As a marketing researcher and consumer advocate, I’ve long held that no business would be in business without customers, and that the consumer-brand relationship is paramount in all business activities. The Internet has made these relationships both more intimate and interactive. And selling can be a bit more difficult in this environment. Many of the old “relationship” rules no longer hold up.
“Brand Butlers” – just the clever name – caught my eye recently. Coming out of TrendWatching.com, this opinion piece says there’s a transition underway: “Why serving is the new selling” is their proposition.
The argument is that recession-weary consumers are “jaded, time-poor, and pragmatic” and are looking for “uber-relevant services” offered anywhere, anytime – by companies that show they aren’t in it just for the money (that they care about their customers and their lives).
From a brand perspective, these new, closer relationships allow for greater interaction, more immediate understanding of the customers’ needs (as it directly or indirectly relates to the brand), and greater feedback overall.
Personally, I don’t think is this an entirely new wave or generation of relationship marketing, but rather an outgrowth of a related technology which is allowing for better, softer-sell, sponsored-sell, and generally relationship-building opportunities. (Hence the 2.5 designation.)
Having said that, the Brand Butler paper has some great examples of their new relationship-service proposition. A lot of them are mobile web apps for smartphones and others are web-based or offline. Take a peak.
- Obvious Butler: Mastercard’s ATM Hunter iPhone app allows users to find their nearest ATMs by entering their location or using built-in GPS functionality.
- In the Know Butler: Nike’s True City iPhone app aims to give consumers ‘insider’ information on six European cities, while also allowing users to share their own tips and delivering exclusive Nike offers and information.
- Money-Saving Butler: Sprize, provided by Gap in and around Vancouver, BC, allows shoppers to register online before they shop, and if an item’s price is reduced within 45 days of purchase, their Sprize account will automatically be credited the difference.
- “Finding” Butler: Pet food brand Purina offers a branded application that helps consumers to find ‘Petcentric’ locations in their vicinity.
- Connectivity Butler: vtravelled, launched by Virgin Atlantic, is a social network aimed at creating a global community of travel lovers. The free service allows members to share travel knowledge, thoughts and photos, and access real time updates about destination events and information.
- Health Butler: The Nivea Sun iPhone app is designed to help Brazilians tan safely. The app collects information about the user, suggests the correct SPF to be used on a particular day, and alerts the user when the protection should be reapplied.
- Advice Butler: In 2009, Smirnoff held a series of master-classes for men wanting to become ‘Modern Gentlemen’. Three complimentary classes were delivered in London to a limited number of guests, focusing on classic cocktail making, style consulting and grooming.
- Utility Butlers: The Zipcar iPhone app allows members of the car-sharing service to find, reserve and unlock vehicles using their mobile device. And ColorSnap is a free iPhone app from US paint brand Sherwin-Williams that allows consumers to match the color of a photo taken on their iPhone with over 1,500 colors listed in the Sherwin-Williams database.
Clearly, the focus is on service (not selling) and supporting a brand by supporting key target groups in ways that go beyond the tried and true.
Inspired to come up with you own Brand Butler idea? These ideas are fun and clever. My only suggestion if you’re developing for smartphones is that you develop for the iPhone, Droid, and Blackberry platforms.