Need vs Choice. Does Less Competition Make It Easier to Be Loved?

Supermarket Shelf
Source: commons.wikipedia.org

When buying a car, one is presented with a wide array of choice. Not just in brand, but in make and model. When it comes to paying your electricity bill, there are a few select providers you could choose from. Take it a step further and when you pay council rates or income tax, get a passport or driver’s license, you usually only have one company or organization to deal with.

Government agencies are, largely, monopoly providers of services. In many countries, supermarkets, utility and telecommunication companies are dominated by a small number of players due to the capital and infrastructure costs needed to run these businesses. New Zealand is a prime example. It has three supermarket brands, three telecommunications firms and five power companies; all who are providers of goods and services which people need to engage with to live.

The question is, does a lack of competition make it easier for these agencies and companies to become Lovemarks? Can they achieve the same connection as brands that operate in a much wider competitive market? What is the difference between relationships you form with companies out of choice, compared to relationships that develop as a result of need?

Decreased competition doesn’t mean increased quality of service or product. It simply means that those operating in this environment have a larger captive market. Government organizations also have different motives. Their focus is on maintaining a functioning society, or implementing social change. Success is measured by their ability to implement their core functions within budget, or increase engagement and involvement when running new campaigns. Their existence is also less dependent on forging relationships with consumers than it is reliant on meeting the expectations of the Government of the day. What makes it tough for pubic organizations to transition from a brand to a Lovemark is that they’re viewed as a necessity. In many cases they are even viewed as a chore to be managed.

The message isn’t dissimilar for companies delivering goods and services we need as opposed to want. Our choice of electricity retailer or telecommunications company is often based on convenience, not loyalty. In order to make the emotionally connections required to be loved, public organizations need to be able to tell a story that shows how they’re improving lives, and back it up with people who deliver at the frontline. It’s about solving problems. Making life easier. Proving their worth and values daily.

Public service organizations are often loathed by the public, but the services they provide have high emotional impact, such as saving lives through road safety education, or reminding women to screen themselves for breast cancer through public service messaging. The challenge for these companies is to enshrine the values of their consumers and turn them from mere customers to brand ambassadors. Establish meaningful, rather than transactional, relationships. In the open market, consumers remain loyal to brands because they’ve had greater freedom of choice in the first place. The less choice they have, the harder a brand needs to work to earn their respect, loyalty, and ultimately love.