Early in my career I was taught a simplified framework for relationships. I was taught there were three primary positions: Adult; Parent; and Child. And the framework was configured like the one above. Arrows represented the kinds of relationships you could have.
The nature of the person/brand relationship was based on the relative roles each assumed. Some examples:
— Insurance brands like AllState: Brands are parents. People are children. Insurance takes care of you.
— Some financial brands like Schwaab: Brand assume role as expert adult and “speaks” to you like an adult on par with them.
— Sports team brands like the Green Bay Packers: Child to child. Brand is play and people engage it with child-like enthusiasm at any age (e.g. Dress up for games, sing songs, eat crappy food, etc.)
While I find this of some useful in certain limited situations, I’ve learned that there are a lot more kinds of relationships from which to choose and work with.
The answer to the question of brand role starts with understanding the consumer story. What role are people assuming when they need you? What role do they want to assume after they buy you?
Once you understand the roles that are in play for people, then you can determine what role your brand can play for them. Do they want a wing man or authority figure or a proverbial dog to kick?
As part of research in the development of our tool “The Relationships Tool,” we’ve discovered lots and lots of kinds of valuable relationships. Now I’m far beyond adults, parents and children.
Understanding and working with a larger set of real relationships has been key for Dosage to not only help our clients work through this question but later helping them design go-to-market behavior that touches everyone from employees to retail staff.