who need to advertise their respective barbecues? How do you appeal to your target? How do you make sure you’re turning acquaintances into long-term brand advocates?
The Friend Zone
You have to pay attention to what your target wants and needs. Be where they are. Listen to them and execute based on what you learn from your audience. There is plenty of research dedicated to helping you speak your target’s native language. The key is not to interrupt their flow; just be where they are and join in on the conversation. And, most of all, be genuine. Be a true friend. Don't try and lie about who you are or what you'll have at your brand barbecue. Because, contrary to some beliefs, consumers are smart. Really, they get it. And whether they decide to come back to your barbecue next week, bringing friends along with them, is almost entirely up to you.