Happiness quotient of a consumer

Business strategies are increasingly being based on bringing a smile to the customer’s face. The Maruti ad showing a little boy directing a car to a certified service station in the middle of the nowhere is a case in point. As is the business discussion centering around Mainland China’s crackling spinach.

It’s all about making an emotional connect. Corporate companies have woken up to the fact that such advertisements are better able to break the clutter.

Marketers are seeking to adjust consumers’ happiness thermostat. The concept of happiness is being seriously studied in marketing circles: How to keep your consumer happy, how to get the consumer to love your brand, how to go about enabling happy customers to become brand advocates.

Four major trends in the marketplace are highlighted which aim to keep the smile n the consumer’s face. There are loyalty programs, frequent flier schemes and the like which actually aim to avoid brand switch. After all, a company wants brand stickiness. So Shoppers Stop has ‘First Citizen’, Jet has ‘Jet Privilege’, Taj Mahal hotel has an ‘Inner circle’, Renaissance has ‘Prestige’, Standard Chartered bank has ‘Priority’, the ITC Welcome Group has ‘Sheraton Plus’ and even Crossword book store has ‘Book Rewards’.

Given that there are gradations within these too — like silver, gold or platinum — these actions accord special treatment to the customer. Basic loyalty to the brand is rewarded with discounts galore. Marketers are abiding by what Abraham Lincoln said: “People are as happy as they make up their minds to be.â€? They are also leaning towards proactive relationships to get their message across.

A group of hotels at Mumbai insists on keeping in touch with their client base. A simple phone call a day before a birthday or anniversary ensures a huge emotional upsurge for the brand, as would a complimentary bottle of wine or a simple cake. What it brings to the table is more than just food. The hotel official says, the experience they want to create for the people they touch is more important to them than a fat bill.

At the end of the day, value to the customer and client and to the marketer is important and it is not the bottom line or in ROI. It is measured based on the happiness quotient.

Though all of this is bound to bring on feelings of loyalty, it is a sensitive matter. The company has to learn to twang on the relationship meter in a selfless manner. Understanding customers’ preferences ad preempting the decision making process is another good way to connect emotionally.

Last but not the least corporate companies should always try to surprise their customers. Joy, faith, hope and confidence would keep the surprise element fresh.

The trend is to connect with the intangibles, not just the tangibles. Though several companies are moving in this direction others are moving in quite the opposite way. Competing on lower price is passé. It is not always important that ‘brand is cheaper’; it is important that ‘customer is happy’.