Relationship advice for companies: Understanding the process of becoming loved - Campbell Squared
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Relationship advice for companies: Understanding the process of becoming loved

When you think about the brands, companies or organisations you are most loyal to, what is it about them that makes you keep going back? Is it the service they provide? How their product makes you feel? Or, is it more than that? A deeper connection perhaps?

To understand our relationship with brands and organisations, and to guide us through the brand-building process, it helps to look at how we approach relationship building.
Knapp’s Model of Relational Stages explains how relationships grow and last. This can be applied to how brands build relationships with consumers to create a long-lasting, deep connection.

Knapp’s Model of Relational Stages


Initiating: making contact and showing that you are worth getting to know.

The ‘first impression’ is all about making a great one.

Understanding your audience, their beliefs, desires, motivations and how your brand plays a role in their life is crucial to crafting the right ‘initiation’ message to kick-start your relationship.


Experimenting: getting to know more about your audience.

Once you have initiated contact, it’s crucial to maintain contact. At this stage, we can test messages and identify what resonates with consumers.

As part of this, it is important to understand your unique selling proposition/point of difference and how this is relevant to your audience.


Intensifying: an interpersonal relationship is now beginning to emerge, with open communication and expression of feelings/commitment.

During stage 2 and stage 3, experimenting and intensifying, trust is being built.

As trust grows, so does a consumer’s willingness to provide more information, for example through signing up to your electronic newsletter and promoting your brand to their friends.


Integrating: your brand or organisation becomes part of your consumer’s social circle and influences their behaviour. A level of ‘obligation’ exists.

This is when your brand moves from being a product or service to becoming part of the consumer’s identity. This may mean your brand is incorporated into their daily routine, such as regular visits to your Facebook page. Their friends notice your relationship and begin their own initiation phase.

There is opportunity in this stage to use loyalty programmes to reward these consumers. The integration phase plays a part of influencing culture, for instance when a brand interaction becomes part of culture and every day vernacular (e.g. Netflix & Google).


Bonding: symbolic public gestures to show commitment to the relationship publicly.

Here you will see people announce their love for you to the world. They post on Facebook (think Starbucks and the coffee cup), give you a 5-star review, and become your biggest influencers in the market.


Differentiating: re-establishing separate identities, while maintaining commitment to the relationship.

Your consumer still loves your brand but is open to trying something new. The key here is maintaining competitive advantage and not getting complacent with your offering.

At this stage, your brand must create a stronger sense of need than desire, and inspire consumers to choose your brand consistently.


Looking through the lens of relationship-building is helpful for all businesses and organisations, no matter what your purpose, product or service.

Once a deep connection has been formed with consumers, brands can successfully branch out in their products and services because they understand their core value proposition, and commit to create a better experience for their target consumers. An example of this, is Nike moving from a shoe brand to a lifestyle brand.

At Campbell Squared, we believe that if you constantly seek to understand your audience, communicate with them in an authentic and engaging way, and continue to offer them real value, your brand and reputation can only thrive.

Sally Hickson