Trendwatching advises organizations to get started on this Right Now
BRAND BUTLERS With pragmatic, convenience-loving consumers enjoying instant access to an ever-growing number of supporting services and tools (both offline and online), brands urgently need to hone their 'butlering skills'*, focusing on assisting consumers to make the most of their daily lives, versus the old model of selling them a lifestyle if not identity.
- time, convenience, control and independence are the new currencies, a shift from 'broadcasting' to assisting.
- Relationships with brands are now more down to earth and less reverential. From individualism to eco-concerns to decreased spending power in developed economies: for consumers, the practical and pragmatic rule.
- there's also a consumer longing for institutions that truly 'care' (please re-read our GENERATION G briefing), which is more about showing empathy and providing customers with a status fix
- On top of all of the above, the current mobile online revolution (hey, it took more than a decade of breathless predictions, but mobile internet usage is now finally exploding around the globe) is shifting these consumer expectations even further into the always-on, instant gratification online arena. (please re-read our NOWISM briefing). For brands, this means that there are now endless creative and cost-effective ways to deliver on this need for assistance, for 'butlers'
ideal ‘BRAND BUTLER OMNIPRESENCE' would be a mix of (discreetly) being there when customers want you to be there, and pleasantly surprising them with your presence when they least expect it.
It should come as no surprise that apps, whether for iPhones, Blackberries, or Android devices, offer a quick route to deliver BRAND BUTLER services: offering useful, (semi-) branded content, residing on consumers' online devices is a marriage made in heaven.
Oh, and you obviously don't have to develop everything yourself: why not partner (or acquire) one of the many third-party apps already out there. Just one example: L'OREAL recently teamed up with Vanity Fair's Hollywood app to offer consumers tools to organize their Oscar night voting pools, as well as offering live results and exclusive Vanity Fair content.So... time to scan the iPhone App Store, Google’s Android Market, and Blackberry's App World.
One popular offline BRAND BUTLER tactic is to establish permanent or pop-up branded spaces and lounges, often tied to a specific event (music festivals!) or a location (airports!) which offer ample opportunity to assist consumers / customers with relevant, on-brand services. And here too, like with apps, partnering is key: no need (or even possibility) to go it all alone in what is now a cooperation-economy, anyway.
FEEDBACK AND CO-CREATION
BRAND BUTLER services equal interaction, meaning they can provide brands with valuable feedback, metrics and other learning opportunities about what interests, drives and triggers customers. Furthermore, BRAND BUTLERS is a great match with CO-CREATION: who better to ask what additional services they would like than your own customers!?
BRAND BUTLERING IS NOT
- Simply offering excellent yet tried-and-tested customer service and support functions, or typical online features such as price-lookup or anything facilitating ecommerce activities. While excelling in offering these hygiene factors of course do contribute to an overall 'feel' of assistance for customers, we would qualify them as (after) sales support, not 'butlering'.
- BRAND BUTLER services typically do not replace top quality products and paid services: they go ‘over and above'. In other words, while it would be fantastic if one of your BRAND BUTLER services is so well liked that you can charge money for it, and turn it into your core-offerings, in most cases BRAND BUTLER services can/should only exist because they support your core (and hopefully outstanding) products and services.
- Last but not least, as BRAND BUTLERS is all about relevance and service, this is not about gimmicks or entertainment for entertainment's sake.
SOME BRAND BUTLER EXAMPLES:
Mastercard’s ATM Hunter iPhone app allows users to find their nearest ATMs by entering their location or using built-in GPS functionality.
Google labs has developed City Tours, which uses Google Maps to offer a variety of walking tours in cities around the world. The tours also offer practical information such as opening hours.
Swedish food brand Santa Maria offers an iPhone app that offers grilling tips and advice. The application features recipes, a BBQ handbook and a grilling timer.
A hands-on start would be to establish the themes your brand is about, and dream up an integrated 'suite' of BRAND BUTLER services, both online and offline. Use the eight categories above (Transparency and 'In the know', Saving money, Finding, Connectivity, Health, Nutrition & Exercise, Skills & Advice, Eco, and Tools & Amenities). Obviously, we hope you will add a few categories of your own as well.
On a related note: when plotting your BRAND BUTLER OMNIPRESENCE, many of your ideas will probably revolve around existing customers. Either because they're linked to a purchased product or service, or because they're a distinctive perk. However, there's a huge win in services that are open to non-customers, too. This is where BRAND BUTLERS truly replaces the old broadcasting / advertising model.