Fidelity, loyalty, bonding; all terms we associate with something positive. However, these feelings have to be earned the hard way, as they are based on trust, a good relationship, affection and commitment. Loyalty is something you have to earn, and it can be quickly lost thanks to minor slip-ups. Most of these terms also appear in the social environment: one is loyal to friends and families and pets can also build a particularly close bond with their masters. Dogs in particular are considered to be extremely loyal companions.
Not only in ones‘ private life but also in business there is the much sought-after and hard-won loyalty: that between customers and some brands.
This brand loyalty is not only a hotly debated topic in the marketing department as part of so-called customer experience, but top levels of company management also have to engage with it. Brand loyalty isn’t just created out of thin air; behind it lies a wide-branched network of relationships.
The good news here is that generating brand loyalty is no secret recipe, and can be achieved with the simple application of solid measures and skills. We will show you in detail what this can look like in the following sections.
Some entrepreneurs may still be asking why it is beneficial to establish a brand in the first place. After all, the development of a brand involves spending time and money, which could also be just as easily put into everyday customer acquisition. Couldn‘t it? Of course, you can and should continue to run your established sales channels, but a brand offers you advantages that a simple product does not have. It not only simplifies the acquisition of new customers, but also increases the loyalty of existing ones. Consumers talk about the brand, creating word-of-mouth propaganda and public interest. Brands also stand for higher quality than no-name products and thus achieve higher profits. In addition, potential employees of brands also feel addressed. In this way, brands make it easier to fill new positions in the company. When consumers are keen followers of a brand, they carry their message to others and thus help attract new customers. These new customers often use online reviews as a basis for their product research.
Of course, you don't just have to rely on experience alone. Figures, for example, were provided by the Wachstumsmotor Marke Study, conducted by the German Markenverband and McKinsey & Company in 2015. According to this study, almost 40 percent of German customers appreciate the value of a brand. In contrast, 89 percent of the companies surveyed see a clear competitive advantage in their respective brand.
These clear benefits should provide sufficient reasons to convince any management of the idea of a brand. Once this task of persuasion is done, one can start with the definition of the brand, that of brand identity and then take the first steps towards generating brand loyalty.
Brands are literally everywhere, from airplanes all the way down to staple items like bread and butter. The term is used very wastefully, and one should be aware of what it actually says. In marketing, for example, the word brand is used as a term under which the unique selling points of the respective object are collected. Brand therefore stands for those characteristics of an object with which it differs from the competing products.
With this declaration, any company can decide whether it actually has a brand or a simple product, service or even a business. In addition, you can identify what may be missing so that you can actually create a brand – perhaps there is simply a lack of unique selling points?
Joint brainstorming often helps to better position the principles of one's own brand. A look at industry leaders can also help: For example, what makes Ikea, Amazon, or Apple unique? With this question, one can immediately quiz one's employees and find and sharpen one's own brand identity - i.e. the essential characteristics of a brand - in a joint brainstorming. These characteristics will stand for the respective brand in the future and are fundamental to communicating them to the outside world.
These features should definitely include some basic values that appeal to buyers in particular. These are explored in more detail below.
In order for a brand to establish itself at all, some basic values are crucial. Customers buy with heart and mind, which means that both must be stimulated and satisfied by a brand. This is achieved by addressing both fundamental values.
Therefore, a brand must be easy to understand, clearly positioned, and unmistakable. On top of that, it has to offer the buyer a clear utility value that is divided into rational benefits – such as quality – and an emotional value, such as a feeling of identity enrichment. A brand must deliver top quality over no-name products, because this is an important buying argument for buyers. In recent years especially, quality has set itself up as a purchasing decision which is as important as, if not more so, than price.
Buyers associate brands with a certain security and thus a low risk of being disappointed by the purchase. Next, all the promises associated with the brand, such as sustainability, must be truly fulfilled. A brand exudes personality, and can be seen as charming or sympathetic. In marketing though, the only thing that counts is when the customer says "Wow!". Then the brand is successful. A brand also confers the buyer status, it becomes part of their personality. If you keep this profiling in mind, you should add a certain touch to your brand. To be aware of these core values, a quote from Seth Godin, an American author on marketing topics, helps: "A brand is a wealth of expectations, memories, stories and relationships".
If a company has laid out its own brand and associated values, it can continue on the path to brand loyalty. To this end, one should understand what loyalty actually generates from the point of view of both the consumer and the company. This term is therefore first defined in the next paragraph in order to make the meaning recognizably clear.
Brand loyalty or customer loyalty refer to one and the same thing: a customer's preference for one particular brand. The preference is so strong that it does not give way to obstacles, such as a competitor‘s lower price for a supposedly identical product.
In doing so, brand loyalty can be further differentiated:
If a brand has gained the loyalty of customers, it can have a long-term positive impact on profits, as loyal buyers repeatedly access that brand and its products. A sign of brand loyalty is the number of consecutive purchases and the likelihood of repetitive purchases despite price or product changes. In addition, recommendations, additional purchases and customer satisfaction are among the key figures for existing brand loyalty.
But be careful! Brand loyalty is an extremely unstable construct and it is easy to squander. You must not simply rely on brand-loyal customers, but must always see brand loyalty as a long-term project in which you have to regularly invest resources. This is the only way to keep brand loyalty up-to-date and to align it with the ever-changing customer demands and wishes.
Before we start examining actual measures on which lead to brand loyalty, one should understand the idea behind it: how do brands manage to win over consumers and thereby attract fans?
In the digital age, you can go shopping all over the world. All you need is your smartphone, the internet and a few chunks of English – a whole world of consumption is open to you. With new channels such as influencer marketing, many buyers are once again placing increasing emphasis on branded goods. These often also act as a status symbol and give the buyer a sense of acceptance and belonging. Anyone who misses this process will be left behind.
Customers are specifically looking for brands that underline their own identity and also carry them to the outside world. Those who like to live sustainably and in an environmentally friendly way will rely on a brand that also carries these characteristics. Or vice versa: no urban-oriented metropolitan wants a brand that still has earth stuck to it. This means that sharpening the brand identity automatically leads to the exclusion of customers. However, this is a manageable risk if the view of the potential clientele is sharpened.
Brands win customers when they are authentic, perceptible and tangible. They attract attention when they touch emotions. With this extensive, flexible experience of a brand, customers can become true fans – and fans are loyal! A brand is thus not a one-dimensional, spherical idea, but something truthful in which one believes. This belief must be continually reaffirmed, otherwise you lose your fans and thus their bond with your brand. In order to achieve this, you need tangible measures, which should be planned and implemented in a cooperation of marketing and other departments. We'll introduce a few options in the next section.
To establish brand loyalty, there are a variety of proven measures, tools and tips.
The first impression counts:
If you keep in mind that the competition is just one click away, you can immediately understand why the first impression is so important. The team behind the brand therefore needs to invest a lot of time to make this first impression comprehensively positive, so that customers have a rapid wow effect and wake their curiosity. It‘s only in this way they'll come back to you. If the first impression is only indifferent or even negative, one is simply lost in the multitude of competing providers.
The art of listening:
Customers have a lot to say. If you listen attentively, you can gain a direct connection to the wishes and needs of the customers and can use them specifically to align your own brand with it. Therefore, it is important to rely on feedback, reviews, surveys and other tools to give your consumers the opportunity to communicate. Because no wise entrepreneur wants to miss this dialogue!
If customers have reasons to return, they also come back. Such reasons include bonus programs, points collection or special offers and incentives.
The customer is king:
This phrase must be the top premise for all the employees in the service department or with other customer contact. Because only when a brand offers outstanding customer service will customers become fans. Negative customer service experiences spoil the entire brand for a customer. It is therefore extremely important not to cut costs at this point, but to train and instruct the employees comprehensively.
The worst mistake would be to take success for granted and not to improve further. On the contrary, those who want to maintain brand loyalty must always remain up-to-date and relevant. To this end, it is important to keep an eye on the industry, the market and the competition. Day-to-day events must also be an important item on the agenda, as this provides sufficient incentives to position one's own brand in a meaningful way. After all, a brand wants to be in charge and not just chase the competition!
Active on all channels:
Nowadays, there are almost too many platforms where potential clientele is active. However, not every company is active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or the other popular channels. It is precisely here that the authenticity and identity of a brand can be perfectly reflected – if you master the craftsmanship. The search for social media consultants to develop branding strategies is highly recommended, to ensure that any encounter of potential customers and your brand is as effective as possible.
Success is sexy:
Customers love your brand? Then this also gets communicated, because nothing turns on other prospects like real, enthusiastic buyers. If a brand has its own true customer stories and reviews, they must be communicated in a meaningful way in order to give the other interested parties authentic reasons for brand loyalty. Of course, this also includes the advantages they have when they are loyal to that very brand.
The specialists in both marketing and management have done their job. The brand identity is defined, the next public-facing phase planned for well-ahead of time and the brand has finally been launched on the market. After some time, the question arises whether and how the customers are satisfied.
Methods are now needed to query, evaluate and make the data thus obtained usable for your company. A suitable metric for this is the Net Promoter Score®, which determines customer satisfaction. With the help of the zenloop software and a simple question about the probability of a recommendation, you can also query the brand loyalty of the customers. If you would like to learn more about the NPS©, you can get a lot more interesting information in our post: Net Promoter Score: Calculation and Interpretation as well as Net Promoter Score to Increase Customer Satisfaction.
A truly authentic brand convinces customers with its clear profile and deep-rooted values. This foundation creates long brand loyalty that increases company turnover. But brand loyalty is not a one-way street: if you want to maintain it for a long time, you have to invest a lot of effort and resources. The path to brand loyalty may therefore be long and winding, but it is well worth it. Those who identify with the brand will feel emotionally connected to it and will always resort to exactly those in the future. A fan is won, who independently promotes the products and services, spreads his message and authentically beats the advertising drum. That in turn attracts other customers, who also place their trust in the reviews they see.
Therefore, this goal should be carried and implemented into the company much deeper than just the doors of the marketing department. The topic of brand loyalty has much more to offer than you might think. If you rely on authentic brands, you rely on success!
Content Marketing Manager