There’s been a noticeable shift in consumer behavior as of late, and brands are taking notes. There have never been so many marketers using so many channels to grab the public's attention. And, at the same time, there have never been so many consumers avoiding traditional advertising any way they can.
Curiously, many marketers continue to focus on chasing brand awareness in a climate that is particularly unwelcoming for them, one where ads are often too costly and so often ineffective. It's also hard to build a brand through interruption advertising right now, given the world’s state.
What can get overlooked in this mad dash for meaningless clicks and impressions is an arguably even more valuable marketing result than awareness: brand affinity.
Naturally, brand awareness—making sure the masses and notably your target audience knows about you and your products or services—is essential for your marketing plan. But brands that overinvest in awareness at the exclusion of brand affinity—resonating with consumers on a more personal, identity-based level—seriously shortchange themselves.
Brand affinity means that consumers not only know you exist but that they also have a strong connection to you, they identify with your brand's values, and they have great expectations of your brand because of that personal connection. It has been called "the most enduring and valuable level of the customer relationship," and for good reason. Affinity means that the consumer trusts your brand; they recommend it to their friends; they identify with it. It means that the consumer feels he or she is literally part of your brand.
After all, just because somebody has heard of you doesn't mean they care about you—or more to the point, that they will engage with you.
With that in mind, more marketers are boldly embracing the discipline of brand affinity marketing, wherein brands create and distribute long-form, binge-worthy content like podcasts or video series to positively impact the overall sentiment, perception and value of a brand.
In the on-demand era, consumers listen when they want and watch where they want, and marketers need the flexibility to match how people consume media.
Adopting such an approach puts your brand in the company of brand marketers large and small and from a diversity of categories—from Mailchimp and Invision to Redbull and Johnson & Johnson. These companies have made building affinity via binge-worthy content a key element of their marketing plans, with winning results.
And at the end of the day, that is why affinity ultimately trumps awareness: It delivers.
How do we know this? Because consumers take action not when they are merely aware of a brand but when they have affinity for it.
Of course, affinity is largely built into a product or service before any marketing ever happens—think of Apple and its die-hard legion of fans. There are Coke people, and there are Pepsi people. Some travelers choose Hertz, while others prefer Avis.
Marketers have traditionally played up and built on their close connections to consumers via TV spots, digital ads, out-of-home advertising or event sponsorship, to name just a few formats. And, the more complicated a product or solution is, the more time that is needed to understand it and the harder it is for traditional ads to drive growth. Your customers need time to get to know you, and brand affinity can help.
With the evolution of technology, consumer behaviors and preferences have shifted to adopting this affinity concept like never before. No matter the niche, there’s a community out there for it—a group of fans who will be more open to targeted marketing messages via content like long-form videos, podcasts and more.
No longer are fans of video games playing alone in the basement—huge numbers connect with one another via live video, social media and other channels, while scores of others are watching the games being played. Just a few short years ago, the appeal of watching makeup tutorials on YouTube would seem lost on many of us. Now those videos and the influencers they have spawned draw scores of fans who spend countless hours watching—and millions of dollars on the products they discover there.
As with any form of marketing, Lesson No. 1 in building brand affinity is: Know your audience.
Consider the case of Buffer, a social media software company with over 75,000 customers and 1 million social followers. We recently partnered with them to put on their first-ever audio conference, Built to Last. This on-demand audio conference was specifically designed for our shared audience of busy brand marketers that are juggling more than ever before. Now, this super-targeted content might not appeal to every entrepreneur or marketer in either of our audiences, but that's OK. We wanted to speak very clearly and directly to a small but passionate group.
The point is, regardless of your category, the more your brand creates niche content that resonates with your target audience, the more affinity it can build. Podcasts and video series deliver far more value than some uninspiring blog post or boring webcast ever will.
It is understandable, perhaps, that brands may be cautious about investing in long-form content in an age of TikTok and six-second video ads. Yet long-form content presents an enormous opportunity for brands to bolster their brand identity, express themselves creatively and hook in with a fan base hungry not just for more content but for content that holds their interest, makes them laugh and makes them think, that educates them, makes them feel closer to a brand—and makes them take action.
Binge-worthy content consumers can't resist drives real business results; that’s why you need to make brand affinity your ultimate end goal. What can you do today, next month and next year to foster genuine relationships and provide value to your niche audience?