The Eternal Longing for Brand Loyalty – It’s Built not Bought

Picture this: Consumers who come from far and wide just to purchase from your brand. Who, despite being surrounded by competitor products, solely have eyes for yours. This utopian scenario is what every marketer aspires for and it has a name – Brand Loyalty.


In a perfect world, our products would be unparalleled within the market, pioneering demand like never before with a unique value proposition that gets people climbing over each other to catch the last in stock. Today’s landscape, however, is far from perfect.

In a globalized economy where innovation runs rampant, competitors and disruptors seize every opportunity they can to edge each other out and barring any massive upheavals, competitor brands are often neck-and-neck in terms of their products or services.


 

So what’s the differentiator when it comes to these cases? How do brands constantly evolve to keep up with modern technologies all the while capturing the hearts and wallets of new customers without alienating existing consumers?

The answer is simple, but getting there is a monumental task that every modern organization faces.

Back in the 90s, in the era before social media, marketers had a lot fewer resources at much higher costs to communicate with consumers.

“It takes time, effort, consistency, and a deep understanding of a particular consumer segment to establish a crucial part of the brand-consumer relationship: trust.”


 

Due to the high costs of media, such as magazine ads, back bus banners, TV ads, and radio ads, the advantage of brand exposure was for those who had high budgets.

This meant that there was not much room for brand building activities and establishing brand communities, making it an uphill challenge to understand audiences’ behaviors or receive timely feedback on their products. If you haven’t noticed, are all benefits of social media that we often take for granted.

Today, a variety of loyalty marketing platforms make it easy for us as marketers and business owners to attract and retain loyal customers. This understanding between both parties is what establishes the foundations for every marketer to transform a customer into an advocate – Another lofty goal that is much sought after.

The Eternal Longing for Loyalty

Communicating a company’s identity – who they are, what they do, their values, and how they help consumers – are part of brand marketing activities. It takes time, effort, consistency, and a deep understanding of a particular consumer segment to establish a crucial part of the brand-consumer relationship: trust.

In modern marketing, establishing trust with consumers requires much more than these brand marketing activities. Brand reputation in the age of technology means consumers are also looking for how brands communicate with their communities, how transparent they are in solving consumers’ complaints, and even how they position themselves when it comes to social issues such as climate change or gender equality.

Image via Socialbakers

As with any relationship, trust leads to loyalty. And while loyalty is hard earned, it’s a long-impact activity. It is gained when there are problems: a new mobile phone that will not work properly, terrible service at a restaurant, an overcharge on a credit card, a late flight that messes up vacation plans.

Brands need things to go wrong so they can earn trust and loyalty. It is in the middle of a crisis that you really get to know a brand (and a person as well). The good news is that while social media helps to amplify the voices who complain, it also amplifies the brand that responds. Brands that delete complaints, have long response times, or do not respond to issues on their social platforms are on the opposite path to brand loyalty.

All of the activities that define brand marketing activities (identity, image, values, personality, positioning) are annulled if the brand is not able to gain and retain the trust of consumers. Brand loyalty thus becomes the result of a well-established brand identity combined with the delivery of quality products/services, and most of all, trust. Trust and brand loyalty walk hand-in-hand, and both can only be achieved via a robust customer experience, transparency, and aligned values.

The Example of Nike

Nike took a very big risk in 2018 when it aligned its brand with the football player Colin Kaepernick in a campaign titled “Dream Crazy”. The controversial campaign triggered angry consumers who burned, cut, or ripped Nike clothing as a statement against the brand aligning itself with the athlete.

The brand knew it could gamble with such a controversial positioning because it has built its brand to the point that loyal consumers would not only stick by their side but also admire and celebrate the courage and the values the brand was demonstrating through this marketing campaign. Nike fans who destroyed their products were not really loyal to the brand, were they? After all, loyalty is also a result of shared values.

Critics had a lot to say about Nike’s decision: they are going to lose customers; people do not want brands to take sides on controversial issues; it is not the place for a brand to make a political statement; the brand is going to lose their loyal fans. But the result was surprising to those outside of the organization, but perhaps, very expected for their marketing team: Nike stocks went up and so did the sales of their direct sales channels.

The commercial was even named outstanding commercial at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. It was the first time Nike won the award since 2002.

The Takeaway

This story illustrates the importance of brand loyalty in brand marketing in this new decade. Authenticity, personality, and strong values matter more than ever. In a time where consumers are bombarded with marketing messages online and offline, global promotions, and infinite options, consumer loyalty is the result of a hard-earned trust gained by the brand. 

The challenge for brands and marketers when it comes to brand loyalty is that of maintaining consistency in their values, authenticity in their communications and nurturing relationships with their most committed consumers, all the while trying to move their consumers within the funnel from awareness to advocacy.

This article was co-written by Danielly Netto, Global Head of Presales at Socialbakers.

Charles Tidswell

Charles Tidswell

Charles is Vice-President JAPAC at Socialbakers

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