Is There a Serious Issue With the Whole Customer-Brand Relationship Thing?

I came across this great quote from Anthony Robbins on relationship and I want to share it with you:

The only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place THAT YOU GO TO GIVE and not a place that you go to take.

Coming across this quote has rekindled the struggle that I have had with the relationship thing between the organisation/brand and customers. Why?

We live in a self-seeking, self-interested, self-centred ideology and context. Customers are expecting companies to reward them for their loyalty. These rewards can be in terms of price discounts, higher levels of service, special privileges etc. Brands/organisations have engaged in the relationship thing because of promises made by gurus/consultants/marketing professors. What promises? Promises of higher revenues, margins and profits. How? According to these ‘gurus’ customers in a relationship will paying higher prices and buy more from the brand.

Do you see the issue? From the brand viewpoint it is worth entering into the relationship so that the brand can take more – revenues and profits – from the relationship. From the customer viewpoint it is worth entering into a relationship if they can get more value (price discounts, higher levels of service, privileges..) out of the brands.

This reminds me of the prisoners dilemma where the ideal course of action is for you to encourage the other party to cooperate whilst you defect. And as such this occurs to be the use of the word/concept of ‘relationship’ masking a ‘selfishness/greed’ orientation/behaviour. Which may explain why it is that with all the talk of ‘relationship’ there are so few brands that actually build relationships and cultivate loyalty.

Oh, if you are up for a refreshing take on the customer/brand relationship thing then I recommend the following slide deck from Martin Weigel, head of planning at Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam:

How to (not) Fail from Martin Weigel

This is the deck that brought to the surface my unease with the relationship thing. And it shows up for me as a great deck – one that speaks uncomfortable/unsettling truths. I’d love to hear your take on this.

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