Why relationship building is more important than ever in advertising

Advertising in the 21st century is an interactive experience, and any business that fails to buy into this new reality does so at its own risk.

“Traditionally, the company or brand would deliver a message or create a campaign that focused on one-way communication. This is what we stand for, this is what we offer. Buy this product or service,” says Danielle Way-Ramirez, Ph.D., coordinator and assistant professor of marketing at Woodbury University. “Today, consumers need to feel that a strategy or a product is actually being sold to them.”

Advertising has come a long way from the days of radio, newspaper and the Big Three television networks. Today, there are seemingly limitless ways to deliver a message to potential consumers. The challenge is reaching the consumers who are interested in what you’re selling.

Smart Business spoke with Way-Ramirez about the evolution of advertising and the best way to reach your target audience.

What goes into building a strong brand?

Brands are strong and successful because they engage consumers. The brand’s mission always supersedes what the company is selling at that moment. Many companies like to change their mission or the direction of their message based on what they are selling at that moment. But when you don’t have that foundation of what you’re all about, it makes it very difficult to build brand awareness.

Look at companies that have built strong brands and understand their platform. How do they want to be viewed by the consumer? It’s likely that there is a consistent message or theme that comes through with anything that the company is selling. That’s the brand, and a strong brand builds consumer loyalty.

You may see a commercial for a company that sells phones or tablets that has nothing to do with the phone or tablet. The company is at a point where it is not necessarily selling a product anymore. It is selling the feeling that the product gives its consumers. There is a personality attached to that brand and what it stands for.

How can a company forge that deep connection with consumers?

It’s important for companies to remember that despite all the different ways there are to communicate, you’re still communicating with people. We spend time doing market research on consumers, but we should be doing research with consumers. It allows for the consumer to build a relationship with your brand and make them feel important, wanted and appreciated.

Talk to consumers about their interests, rather than the interests of your brand. So often, brands talk about and promote the message that they feel consumers want to hear. You need to really listen to what consumers are talking about and dig into understanding their desires and interests. Let the consumer lead the conversation and make sure you understand that one size, or one strategy, does not fit all. When you do the research first and you do it with the consumer, you’ll be much more tuned in to what they are looking for.

What is the value of brand awareness?

The impact of increasing awareness of your brand is not always parallel with the volume of consumption of your brand. Just because there is more awareness does not mean more dollars for your business or that more people are purchasing from your company.

A few years ago, Tommy Hilfiger said the audience that was purchasing his items was not the audience he had in mind when he started his brand. It’s a mistake many people make. They try to target a specific group, but that’s not necessarily the group that is most interested in what they are selling. So having a target audience is good, but you always need to keep your eyes and ears open to know who else is interested in you. Listen and participate in those conversations whether online or in the more traditional sense. Go to where the consumers are and don’t wait for them to come to you.

If you have a younger consumer market that largely uses online platforms, that’s where you need to be. If you have a market that does better with face-to-face communication, then that’s what needs to happen.

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