By Louise Findlay-Wilson, Energy PR
What drives brand loyalty? Well according to our Brand Love study, it’s love. We’re three times more likely to recommend a brand we love and more than twice as likely to stick with it when it makes mistakes. That’s potentially doubling the typical lifetime value of a customer.
So if the secret to brand loyalty is love, how do brands achieve it? To answer this, let’s first discount a few things. While innovation may set a company apart from the pack, loved brands aren’t necessarily the most innovative. Just one in 10 marketers we interviewed thinks innovation counts. Nor is love determined by price or customer support. Only 33 percent think value for money is important, and 34 percent believe love is determined by a company’s customer support.
Instead, the 100 marketers we interviewed argue that loved brands have values which are in sync with the customer’s values (55 percent). They fit with the consumer’s identity (48 percent). Indeed, and or are part of someone’s life (42 percent). This is pretty intimate stuff. In essence to be loved, brands need to understand the lifestyle, values and identity of their target consumers and then use this as the compass for their marketing and wider business.
Morrisons – Values
For instance, Morrisons was one of the brands identified by our marketers as a great, loved brand. Morrisons’ loved status seems to have been built on is values which are showcased right across the business. The UK’s fourth largest grocer doesn’t just ‘do’ retail it also has 18 manufacturing sites, bakeries, abattoirs, fishing fleets and egg farms.
Despite this size and diversity, the business sees itself as a family and when people join, either in store or on the farms, they are welcomed “into the family.” It’s easy to see how this family feel fits with its customers doing a family shop.
The company also seems to chime with the values of ethical shoppers. It has trumpeted no waste, sustainability for some time and operated numerous initiatives for disadvantaged families during lockdown, but in an unshowy way. It feels ‘decent’. An old fashioned but powerful word. For people offered an array of food retail brands – from the budget-conscious Aldi through to the high-end Waitrose, Morrisons seems to have smartly carved out a niche reflecting the values of a chunk of customers. No mean feat!
Apple & Marmite – Identity
It’s very difficult for a brand which has successfully occupied a niche to go mass market without losing its original fans. But Apple has pulled it off, that’s because Apple utterly understands its customers identity. Apple’s roots were as the tech for ‘creatives’ – photographers, designers, ad people, musicians, those in the media. The brand took care to play to these audiences’ sense of creative identity by looking (and feeling) lovely to use. A smart, well designed choice.
Fast forward several decades and even as Apple has moved mass market through iPhones and TVs, it has held onto its strong design credentials, so as not to alienate its original advocates.
Marmite is another stellar example of a brand which reinforces its customers sense of self. Indeed, people define themselves as either being in the ‘love’ or ‘hate’ Marmite camp! This is marketing brilliance. Even people who aren’t fans seem to be defined by it!
This is no happy accident. Marmite recognised early on that it divided opinion on its taste. So rather than try to win over the haters by diluting its offering or changing its recipe, for years it has reinforced and revelled in its uniqueness. Most recently, licensing deals saw Marmite flavoured houmous and Lynx Marmite hit our shelves, underscoring that its marketing strategy as a ‘courter of controversy’ is alive and kicking!
Amazon – A Life Partner
If a brand is loved when it fits in with someone’s lifestyle then it is easy to see why tech giant Amazon, another named standout brand in our study, is loved by so many. In the modern, home shopping era, where selection, having something in stock, at a good price and next day delivery really matter, Amazon is king. It has become an essential adjunct to people’s lives.
However, Amazon has spent years and invested heavily getting to this loved position. For instance, in its early days it might have seemed logical for Amazon to limit its product range to those high demand, big ticket items which generate the most profit. But Amazon recognised that people don’t buy these items every day. And it wanted to be such a big part of our daily lives that we would always turn to it. So, it stocked the low profit everyday things and spent heavily, ironing out the irritations which can come with online shopping.
This commitment cost the company; Amazon consistently lost money for its first several years as a public company. But its latest net income figure of $26.9 billion suggests this determination and investment to become the online consumer’s life partner has paid off.
LEGO – The Long Haul
The really successful, loved brands – those which foster incredible customer loyalty – not only manage to have a really clear sense of their customers’ values, identity or lifestyle, and stay in sync with these, but they do this time and again, for the long haul.
For example, part of LEGO’s considerable success is down to its ability to keep people who once played with LEGO as a child, excited about the brand years later, when they become parents or gift givers. To do this LEGO has cultivated a powerful ‘creative play’ proposition which chimes with many gift givers’ identity. They want to be seen as a thoughtful, improving but still fun gift giver. LEGO avoids falling into the ‘worthy but dull’ camp by never losing sight of the ‘play’ part of its brand promise.
LEGO amplifies this creative play position routinely through its often left-field marketing, which is frequently aimed at adults. For instance, it created a white noise playlist. Available on Spotify, the playlist features seven half hour long tracks which can be played as background ‘music’ to sooth, calm and help restore mental balance – ideal stuff for adults in lockdown! LEGO’s team used some 10,000 bricks, to create the noises for the seven soundtracks, ranging from the satisfying ‘It All Clicks’ featuring bricks simply being joined together, through to the ‘Waterfall’ which is the supremely satisfying sound of thousands of bricks tumbling for a full, 30 minutes. Some tracks are instantly relatable like ‘Searching for the One (brick)’, which recreates the sound of someone rummaging through a bucketload of bricks and finally finding that all-important, elusive piece. Others are clever new soundscapes such as ‘Wild as the Wind’, which uses LEGO to convincingly evoke the sound of trees rustling in the breeze.
The tactic is one of many which reinforce LEGO’s creative playful credentials but in a way which reaches older fans and reinforces their love for LEGO by not simply reminding them of their childhood but by fitting with their identity as a gift giver.
As these examples show, some brands have really successfully paid close attention to the key levers of brand love and loyalty. But not everyone is that successful. For the final part of our survey, we asked the 100 marketers for the most common marketing mistakes they believe typical businesses make on the road to love and loyalty and how these mistakes can be avoided
Over one in four (28 percent) cited failing to understand customers properly. Despite having a wealth of data to draw on, and big data tools, they argued that many companies still don’t know what makes their customers tick – nor prioritise it. Instead mass marketing dominates and customers end up feeling like just another name on a database.
Inconsistency with messaging is another major ‘fail’ mentioned by one in four of the marketers studied. If a brand is inconsistent we stop trusting it, and trust is crucial in brands we love.
Consistency means that every touch point is on message – whether that’s the customer service team, online, face to face, on the phone or on social media. To become loved your communication must be consistently effective. It’s no good being good some of the time.
I relatively recently experienced first-hand Mastercard getting this spectacularly wrong with me. As a long-standing customer they invited me to an online gin tasting, I had a very nice time. When I shared my pics from this on social media, they asked if they could use them in a special social media promotion. I was happy to oblige and, with no little effort on my part, sent the photos they wanted. Some weeks later I followed up on their social channels to see how the promotion had gone (they’d asked me to kindly reshare it when it happened, and I was worried I’d missed it!) Their response was ‘sorry, we didn’t use them in the end.’ Written at speed and with zero thought or care. In eight words one channel undid the good work of others!
Our research found that we will tolerate almost five mistakes from a brand we love before we then ‘walk’. This means some of a company’s most loyal customers could be sitting in its customer complaints system, having repeated interactions with the customer service team. So keep an eye on what’s coming into the customer service team – and going out!
The last marketing lesson for those who want to be a loved is don’t be complacent. Companies are often so focused on bringing in new business that they forget the customers they have. But focussing solely on new customers is, according to 58 percent of marketers, the biggest mistake made on the road to greatness. Don’t fall into this trap. Ensure your marketing metrics recognise the nurturing of current customers as well as the winning of new ones.
Loyalty requires brand love and earning that love isn’t easy. It takes time and commitment. To achieve it you need to understand what makes your customers tick – in terms of values, self-identity and lifestyle – and ensure your brand, its marketing and indeed your wider business decisions are in sync with this for the long-haul.
For advice on how to make your brand more loveable contact Energy PR on 01993 823011 or email [email protected]