Brand loyalty was once a marketing buzz word comparable to big data or omni-channel today. Google search ‘brand loyalty’ today and you will find a plethora of articles with titles like, ‘Is Brand Loyalty Dying a Slow and Painful Death’ and ‘Is There Still Brand Loyalty?’ Clearly there is some thought around moving the focus of marketing from the brand to other areas that seem more cutting edge. Today’s fragmented consumers are no longer thought of as long lasting advocates with which to build a relationship, but as short-term commodities that cannot be counted on for repeat purchases. While big data, social media, and omni-channel represent potential sources of tremendous growth, do they render the last century’s iconic brand obsolete?
In this blog series, The State of Brands, we discuss the growing complexity of the relationship between brand and consumer, and how this affects one the greatest challenges facing many CP companies today- achieving brand loyalty. The changing consumer and retail landscapes of today create an environment in which brands are not only still alive, but are thriving to the point where brand loyalty can now be stronger than ever.
A brand is more than the name listed on the label of a product; a brand ultimately exists only in consumers’ minds as their factual and emotional conceptions about a product or company. Brand loyalty, then, is the affect that these conceptions have on purchasing behaviour – high brand loyalty causes continual purchasing of one brand over all others. Through marketing and advertising, companies have historically been able to impact the way consumers view their brands, increasing brand loyalty and therefore sales. But, recent studies have shown that only 25% of consumers in the US say brand loyalty is a determining factor when making a purchase, with 32% of online consumers saying they trust a public forum or blog over branded advertisements. Clearly, the traditional view of brand loyalty as held by marketing departments no longer has the same impact it once had.
Does this mean that brand loyalty is dying? One look at a brand like Apple, Patagonia, or Starbucks will tell you that brand loyalty, while more elusive than ever, is alive and well. So what is it that causes a brand like Apple to skyrocket? Sleek stores? Funny commercials? Cool social media campaigns?
Brand loyalty is fundamentally about the consumers’ view of a brand and how that view aligns with their own ideals and values. Dan Wieden, creator of the ‘Just Do It’ slogan, once said, “Brands are verbs. Nike exhorts. IBM solves. Sony dreams.” In the chaos of today’s retail environment, companies and products need to build their core values around the consumers’ values. Apple and Starbucks have captured the desire for individuality with Apple’s “Think Different” slogan and Starbuck’s mission statement, “To inspire and nurture the human spirit.” Patagonia has captured the desire for social responsibility with their motto, “…use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” But more than just having these slogans and mission statements, these companies truly operate by these ideals. Zappos, whose slogan is “Delivering Happiness,” truly operates in such a way that both consumers and employees are enriched with every interaction. Countless articles and YouTube videos attest to that fact. All of these brands are verbs, but the verbs don’t exist just in words; the companies take action on these verbs and passionately pursue focus and alignment around that core ideal across the entire business model.
This is where brand loyalty has changed in recent years. Where once consumers were loyal to a brand because of what ads and marketers told them that brand represented, now consumers are loyal to what they see and experience a brand representing.
So what is a company to do to ensure that it maintains a stable of strong brands that resonate with today’s consumers? We’ll be posting a series of blogs on this topic with practical ways that companies can increase brand loyalty and examples of brands that are doing it right today.
Go to the next blog in this series: Building Loyalty through Simplicity.