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Brands obsess over product features. But to consumers, that’s just secondary. The primary point is not price either. 

PanAm - Consumer Affection on Plane 2017-08-01 at 2.57.08 PM

I recently travelled on a 12 hour-long international flight with my six-month-old baby. With a wiggly baby, a more frazzled mind than usual, and a wallet-friendly but space-challenged economy seat, my long-distance flight was not as stressful as I expected.

If our @AirFrance crew had focused on the industry standard consumer satisfaction metrics, they would have checked the boxes with:

  • On-time service,
  • Providing food and a bassinet as requested, and
  • Landing the plane in the right city.

 

However, what this crew did translated into consumer affection – a means by which they expressed a sense of understanding and empathy, treating me with consideration as the grabbing-everything-in-sight-baby-on-lap-and-food-tray-juggling passenger.

Here’s what I experienced instead:

  • The flight attendant offered to bring me my meal 20 minutes later, because she noticed that I was bouncing a sleepy baby in a cramped space
  • Another crew member gave me an understanding smile and whispered, “aww she’s finally asleep” looking at the occupied bassinet
  • Two of them came by my seat with an only mildly @AirFrance-branded gift pack with some baby essentials, saying “we wanted to give you a little something to make your travel with us a little easier”.

 

Air France’s services focused on Consumer Affection, rather than Consumer Satisfaction.

While consumer satisfaction has an outside-in view, looking at how satisfied consumers are with a brand’s delivery, consumer affection should have an inside-out look at how affectionate or empathetic a brand has been with consumers. This is an important distinction. Consumer affection should enable consumers to feel that (a) they are a ‘person’, not just a ‘consumer’, a ‘user’ or in this case, a ‘passenger’, and (b) the brand is willing to work hard for its bottom line benefit.

Brands spend a lot  of effort to find the perfect positioning for products and their features to deeply analyzed consumer segments. Typical ‘Reasons to Buy’ include a thorough analysis of why this brand is more reliable than competition or why the three new features are going to be an added value. This thought process is good, effective, and focuses on Consumer Satisfaction metrics.

While consumer satisfaction has served us well for decades, and will continue to do so, we at Culture& think it’s time to also embrace something that’s more in line with the emerging consumer – Consumer Affection.

When you know that a brand is rooting for you, and is building a sense of empathy to relate to you, offering its products as a means to helping you accomplish what you need to, that’s a brand with which you want to associate.

So the next time you’re looking to purchase something, think about whether this brand can go beyond giving you satisfaction with its function, and whether it can express consumer affection: can it relate to you, can it exist to ensure your happiness.

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