Co-op: ‘Brands need real friends not Likes’

Brands must develop real friendships with consumers to drive loyalty, rather than courting value-less Likes on Facebook, according to The Co-operative Group’s CMO Gill Barr.


Barr told delegates at the IGD Convention 2012 in London yesterday (9 October) that the concept of friendship is valuable to business but has become “corrupted” by social media.

There are three principles to brand friendship that will help businesses develop better relationships with consumers as well as staff and suppliers, she says. Getting to know them, being there for them and listening to and involving them in the business.

She said: “Friendship is one of those words that has become a bit corrupted and when we talk about social media. We think that a friend on a Facebook page is a real friend but it isn’t. We’re talking about something more serious [than Facebook Likes]. In social media that fallacy is beginning to be realised. The friendship I’m talking about sustains real long term relationships of the kind we would all like within our businesses.”

Heinz UK & Ireland president Matt Hill, also speaking at the conference, agreed that brands should be using social media to develop ideas that create “talkability” rather than chasing Likes and followers.

He said: “With the scale of social we can’t afford not to be there but we’ve focussed on genuine brand fans and building integration and engagement rather than the number of Likes. It’s easy to incentivise people to like my brand but they might actually like the incentive not the brand.”

The brand was the first to sell an fmcg product via Facebook and uses the site to give fans early access to NPD such as its tomato ketchup with balsamic vinegar, which Hill says has driven up to 80 per cent incremental growth for the brand.

Heinz tops Socialbakers’ rankings of social engagement and initiatives such as its Get Well Soup Can that allowed fans to personalise a can of Heinz soup and buy it through Facebook are hailed as some of the most inventive uses of social media.

Hill added: “It’s not just the offer that people were engaged with it was the idea. People ask how we made money from it and we didn’t, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to create a talkable idea that says something about the brand and connects with people.”

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