Do you remember when the National Football League was locked out this past summer? National radio stations, television broadcasts and social networks were bombarded with angry “consumers” of the league.
Basically, the sentiment among some was that even if the NFL were to return, they as “fans” were not coming back. This group of people was tired of watching billionaires argue with millionaires, some went as far as to sue the most popular sport in America. Owners and players never blinked and never feared. Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season was the highest rated weekend in league history with 107.4 million viewers. And here we thought the protesters were not coming back!
Now, fast forward to September 21, 2011. Facebook unveiled new features, including a timeline, a photo layout and more that looks awfully similar to Google+. The Palo Alto giant received similar reactions from consumers again, questioning how Facebook could do such a thing! Why do they keep changing? Why can’t Mark Zuckerberg just let the social network be.
I think I know why. Facebook understands that, for the most part, its consumers will adapt and stay with the product. Sure, some may have jumped ship to Google+ but that’s only a small piece of the social graph. Facebook owns the social sphere as a whole. In fact, other companies admit as much, including social gaming company SCVNGR. The ability to take chances and retreat if they do not work is a unique part of the Facebook business model that not many businesses can relate to.
Netflix is dealing with this issue right now. After announcing that the company will split its DVD and streaming services, once loyal consumers are up in arms and on their way out the door. It may be the price increase, the lack of customer research behind the move or the fact that Netflix has lots of competition. But it’s more than that.
Brand attachment requires the brand to create an emotional relationship between itself and the consumer. NFL fans root for teams, play fantasy football and wear branded apparel because of an emotional attachment between themselves and the league. In turn, the NFL works hard to make its audience happy. For example the league recently modified certain rules to increase offensive firepower throughout the game.
Facebook is literally a consumer’s space to build and create an identity. If consumers leave, they will lose their ability to control their space on Facebook and the connections they have established with other users. Cleaner layouts, advanced features and new applications are examples of ways that Facebook has built brand loyalty. Emotionally, Facebook consumers are attached (if not addicted) to the connections provided by the social network.
Netflix, has dug itself a pretty deep hole. Keeping the aforementioned examples in mind, we have to ask—did Netflix ask its customers if they liked the content being offered? Did Netflix strive to provide a service that its customers would find value in? Did the company instill in its customers a sense of attachment or personalization?
I guess it goes back to the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” More important, if you include customers in your brand, they will stay.
Andrew Knoblauch is a senior at St. John Fisher College majoring in business management with a concentration in marketing and a minor in digital cultures and technology. Currently, he is a public relations intern at Dixon Schwabl. When Andrew’s not at work or interning, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, coaching basketball and playing various intramural sports.