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Brands with benefits
November 20, 2006, 6:50 am
Filed under: Zeitgeist

I like the brands that I work with to be friends with their consumers.

I was reading an article about ‘friends with benefits’, which is not a bad way of describing the current relationship between brands and consumers- mostly useful, sometimes amusing and yet there is no commitment, real affinity or long term relationship.

Take Aristotle’s concept of friendship. He proposed three models: friendship based on utility (a friend who provides something useful to us); friendship based on pleasure (we enjoy a friend’s company); and friendship based on virtue or mutual admiration (we find a friend who shares our values).

You can see in the Brand Utility movement the notion of the first model. It has at it’s heart the notion that, in order to achieve engagement, marketers should create widgets or things that consumers can actually use.

Undoubtedly most brands have surfed the wave of Pleasure: the friendship has been based on amusing and entertaining brand experiences.

Increasingly brands also have a Virtue component too, usually bundled away at the back. There are, of course great examples like this , this and this.

As Aristotle would argue, the reason friendships based on utility are incomplete, is that they are motivated by short-term considerations and are contingent on changeable circumstances. Similarly, friendships based on pleasure are contingent on feelings and accidental conditions. The friendship of mutual admiration is most enduring, and complete, because they “wish well for each other for each other’s own sake”, in addition to being useful and pleasant to each other.

I like to say that employed individually and without complexity and integration into a brand’s persona, these approach models simply create brand ephemera

Get the mix right:

  • Does my brand story create Utility?
  • Is my brand story a Pleasure, and does it deliver enjoyable interactions?
  • Does my brand care? Is it Admirable?
  • and you’d move your brand beyond the five minute fling and into something that would last.


    11 Comments so far
    Leave a comment

    Beautiful post. I’ve been driving pretty hard lately for making things that have real, tangible value, and this put that in greater perspective. Good stuff.

    Comment by Paul McEnany

    i think that digital media requires brands to actually provide benefits and more often than not tangible utility. the brands i’m closetst too, the one’s in my world are the one’s i use everyday as an integral part of my life – google, mozilla, apple, wordpress etc. other brands have to work harder to get in my world if they’re just trying to offer pleasure or be admirable [aspirational?] because i’m sceptical of people, brands and concepts that don’t *deliver*.

    Comment by jamesb

    Nice post. I think another angle on the brand-consumer friendship metaphor is that of simple shared interests. A less intense (perhaps more shallow) alternative to mutual appreciation and shared values. As you say the balance must still be there – the substance of the relationship may still be utility (e.g. through shared information) and pleasure (comfort / reinforcement / self-identification etc).

    Comment by mause

    Thanks for your comments guys!

    Paul: I have my pom-poms out to cheer you on your way to ‘real’ and ‘tangible value’. Gogogo!

    James: delivery is the deal isn’t it? I think that brands underestimate our yearning for relationships that are based on something other than glitz.

    Mause: I do think you’re right in identifying that not all brand relationships need be intense think shared interest is really the basis for any commercial relationship- it has to be mutually beneficial. I really do think that if you want to create affinity and advocates you need to move a little beyond this.

    Comment by katiechatfield

    […] post I wrote a while ago explored that over used term “relationship” in relation to brands: […]

    Pingback by Get Shouty

    the analogy between friendship and branding is superb… godspeed!

    Comment by Ankit Desai

    I was righteous reading a query on how to persuade your down comforter all puffy again and practically all the answers said that you can relate fool someone some tennis balls in the dryer to amount to that happen. So how does that work exactly? Why does this happen? Can you power something else pretty than tennis balls? Appreciation you!

    Comment by Squidgido

    I don’t have the heart to delete this SPAM- Appreciation You! that’s awesome!

    Comment by katiechatfield

    For a second everything went quiet in the cab, then the driver said, “Look mate, don’t ever do that again. You scared the daylights out of me!”

    Comment by pexgelotoophY

    Hack again?!

    Comment by Krasochka

    […] are not alone, Brands with benefits, Today’s Top Sorts and Sites, […]

    Pingback by how long is the truth? | Get Shouty

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