I'm reading Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture at the moment, which discusses the attempts to transform brands into 'love marks' by developing more intense relationships with consumers.
I guess the increased interaction between the 'brand' owner and consumers might have the side-effect of facilitating the resolution of real consumer problems, or improving consumers' day-to-day activities in some compelling way. But the strategy seems to view the world through the products the provider has chosen to sell, rather than from the individual consumer's standpoint. And that implies the business ultimately exists to solve its own problems rather than those of its customers. In which case, the business is exposed to the downside of the trend towards increasing consumer power over the design and supply of the products they use or consume.
As a case in point, I had a conversation recently with someone who believes that the most important brand that is present during a consumer's purchase from a retailer is the brand on the consumer's debit or credit card. This of course ignores the fact that the consumer activity in question is 'buying a widget' of the right quality from a merchant one trusts, rather than merely 'paying'. Then I showed him the latest random survey of the UK's most trusted brands - although this one might be a little more reliable, to the extent that any of them really is. But clearly consumers think their retailers are doing more for them than their banks or card schemes.
Image from LoveMarks.