The relationship between brands and consumers is about to get a lot gooier. What does that mean? Well, gooey can mean sticky, and when it comes to customers, sticky is good. But gooey can also be viscous or slippery, which is bad because it’s hard to hold on when your target is slick.

Brands that create sticky experiences and ecosystems by demonstrating intrinsic value for their target audience pre-sale will pull customers in and create loyalty. The result is the sweet, gooey goodness of long-term profitability.

Brands that rely too heavily on tactics such as pure product feature messaging or discounting without proving customer value run the risk of having their target slip through their fingers.

The notion of a slippery consumer is scary. A natural response is to believe that the customer’s needs are changing, and as marketers and storytellers we have to do something different to stay in front of them.

This is not a blog about the fact that customer needs are changing. Buyer preferences are always in a state of flux, but their base needs have remained constant. This is about a broad acceleration of the customer’s expectations of the way brands behave in the digital environment.

Today’s marketing buzzwords – showrooming, gamification, content creation, influencer strategy, big data, etc. – are the outcomes of these growing expectations, not the expectations themselves. These outcomes can be effective solutions, but only when used in the context of understanding consumer values and building the tactics on a solid foundation of core digital principles. Under the right circumstances, these tactics will drive revenue. As standalone push tactics, they are more likely to drive you crazy.

The first step to making sure is to understand those consumer expectations. If customer needs are always changing, and technology never stops pushing forward, how can you tell what’s real compared to what’s now?

That’s where SPARC comes in. SPARC stands for:

The overarching goal is to understand that the customer is consistent, but their point of reference moves quickly. All you have to do is focus on the value that you bring to the table to solve their needs and the customer will become a digital mountaineer and orient their expectations toward you.