Contributed by Kathy Oneto, VP, Brand Strategy of Anthem

Kathy Oneto

It sounds a bit implausible, but at the intersection of a macro trend and a consumer trend is the opportunity for brands to step up and fill a void to create meaningful, trustworthy relationships with consumers. Marred from events following the global financial meltdown to recent exposés of misbehavior throughout the world, today’s cultural environment is one in which trust still needs to be earned. Marry this with the fact that, despite how digitally connected we are, there’s been a decrease in physical human interaction. In this environment, it provides brands the opportunity to earn that trust and form and deepen relationships with consumers. In the marketplace, we see brands doing this with two strategies: providing solutions and demonstrating how they can be with consumers throughout the stages of their lives and becoming a trusted partner, always by their sides.

Google is an example of a brand employing the first strategy to become a “brand for life.” For its Google Chrome product, the company’s communications strategy has taken a “lifetime” approach, demonstrating how its bevy of offerings can be utilized at multiple points in one’s life. For instance, Google’s “Dear Sophie” television advertisement from last year is based on a true story and shows how a father kept a digital scrapbook of his daughter’s life by using Gmail, YouTube, and Picasa to capture important memories from the day she was born through her toddler years. In another commercial, “Jess Time,” Google Hangout is shown to play a primary role in a father’s attempt to stay close with his daughter as she transitions to college life. Google is promising to be there for all the moments that count.

Subaru is another brand trying to deepen its consumer connections by building lifelong relationships with its owners, positioning themselves as a trustworthy partner. As expressed in its ad, “Best Friend,” the company markets its automobiles as a reliable choice for all the stages in one’s life when an XV Crosstrek is likened to a man’s faithful dog, equally devoted to him as he transitions from being single to starting a family. The commercial underlines Subaru’s commitment to provide consistently dependable cars and be a brand that owners can continually count on every time they turn to purchase a new car throughout their lifetime—“we’re lucky, it’s not every day you find a companion as loyal as a Subaru.”

Wells Fargo also positions itself as a trusted partner in its “Together We’ll Go Far” campaign. The TV ads feature families at different points in their lives and show how Wells Fargo helps them achieve their “life stage goals.” In one ad, called “College,” parents wonder if their son is ready for college and if they themselves are prepared to finance it, but after they are shown spending time with a Wells Fargo representative, the ad concludes with the parents dropping their son off at his dorm. More recently, Wells Fargo has also been positioning itself in a similar vein with small business owners—as partners in launching and sustaining small businesses. And their actions follow: this past fiscal year, the company approved a record amount of small business administration (SBA) loans—$1.24 billion—making them the leading SBA 7(a) lender in
dollar volume.

Today brands have an opportunity to go beyond delivering just product functions and their related emotional benefits to laddering even higher to more meaningful human-related benefits such as trust, reliability, and support. When brands approach their relationships with consumers with this type of human perspective, they can earn real loyalty that lasts beyond just point-in-time product usage, building bonds that can last a lifetime.

Kathy Oneto is Vice President of Brand Strategy at Anthem, a global creative agency that actively connects brands with people by amplifying desirability—creating an insatiable thirst for brands from package design to brand campaign to drive brand performance, where she leads client and brand engagements across a range of industries from consumer packaged goods to retail to technology. Oneto is the creator and editor of Anthem’s quarterly Sightings report, which provides inspiring observations from around the globe. She frequently writes and speaks on branding and marketing issues, as well as the topic of women. Oneto graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in Commerce and has an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

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