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Want Brand Loyalty? Give Customers a Reason to Give a Damn

TJ West
Senior Account Manager

Throughout my travels, in the strange and sometime insane world of advertising, I have sat down with a number of companies to discuss their marketing plans in an attempt to develop their brands and their brand’s voice with their customers. A consistent priority for these companies is to build something that creates and grows brand loyalty.

Everyone is well aware that an existing/repeat customer is much more beneficial than a first-time/one-time buyer so it is easy to see why businesses long for loyalty. The issue however, is that it seems harder for companies to develop a tangible way to build that connection with the end customer. We want customers to ‘like’ our brand and we need to give the customer reasons to give a damn about our brand.

In a study conducted by Ernst & Young nearly 25,000 people were surveyed across 34 different markets worldwide examining trends effecting brand loyalty. The study revealed a radical shift in how brand loyalty is viewed and how the customer ultimately gives more information now than ever before. The study concluded that “[being] In possession of so much information, identifying what customers want and marketing to them should — theoretically — be easier than ever. The more we know, the more data we have, the more complex — and invaluable — effective marketing becomes.” This may come as a “duh” statement to many of us who feel continuously overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data and information provided by today’s customers (shout-out to Mo’ Data Mo’ Problems), but it does outline the basic need to develop tactical ways to really engage customers and to make brand relevant.

A key component to engaging customers with effect marketing is simply by giving them direct avenues to communicate with a company.

There is no longer the option to simply talk at customers.
Companies must create functions that allow customers to relay thoughts and feedback that influence future decisions. As described by Steve Olenski in his article on Forbes.com related to Brand Loyalty “The rules have changed forever and the “different rules” mean that you – Mr. and Mrs. Brand are no longer driving the bus, your customers and prospects are and if you want them to be loyal – even in the face of rising prices, you better engage and stay engaged.”

Easy enough right?

Marketing is no longer an A to B path. It is continuous communication with the main stakeholder in the relationship – the customer.
And like any relationship, the key to a healthy one is to maintain the communication and listen (I think my girlfriend told me that once…I wasn’t really paying attention). Some companies have done this extremely well and I’m not just talking about the “sexy” brands like Nike or Apple. Real communication and relationships with customers can be developed with some general themes and principles no matter what type of brand.

Cutter
For example, take a company like Leatherman Tool. At the end of the day a Leatherman is a pocket knife with some extra gadgets on it. There are countless knock off brands (often offered at a discount) and yet Leatherman continues to be an established name with a die-hard following of brand loyal customers. The brand focuses on the customer over the company. Leatherman’s campaigns don’t just boast that they use the highest grade steel or that their tools have the most gadgets. The main messaging is about the practical use of the product and even their brand guidelines dictate the use of realistic scenarios for their tool that showcase how the product works for the customer. The company places a value on the product being top quality and reliable but the messaging is conveyed in a way that is accessible for the brand of their consumer.
Moreover Leatherman actively engages its customers allowing them to be a part of the process in developing a tool, as showcased in this recent Facebook post the company reached out to its customers asking for feedback and advice on how to make the product the best it can be.
Screenshot
Now this isn’t just a rant about how cool I think Leathermans are (though I do) but consider what the brand is really establishing here.
Leatherman is embracing the community of followers that have been cultivated by not just saying they are going to make the best product for their customer but instead by actively reaching out to the customer and asking them to communicate back with their thoughts and opinions.

Leatherman is engaging their customers in an honest approach that allows the customers to have a sense of ownership with the company. This type of active engagement is what really sets a Leatherman apart from the next pocket knife/gadget on the shelf. Most companies in this line would just list what products they have and the gadgets that are included.

When a customer is part of an experience that generates ownership they will give a damn about the brand.


Within this scenario there are key samples of overarching themes brands should follow in today’s market place. When crafting a strategy, here are three critical themes to help customers give a damn about your brand…

1. Open/On-Going Communication

It is the difference between talking “with” someone or talking “at” someone. With the ever present voice of customers online, companies should always create and maintain functions for customers to openly interact directly with a company.

2. Build Ownership

Building campaigns that allow customers to influence or drive the direction of future campaigns/products establishes a sense of ownership. This ownership builds a connection with the customer that makes them feel included with the brand as opposed to being just another consumer.

3. Respond

Showcase that the input from customers was received and directly influenced a future step. This keeps customers engaged and gives them a reason to re-engage in the future.

When separating good brands from the great brands – the customer decides. Today the only way to get that customer to give a damn about your brand is to give them a reason.

TJ West
TJ West, Senior Account Manager at eROI.