When considering what a brand is, many people associate a brand with a logo. Yes, a Product or a Company logo is certainly the visual identity of a brand, but when it comes to brand loyalty, however, we’re talking about an experience with a brand that goes beyond awareness and enters the realm of emotion – it’s a way of feeling about a brand.
Feelings of trust are the key ingredient in brand loyalty. On the surface, we might observe a customer repeatedly purchase from a vendor and assume we were witnessing brand loyalty in action. As an indicator of brand loyalty, however, such behaviour isn’t always accurate. Variables such as convenience, vendor lock-in, and a lack of competition can masquerade as brand loyalty. This “ad-hoc loyalty” isn’t the goal of a brand strategy.
The brand loyalty to which vendors aspire exists only when customers intentionally, consciously and repeatedly purchase from the same vendor. This loyalty is characterised by customers who will seek the brand out, overcoming most convenience and pricing barriers while disregarding the competition.
At its deepest level, brand loyalists will even consciously choose products of lesser quality because of their attachment to the brand.
Sadly though, brand loyalty is on the endangered species list in today’s marketing ecosystem. The rate at which competitors appear and lure customers away with enticing promotions makes brand loyalists rarer than ever, and even more valuable.
The ease of mass communication has somewhat contributed to this change. Digital channels – particularly social media – magnify and accelerate the attraction or repulsion to a brand. It’s also easier for prospective customers to decide about the worthiness of a brand before doing business with it, and all of this is completely outside the influence of that brand’s marketing efforts.
Social media, in particular, gives a voice to customers. Brands that are serious about cultivating loyalty cannot afford to ignore social media as a tool that can help them grow. The fear that social media simply provides disgruntled customers with a platform for airing grievances has led some companies to shun social media. Companies with this fear fail to realise that the negative conversations of social-media bashing are occurring anyway, and all they’ve done is opt-out of the ability to participate in, and moderate, those discussions. The wise approach is to maintain an active presence in social media and monitor discussions diligently.
Disgruntled customers who air grievances represent an opportunity for recovery, which often turns into praise and loyalty. And loyal customers will take to company-curated social-media channels to express thanks. Social media, therefore – even when used by customers to express dissatisfaction – is a powerful tool for cultivating and measuring brand loyalty. It simply requires commitment, empowerment and vigilance in monitoring discussions.