encounters 2.0
16 August 2017
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Despite the efforts of 'wall builders' and 'market leavers', the world is still moving towards being one connected village. A single village has meant consumers are more insightful about and connected to the brands they interact with. Brands which disappoint should expect to feel the wrath of social tweets and posts. Brands are only as good as their last interaction or lowest point, which is why all brand encounters are important for successful brands.

Believing that the market derives all association of a brand purely from the controlled messaging placed into the ether, is to think that all marketing is brain washing. As much as many brand managers wish this was so, it is quite the opposite. Controlled marketing provides a reason to believe, the better the campaign/brand selling point, the more enticing the choice becomes. On the reverse, exists the uncontrollable brand encounters. These encounters are becoming more apparent with the impact of the digital world on our daily lives. Brands previously only concerned with criticism on sites such as Hello Peter are seeing social platforms critiquing them on their lowest points. The world is in touch with brands, the term a living brand has never been truer.

Jeremy Bullmore1 interprets controllable and uncontrollable brand encounters as brand building opportunities, none to be ignored. Controlled brand encounters (packaging, advertising, direct marketing, digital content, etc.) are all focused parcels of communication with hand-picked purposes. Lego is a leader when it comes to utilising controlled brand encounters and ensuring all their touch points stay true to their brand essence of "Creativity". The time spent crafting fun, easy packaging and instructions results in a satisfying consumer experience. Essentially the Lego instruction manual has provided them with a "free" brand building opportunity. On the flip side, brands can underdeliver on their promises, leaving them vulnerable to the backlash that inevitably results from negative brand encounters.

The recent Ford Kuga flare up is a prime example of uncontrollable brand encounters. The debacle over engine fires was managed so poorly that the opportunity to brand build off failure was lost. As Ford SA CEO Nemeth mentioned "There are many who believe that Ford did not do enough to communicate with our customers about this issue,"2. Promising customers to "Go further" but failing to deliver on this for their customers in a time of uncertainty resulted in customers no longer believing in the brand. The brand is not staying true to its brand promise, not eating its own "dog food". Had Ford acted quickly and effectively, truly going further to fix the issue for their customers, they may have experienced a positive brand encounter outcome.

In a world in which every person with a social media account is the equivalent of a media agent, controlled brand encounters benefit from the spill over effect of positive encounters. When you create an interesting take away from a brand encounter which puts the brand top of mind and delivers a smile in the mind, people are likely to share news of their positive brand encounter. A small unconventional brand encounter with a big impact was the Virgin Atlantic Salt and Pepper shakers with the words "Pinched from Virgin Atlantic"3 printed on its base.

Brand encounters should be seen as opportunities for brands to delight their customers throughout their customer journey whether controlled or uncontrolled, crisis or innovation, they provide new mediums and media channels for brand promises and personalities to come to life.

By Christopher Schilperoort

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