What determines whether a brand is great or loveable and does it matter? These were the questions which drove our Brand Love, research, and to complete it we interviewed over 100 leading marketers. What we found is that there’s a clear link between a brand’s lovability and the loyalty it enjoys. Furthermore, communications have a practical role to play in fostering both. Let me explain.
We began our research by exploring the strength of the connection between a brand’s greatness and loyalty. We found that people who deem a brand to be great are three times more likely to recommend it and are twice as tolerant of its mistakes. For instance, on average people will give great brands or the ones they love 2.44 more chances to mess up before they take their custom elsewhere.
So how does a brand go about establishing the greatness and love which drive such loyalty? Our research suggests that price and customer service are not the answer. These factors matter but they’re not the key ingredients that drive loyalty. Indeed, according to our study, just 33 percent of marketers think value for money is important for brand greatness, and 34 percent believe it is determined by its customer support. Marketers who crave working for a company that is more innovative might be interested to note that innovation is also not the answer; just 11 percent of marketers think innovation is key to brand greatness.
Instead, the brands we deem great are those we trust (60 percent), and which make us feel good (58 percent). Customer trust and feelings are all things which communications teams can have considerable influence over. What’s more, our research found brands are loved when they have values which align with the customer’s values (55%), are closely tied with the consumer’s identity (38%) and become part of someone’s life (42%).
Communications Steps on the Road to Love and Loyalty
Establishing this level of intimacy is surely the domain of communications, but how is it achieved?
I’d suggest first, you ensure your communications are personal. One of the biggest mistakes brands make on the road to greatness is failing to understand their customers. There’s no excuse for this. Use your customer data – big data could step in here – so that the content shared, and the form and timing of all interactions are utterly in step with the customer and fit with their lives. A loyal customer does not want to feel like just another name on a list! Mass marketing messages are out.
The brands we’re loyal to also have values that sync with our own. So, communications need to articulate the values – but authentically and consistently. It’s no good adopting values which aren’t your own just to appeal. You’ll never keep it up – and building a great brand that people are loyal to takes years.
Also, identity matters. Get to the essence of your brand’s personality and amplify it wholeheartedly – again, you must be the real deal.
At every touch point, whether that’s with the customer service team, online, face to face, on the phone or on social media, the communication must be personal and on point.
This reference to customer services is an important one. Our research found that we will tolerate almost five mistakes from a brand we love before we then ‘walk’. This means some of your most loyal customers could be sitting in your customer complaints system and having repeated interactions with your customer service team. So as a communications professional check out what’s coming into the customer service team – and going out!
Lastly, don’t be complacent. Marketing teams are under enormous pressure to bring in new business but focussing solely on new customers is, according to 58 percent of marketers, the biggest marcomms mistake made by brands on the road to greatness. Your loyal customers are the most valuable of assets – they are twice as tolerant of your mistakes and are three times more likely to recommend you – nurture them, don’t neglect them.
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By Louise Findlay-Wilson, Founder and Managing Director at Energy PR