Louise Findlay-Wilson
Louise Findlay-Wilson 10 March 2021

Building Brand Love & Loyalty

In its new research report, Brand Love, Energy PR identifies what it takes for a brand to be loved by its customers. Louise Findlay-Wilson, Managing Director at Energy PR, walks us through the findings and the key takeaways for companies looking to build loyalty.

It’s easy to understand why businesses want to achieve brand loyalty. After all, while only 8 percent of a typical online business’ customers may be repeat buyers, they account for a disproportionate share of its turnover – a whopping 40 percent. So, boosting customer loyalty by just a few percentage points can have a profound impact on the bottom line.

Loyal customers are also much better at helping a brand find new customers; we found that those who are completely committed to a brand are three times more likely to recommend it to others.

Finally, people who love a brand are more forgiving of the errors it makes; they will tolerate twice as many mistakes from a brand they are 100% committed to than from an ordinary brand.  This is potent stuff.

Building Loyalty

So, how do you build loyalty for your brand?  Well, the first thing to remember is that it’s not about price or customer service.  These factors matter but they’re not the key ingredients that drive loyalty.

Indeed, according to our study, just 33% of marketers think value for money is important for brand greatness, and 34% believe it is determined by its customer support.  Instead, they argue that the brands we deem great are those we trust (60%) and the brands which make us feel good (58%).

What’s more, if you want to move from greatness to being loved, your brand needs to go a few significant steps further on the communication front.  You need to have values that align with the customer’s values (55%), be closely tied with the consumer’s identity (38%) and indeed become part of someone’s life (42%).

This involves much more sophisticated communications. After all, I can easily communicate my great deals, the quality of my products and I can demonstrate great customer service.  But how can my communications make customers trust me? How can I make them feel good? How do I stay part of their lives and in sync with them?

Key Communications Steps

To engender these things, you need to take the following communications steps:

Be personal. A loyal customer wants to feel that the brand knows they exist as an individual, values them and their custom.  They do not want to feel like just another name on a list! Sending loyal customers mass marketing messages is out – it’s incredibly alienating. 

Use your data. There are plenty of opportunities to gather data on the customer so that the content shared with them and the interactions are bang on.  A company may need to deploy big data and a heap of effort to do this, but richer interactions with customers will be rewarded.

Fit in. The brands we love fit into our lives. So, it’s important the communications – through their timing and content – show that the brand understands where it fits.  

Be real. The brands we’re loyal to have values that sync with our own. We need to know what those values are and see them demonstrated through actions not just words. A brand doesn’t necessarily need to have a big corporate social responsibility programme (unless that’s part of its customer's values too), but it does need to be authentic, consistently its true self.

Being joined up is also important. Someone may be interacting with a brand in many ways – on social channels, through the site, on the phone, via email, in store, through the customer service team. At every touch point, the communication must be personal and on point. It’s no good being good some of the time.

I recently experienced first-hand Mastercard getting this spectacularly wrong with me.  As a long-standing customer they invited me to an online gin tasting, I had a very nice time. When I shared my pics from this on social media, they asked if they could use them in a special social media promotion. I was happy to oblige and, with no little effort on my part, sent the pics they wanted. 

Some weeks later I followed up on their social channels to see how the promotion had gone (they’d asked me to kindly reshare it when it happened, and I was worried I’d missed it!) Their response was ‘sorry, we didn’t use them in the end.’ Written at speed and with zero thought or care. In eight words one channel undid the good work of others!

The moral of this tale is that everyone involved in customer communications needs to be on the same page. Indeed, I’d argue that marketing and customer service need to work together closely.

Don’t be Deluded!

Many brands may feel that they have very loyal customers. However, according to our Brand Love study, 53% think people will still stick with an ordinary brand even if it messes up twice! This suggests a large amount of perceived loyalty could be apathy! Customers could be putting up with some seriously bad service. A brand may get away with this for a while but remember this apathy cuts both ways. 

When that customer eventually jumps ship – which our research suggests is after 3 mess-ups by a typical brand – it will be hard to win them back. They will stick with a rival, for ages, even if they make mistakes!  Yet another reason for the marketing team to see what’s coming into the customer service team.

Complacency Kills

When it comes to brand loyalty, the final piece of advice centres around complacency. According to our research, the surest way to derail customer loyalty is through complacency; focussing solely on new customers (58 percent), forgetting current customers (54 percent) and failing to understand customers properly (28 percent). 

Don’t be a brand that takes existing customers for granted. We’re loyal to the brands we love; earn that love, and then through your communications, prove you deserve it.

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