The relationship that brands have with a consumer has changed. Lots of brands interpreted this as meaning that they had to become a consumer’s best friend in order to achieve success. However is a brand as a friend what people want? There is a symbiotic relationship now between the best brands and the fans which are their engine room. These brands aren’t looking to become your friend, but more a companion brand
A companion brand is a brand that has a symbiotic relationship with a person. There are two key elements to this, firstly it is based on a constant relationship rather than built around campaigns set out by the brand. Secondly it is completely transparent, the person knows that the brand is there to help them in order to increase purchase activity and advocacy. There is no underhand feeling but an open and mutually beneficial relationship.
However a companion brand must serve a clear purpose and give a reason for people to want to engage with it.
For example within a lifestyle brand this generally works across 3 simple stages:
1 – Gives you inspiration of what you want to be – the hook
2 – The product – the start of the relationship
3 – Living up the product / making the most of it to achieve the lifestyle – the companionship
Companion brands tend to be well-established brands that are looking to build off high awareness in order to start creating a strong impact on audiences. They do this so that advocacy becomes its strongest communication channel. Their approach is long term, constant and very targeted, based on a person’s behavior, needs and desires. Due to a mix of content, applications and platforms, it almost feels as though everyone has their own personal relationship with the brand.
Although this has a much more personal approach, there is still a role for a full and varied channel mix:
Partnerships – To create exclusive content to inspire people to live up to the products
PR – product awareness and inspiration to live up to your products
Platforms – Product exploration and education
Applications – Personal communication to help people live up to their products
Media – promotion of those that live up to their products
Events – reward and challenge people living up to their products
Social – the live personality of the brand and connection between brand and advocates
Social is at the heart of true companion bands.
It is about companionship and a fluidity of conversation and chat. Social is the proximity of two people or a consumer and a brand. Therefore it is about total always on back and forth transparency and conversation. The future for a companion brand might be a newsroom of 20 writers, like the brains of the brand in a London HQ who are speaking as a collective conscious to the many millions of fans who interact with them. They live, laugh, reflect, have spats, this is like true companionship not solely the domain of the cold out dated brand bible.
By Jonathan Fraser, Global Head of Strategy & Ideas at Holler.
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