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Being a better brand: How to avoid abusing your most important resource

Brands these days are intrinsic to modern life. Almost everything we see and interact with on a daily basis is branded in some way, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. In this contemporary life, brands are the way we define ourselves and the medium through which we attempt to understand the chaos of the corporate world.

There is inherent and considerable power in this. Being so intricately woven into our daily lives, it is only logical that the brands we love would start to dictate our buying behaviour, lifestyle choices and even our personalities. Brands are no longer just choices we make; they are the foundation of our modern lives. As Spiderman says, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and this really rings true in the modern age of global brands.

So, when consumers place their trust in your brand they expect you’ll value this and act accordingly, treating them with a mutual respect and working hard to continue earning this trust.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Brands sometimes forget how important the relationship they have with their customers is, which can lead to these relationships being taken for granted, abused and sometimes irreparably damaged. Whilst the idea that ‘the customer is always right’ may not always hold true, with customers often committing the same abuse of the mutual trust established in the customer-brand relationship, as a brand it is your responsibility to ensure your first consideration is your ‘fan base’, and act as an organisation to provide real value to your customers that extends beyond simply providing a product or service.

Sometimes brands have such a profound stranglehold on their customers that they can get away with seemingly anything, forcing their users to accept their (often unreasonable) terms or face life without their beloved brand. This can be labelled an ‘abusive brand’: when a brand that fully realises how completely inured their customers are to their products and/or services they use it as a means to ensure that the consumers keep consuming, no matter which new and often unnecessary offering they push on their customers.

To give a well-known face (excuse the pun) to an abusive brand, one needs look no further than the behemoth that is Facebook. Facebook proffers to make its customers lives easier by ‘learning’ and gathering every little bit of information it can about its users. It is so deeply entrenched in their personal lives that being without it is a frightening thought for many. But the question one might ask is, do I really trust Facebook with all of this precious personal information?

The Facebook messenger app (a forced download for direct communication on the platform), for instance, allows the corporation to:

- Read your bookmarks and browsing history;
- control your mobile data connection;
- read, add to, modify or remove your contacts;
- read, add to or modify your calendar events;
- get your precise geographical location;
- send and receive text or multimedia messages;
- read your text and multimedia messages;
- make calls off your phone without your intervention, read your call log, reroute your calls;
- read, modify or delete the contents of your memory (SD) card;
- use your device’s camera to take pictures and record video;
- use your microphone to record audio; and
- read your stream on social media networks and post to your social media streams.

    Hopefully you are starting to get a sense of the abusive brand concept. Facebook leverages its users’ dependence on their service to coerce them into acceptance what might usually be seen as unreasonable terms. And they are not the only big brand (ab)using their power in this way.

    In an age where brands play such an important role in their users’ lives, these users are constantly looking for a hero brand to provide them with quality products and service and offer real value in their lives that extends beyond a simple transaction. They want their brands to be green and sustainable, to create employment and respect them, not bully them into using their products and services.

    So, to avoid becoming an abusive brand, it’s crucial to focus on forging a relationship of respect and mutual appreciation and benefit, then leverage this to find out what your customers want and need and how you can make their lives better, instead of trying to dictate what you think they need and push your products on them whether we want them or not. 

    Being a better brand starts with realising that your customers are your most important resource, and working to ensure a healthy, respectful relationship with them. It’s really not that difficult!