Headspace: Brand loyalty & the not-so-monogamous consumer
by Tenielle Maris. Should brand managers focus their attention on recruiting new customers or on creating deep relationships with loyal customers to optimise brand growth? The answer lies somewhere in between.
The bestselling marketing sensation, “How Brands Grow”, created waves when Professor Byron Sharp from the Ehrenburg-Bass Institute challenged the notion of customer loyalty and the emphasis that brands place on retaining customers. He highlighted that brands are more likely to have a higher number of light occasional buyers than the heavy frequent users that all brands dream about, whom are sadly few and far between. As a consequence, he points out that brand-growth strategies should place market penetration at the centre vs attempting to establish customer loyalty — something that has snowballed debates within the marketing and advertising arena.
A different perspective
The notion of customer loyalty has been mystifying brands for centuries, where the science behind both the attitude and behaviour remains complex and undefined. Very rarely (if at all) will customers remain monogamous to a particular brand: what marketers and advertisers need to recognise is that the notion of loyalty does, actually, exist within the land of consumerism, albeit in an evolved form.
It goes without saying that consumers have a set of brands that they purchase, based on numerous factors influencing their decision at a specific point in time. Arguably, this doesn’t mean that loyalty doesn’t exist but rather that brands should be doing whatever it takes to ensure that they’re the ones being purchased within a person’s repertoire.
A dual approach
Numerous studies have been conducted to show the effects of penetration and customer loyalty on brand growth; however, there are a number of findings that challenge Sharp’s hypothesis. It appears that top-of-mind awareness is only half the story when it comes to increased market share, and that marketers and advertisers cannot ignore the role that establishing a deep emotional connection and the resulting advocacy play in driving sustainable brand success.
While the notion of ‘brand love’ is very possibly a marketer’s very own version of a glittery unicorn, recognising the importance of getting customers to like your brand, and the impact on cultivating high-value customers in the long term, shouldn’t be overlooked.
Beyond a loyalty card
If marketers and advertisers need to stop thinking about loyalty in isolation, where does that leave the old, trusted loyalty programme? The answer is that it, along with similar strategies, need to be established with the intention of enhancing the customer experience to ultimately grow a brand.
With more and more brands placing experiences at the core, the penny is dropping that there is a myriad of ways to establish brand affinity and deepen relationships beyond the loyalty card — something that’s more than likely long forgotten in your customer’s wallet.
“To succeed at a time when competition is more disruptive than ever, you need to be a loyalty brand, not a brand with a loyalty programme.” —Admap, 2016
Getting it right
In order to establish authentic relationships with millennial parents and to steal share from all-time rival brand Huggies, Pampers developed the #betterforbaby campaign: based on the heart-warming insight that babies motivate people to be better human beings. The campaign leveraged Pampers’ existing loyalty and feeding programmess, as well as the brand’s 10-year partnership with UNICEF to show the brand’s ongoing dedication to making the world a better place.
Beyond measuring success against engagement and likes, this campaign also demonstrated an increase in brand equity and purchase intent — two crucial advocacy drivers. Rather than focusing on a loyalty programme in isolation, this campaign demonstrates the brand’s recognition of loyalty as the outcome of all brand efforts. Pampers showed that, by establishing an emotional connection with an audience, a brand is able to lay the foundation for long-term growth.
Despite the ongoing debates on this subject, the power of building authentic relationships shouldn’t be forgotten. Rather, by tapping into insights to understand what motivates buying behaviour over a sustained period, brands need to continually seek out ways to make themselves more valuable and significant in the lives of their customers.
Beginning her career in branding and communications, Tenielle Maris has spent the last decade and more in the marketing industry, where she has worked upon big brands spanning the African continent. Having found her passion in understanding what drives human beings to connect with particular brands, her time is spent getting up close and personal with the people whom brands are trying to connect with. Tenielle contributes the monthly “Headspace” column, which unpacks anything and everything that helps marketers and advertisers understand why people connect with brands, to MarkLives.com.
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