By Hâfi Martinsdóttir
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes | 1520 words
By now we all know that soulless transactions and cookie-cutter interactions just aren’t going to cut it. The world is changing rapidly, as are your customers, especially in the last few months. Savvy consumers no longer want to be treated like numbers in a database and I think we can all agree that there’s nothing holistic about fast paced consumerism. Instead we are seeing an exciting shift in our collective needs for emotional connections within business.
A growing demand, or even a hunger, for more personal long-term relationships with the brands we do business with is emerging. We want to hear your stories, get to know you – the people behind the brand and understand why you do what you do.
With pay checks being cut and jobs furloughed, we will see much more caution around where we spend our hard-earned money. To ensure your business doesn’t get left behind, it’s time to re-examine your brand’s presence and make the changes necessary to increase your ability to bounce back.
This movement for deeper connections has been simmering long before the pandemic hit but we anticipate that the unstable situation that we are all collectively facing will shift us even further towards a deeper appreciation of businesses that actually care who their consumer is, who their employees are and the impact that they have on the world.
The spotlight is shining right now on your business, we are watching how you are interacting with the world. Are you reaching out and taking care of your audience, are you interacting and being supportive from afar? Are you taking care of your employees and their welfare?
This always makes me think of that great quote by Muhammad Ali, “I don’t trust anyone who’s nice to me but rude to the waiter. Because they would treat me the same way if I were in that position.” We care about how you treat your employees. We don’t want to see you take care of us but then neglect your team. We are watching everything about your business, your style, your ethos, your contributions, your tone, your attitude, how you treat everyone from your VIP guests to your cleaners, and we will hold you accountable.
Brands that haven’t yet started fostering emotional connections with their tribe risk appearing cold, distant and out of touch as people will notice they haven’t heard from them much during this crisis. But today is an opportunity to strip back all of the layers and reexamine our brand’s soul, its ethos and develop a story that can be shared and amplified to emotionally connect with our audiences.
In an unpredictable world that is constantly shifting on a day-to-day basis, we have to learn to be nimble, adaptable and above all, transparent. Don’t be afraid to show the world that you’re struggling. We are all struggling. By showing the difficulties you face so openly you allow your audience to connect with you on a more humane level and foster their loyalty for you as they root for you to overcome these hurdles.
Now is not the time to hide as that could potentially risk a brand appearing shallow. Now is the time to fling open the doors, to let us inside. Give us the opportunity to invest our hearts and minds into your brand, let us empathise and understand, share your stories with us and we will feel as though we are a part of your success and will want to grow with you.
Show the world what your brand stands for. We want to experience your brand, we want to get to know your team, your managers, the business owners. We want to hear your stories, feel your personalities and understand what you are all about.
We have been seeing the status quo being broken down before our very eyes with CEOs delivering board meetings on their sofas with children running around, babies crying and dogs barking. This is human, this is real. We are starved of these connections, of this humanity. This is how we feel connected to you and your brand. Let us in, give us a glimpse behind your usually closed doors and reap the benefits of a connected and empathetic audience with whom you will develop a lifelong relationship.
There has never been a better time to strip your brand down to its bare bones and truly discover what you are all about. This is an opportunity for great transformation. The brands that will come out of this the strongest are those who have stories to tell, emotions to share and connections established.
How we choose to communicate with our audience needs to shift. It’s no secret that direct video contact with brands has catapulted in popularity and provides a wealth of opportunities to interact with your audience on a regular basis. Brands that don’t listen to their audience, to what they want, what they need, what they crave, cannot possibly meet their expectations because they don’t know their audience’s expectations thanks to a disconnect. It is nerve-wracking that’s a given, but the rewards awaiting the CEOs who share their inner world with their tribe in an authentic and honest manner, far outweigh the initial discomfort one might feel from sharing so openly.
Let’s take a look at Seed & Sprout as an example of wonderful and humane leadership. Sophie, the founder, has been very active on social media ever since she started her business a few years ago. But she really stepped up during the 2019/2020 bush fires across her native Australia. Sophie was posting daily stories on her Instagram showing her talking to the camera, asking how her followers were feeling and if they could share their stories with her of how they were affected by the fires. By utilising her platform, Seed & Sprout became a community hub of support and connection during a seriously trying time.
She has been similarly active throughout COVID-19. During this time I have seen her account grow by 50k followers. Of course, it’s not about the numbers and it’s all about the connection. But if someone is showing such humanity the connections deepen and the number of active participants in your brand’s story inevitably grow.
Once you have found the story of your brand there are many different ways to share it and captivate your audience to develop an emotional connection. Share your story in the form of images, videos, your website, your branding, the architecture of your property, the interior design, your ethos, the way you give back to your local community, the way you do business.
If your brand’s story is all about serving good, wholesome food to their guests. Share the story of the food. Where is the food grown? Who grows it? What are the stories of the people who complete the supply chain from farm to table? What are the processes involved in the harvesting, gathering, curating and preparing your food? How do you help people enjoy your food all the more? Do you show guests around your hotel’s vegetable garden, do you share the process with them, do they get involved during a culinary class? Do you offer a dégustation menu? Do you have a particular setting where your guests dine? What sort of dining experiences do your guests have?
There is so much to tell when you decide what your story is going to be. More often than not, your story has been there this entire time waiting to be uncovered and shared. Sometimes all it requires is stepping back and looking at your brand with new eyes and with a new appreciation for what you bring to the world.
Use the points below to get a clearer insight into your brand’s story.
Remember, authenticity is key. People can feel when something is disingenuous, so don’t be afraid of showing your true selves. Humanity is what we need, through human experiences is how we connect.
Special thanks go to Pippa of @theeditinternational for sparking many of the thoughts shared within this article.
Unsure of your next step? Get clear on your hotel’s recovery strategy
As COVID-19 is unlikely to disappear completely without an effective vaccine, it’s expected that we will have a W shaped recovery with lock downs repeatedly being enforced, relaxed and enforced again over time. Being prepared for this tumultuous recovery will stand you and your hotel in good stead to ride the waves to come.
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