Owning vs Renting the Customer Relationship: What Is Best For the Future of Your Brand?

November 10th, 2020 | Jed Schneiderman, marketing, mobile and tech executive

Three keys lying flat that look like computer data chipsCharles Dickens was famous for this opening line in A Tale of Two Cities – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

Thinking about marketing these days, it does feel like marketers are enjoying “the best of times,” in that messages can be tailored and targeted to very niche audiences, return on investment can be precisely measured and consumers can be reached on-line and off-line.

Yet, some days it also seems like “the worst of times” in that there is so much fragmentation of audiences across multiple platforms that it makes it difficult to promote a brand’s message and map the consumer journey. Furthermore, there seems to be a new – yet hard to understand- breakthrough in digital or tech every week, or a major change by big technology companies, thus making it hard for marketers to discern fact from fiction, and from fad.

So how does the modern marketer grow their brand, manage a P&L, and grow their business in an age of “best of times” and “worst of times”?

  1. Have a solid brand positioning powered by a relevant consumer insight.
  2. Own vs. rent relationships with your consumer/customer.
  1. The Insight: The Benefit and Reason to Believe are fundamental marketing concepts. It is important to call out that marketing, regardless of precision and “innovation” (yeah the quotations are on purpose), will not win over a consumer unless the product/service provides a meaningful consumer benefit that is different from the competition’s. And to connect to the consumer, your brand needs a powerful insight (or set of insights).

    So be prepared to answer the following questions for your brand(s):

    • Why should a consumer care about your product/service/brand?
    • What’s in it for them?
    • How is it different?
  2. Own vs Rent: Once you have generated meaningful consumer insights and relevant positioning, you’ll be faced with the challenge of connecting with your consumer. So while you have a choice of tactics – call them what you like (i.e. traditional, digital, on-line and off-line) – the fact that consumers are spending more time on ad-free platforms (think Netflix and Crave) or on digital platforms where marketers have to pay to play, brands need to re-think how they can make best use of their resources which include people, time and money.

    The solution: Brands must own the relationship with their consumers.

    Why? Because brands live in a world where algorithms frequently change, and big tech companies control tracking and can modify targeting via changes in hardware/software – at their choosing. The only way to avoid being at the mercy of platforms that they don’t influence or control is to own a direct relationship with their consumer(s).

Here are some of the ways brands can own their relationship with consumers:

  • Personal Information: Get an email address or a physical address or even a phone number. Be mindful of privacy and anti-spam legislation, and also figure out why someone would want to hear from you (that’s part of the insight work). Once you figure out the “why” / “what”, you’ll have a direct line to tell customers about multiple aspects of your business – from product launches, content marketing and promotions.
  • Loyalty: In Canada, SkipTheDishes, and Rexall both launched loyalty programs in 2020. While loyalty is not reasonable for all brands, some brands can leverage loyalty to learn directly about consumer behaviour and can design and develop effective targeting capabilities.
  • Commerce and Direct-To-Consumer: Brands who can sell directly to consumers can own direct relationships with their consumers. By understanding what consumers browse and buy and by owning their own digital or physical store, brands can directly observe and analyze their behaviour.

Now back to Charles Dickens – can you recite the lines that followed? Here they are:

“…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….”

Pretty loaded set of words and ideas.

To contend with “foolishness”, “incredulity”, “hope” and “despair”, brands and consumers need consistency. Brands that own direct relationships with consumer(s) navigate these times and win in the long run.



About Jed Schneiderman

Jed Schneiderman was the President and Co-Founder of Tapped Mobile, and has held director and senior roles at Microsoft, Bell Media and Procter & Gamble. He co-founded M2T Collective (www.M2Tcollective.com) to develop the next generation of marketing, media and tech talent.