It should be the aim of every brand manager and every marketer to foster loyalty amongst their audience. Cultivating a team of zealous advocates offers the best kind of promotion there is, be it through personal recommendation, online reviews, or general enthusiasm for your brand.
What is referred to as ‘churn’ should be regarded as many opportunities wasted. In most industries, customer acquisition is not cheap, so it makes sense to build on what you have already and keep them coming back. As such, it is vital that we view brand loyalty as a scale and that it is possible to build your brands estimation in the minds of your audience with the ultimate objective of turning a total newcomer with no connection to the brand into one who would be willing to sing your praises.
Let’s look at the varying degrees to which an individual feels affinity towards a brand.
Utilitarian—The consumer views the brand as purely a solution to a problem. If another such solution came along, they would happily jump ship. Utilitarian brands hold little emotional worth, foster no real loyalty, and are easily replaced. This is the worst possible position for your brand to be in.
Trusted—These are usually brands that hold superior quality to their competitors and have held that position for some time. Trust has been build up on the back of how well the product works and the brand is rewarded with loyalty from their consumers. In my opinion, Fairy Liquid is a great if mundane example of this, although there are many different types of washing up liquid, none of them foam up quite as well as Fairy Liquid, none of them go as far, and none of them clean as well.
Experiential—Like trusted brands, experiential brands provide a great product and have established a position of trust in the minds of their consumers, but they have made an extra effort to enhance their brand experience to reward them for their loyalty.
A great example of this is a promotion the Dutch clothing brand Scotch & Soda ran several years ago. After being encouraged to sign up for their mailing list whilst making a purchase one day, an email arrived in my inbox asking if I would like to try a sample of their new aftershave, out of curiosity I followed it up and two weeks later a package arrived with the following note:
We love our fans so much we thought you might want to try a full bottle instead of just a sample.
Scotch & Soda”
A nice touch from their marketing department that you can’t help but find endearing. One small investment on their part made someone like myself, a generally cynical consumer, a fan of their brand.
Valued—Brands that are valued more often than not fall into the high-end or luxury categories. Luxury brands are adept at fostering loyalty by acting as a reflection of their consumers. The thought process is that if you wear a Burberry trench coat, that says something about you. It builds your own personal image to be loyal to that brand.
Purposeful—In addition to reflecting a desired self-image in a similar way to valued brands, purposeful brands benefit from attracting those who wish to support a brand that has a cause. The shoe brand TOMS are a fantastic example of this premise. TOMS promote a “One for One” ethos—for every pair of shoes they sell, they help one person in need—whether that’s with a pair of shoes, the gift of sight, or clean water. Note that when you visit their website the first tab is “Shop” and the second is “How We Give”. The TOMS brand is build around it’s philanthropic activities, they are using brand purpose as a way to favour themselves to their conscientious consumer archetype.
What conclusions can we draw from this?
The varying degrees of perceived brand loyalty should be viewed within this broad framework. It is through careful brand management and a clear understanding of what your brand is and who your consumers are that you can specifically begin to foster loyalty towards your brand. As much as brands differ, ways to develop loyalty differ as well, what is applicable for one may not be for another, but it is essential that your brand strategy addresses loyalty as a key driver of business growth.