From 'product branding' to 'social branding' - how do you do that?

How do you become loved as a company or brand, do you get loyal customers and are you seen as human? Corné Dijkmans (Breda University of Applied Sciences) and Diederick Janssens (brand strategist and business coach) took the 'basics' on how to apply the principles of 'social branding' during the Travel Congress prior to the Vakantiebeurs in half an hour.

How do you become loved as a company or brand, do you get loyal customers and are you seen as human? Corné Dijkmans (Breda University of Applied Sciences) and Diederick Janssens (brand strategist and business coach) took the 'basics' on how to apply the principles of 'social branding' during the Travel Congress prior to the Vakantiebeurs in half an hour.

Diederick Janssens has specialized in 'love brands' over the past fifteen years. He states that in order to understand the relationship between brand and customer, you must start at the base. How do we function as a person? Janssens illustrates this by looking at how a primate applies a survival strategy.

For the ape, the most important thing is to remain a group at all times. If he does not, he will become lonely and he will not be able to save it. He will therefore always want to enter into a relationship and makes emotional decisions to eventually become friends, love and alliances. He does not take these emotional decisions when he needs a device (for example, a stick). He is looking for a stick that is suitable for what he needs at that moment and simply throws the stick away when it is no longer needed, or has found a better one. These are therefore rational decisions.

The monkey's comparison also applies to people (or consumers) who enter into relationships with companies, organizations and websites.

On the one hand, you have rational elements in purchasing decisions such as 'being handy', sales, efficiency, promotions and promotions, et cetera. On the other hand, the relationship is central and so elements such as being sympathetic, reliability, personal reaction and recognizable identity apply.

Put simply, the rational side concerns the customer and 'you' and the emotional side concerns the relationship and 'we'.

Many travel companies are on a rational side

When we make the transition to the travel industry, we see that many companies are often on the rational side. For example, they spend money on SEA campaigns and TV commercials to approach the consumer time and time again based on price, actions and customer focus. According to Janssens, the misery is that this has to be repeated every year. The customer is not loyal and therefore makes a choice every year on rational arguments.

On the other side of the spectrum, on the emotion, for example, is a company such as Tony Chocolonely, which has a mission from its DNA to make 100 percent slave-free chocolate and thus creates a lot of free publicity and goodwill and therefore spends zero euros on promotion.

The label rationally applies among other things to Ryanair that is purely on the price, but also to phenomena such as adblockers, the call-me-not registers, civil servants who act from the system, and so on. Things that I see as a means and that I only use when I need it (or means to resist me). On the emotional side you will find loyal customers, such as those of Charlies Travel, sprs.me, Coolblue and Better Places. All names of brands that I can build a relationship with because they take a personal approach to me.

For those who do not know Charlies Travel yet, this is an organization in South Africa that sells around. Started by Charlie himself, but now with a turnover of more than 2 million and 65 people in service no longer a small player. Yet they carry on the 'human voice' well. As a website visitor, it seems as if you only mail Charlie when you are in contact with them.

How do you manage this? How do you become more human as a brand?

Elemental choices

In his doctoral research, Corné Dijkmans of Breda University of Applied Sciences has extensively zoomed in on the interactivity of companies and their effects on the relationships between companies and consumers. He also says that many of our choices regarding products and brands are fairly elementary in nature.

Dijkmans states that in fact two questions are important when assessing people:

  1. How do I estimate the intention of the person I am dealing with? (heat)
  2. Can this person also fulfill this intention? (competence)

In this way we can place our 'assessment' of people in a matrix from these two questions. With heat on one axis and competence on the other.

Heat is here for things like:

  • Having good intentions
  • Friendliness
  • Sincerity and honesty
  • Reliability, helpfulness
  • Understanding, generosity

Competence stands for things such as:

  • Efficient, capable
  • Smart, competent
  • Knowledge and experience
  • Effective

This applies to people, but research by Malone and Fiske (2013) (the book 'The Human Brand') shows that this also applies to our relationships with companies and brands.

From these two axes you can see in the photo above how companies can be classified as not being warm-not competent, warm-not competent, not warm-competent, warm-competent. The customer can then generate feelings of sympathy, aversion, jealousy or pride and admiration for the company, depending on the quadrant in which the company is located.

Human fire

According to Dijkmans, especially in these digital times, it is extremely important to build up 'human' relationships as a company, where we also have a human voice (with a human voice) one-on-one from the human fire-mind. one talking to the customer. This 'conversational human voice' includes elements such as:

  • Inviting rhetoric
  • Personal, warm, informal
  • Admit mistakes
  • Use humor
  • Endure criticism
  • Speed ​​of reaction

If this is properly applied, this form of communication can lead to more engagement and a better reputation for the company, something Dijkmans also found in his research on data from KLM and their social media department that he used.

Dijkmans and Janssens argue with this presentation for a 'relationship renaissance' in which the relationship between the business and the consumer will once again become central and will be more humanized. In my opinion, the relationship is also the only one in which you can really distinguish yourself as a company, especially if your company does not focus on the price. Janssens says: "If you are not number 1 in your industry (on price or quality) you will have to invent yourself in a different way." The task for us as an industry to keep doing this every time.

More information about Dijkmans' research can be found here.