Hands up if you’ve ever switched brands. I know I have. Often the reason is trivial. It might be price, it might be convenience, and it might be that there’s a better choice online.
On the other hand, to which brands have you remained loyal? And – this is much more interesting – why? Understanding this, you can take action with your own business to build brand loyalty, maintaining and strengthening it to the point that it becomes so deeply embedded it is more like an animal instinct.
Why ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ need to be different.
When two ingredients look and sound similar, it helps to define them carefully. Brand and branding are a case in point. They are not the same, but they are easily confused, so consider these definitions:
What is Brand?
Brand differentiates a product or service from others in the marketplace. It assures uniqueness, carries emotional and functional associations and offers a promise that performance will be what customers expect.
© 2018 Future Point 4 Business Limited
What is Branding?
Branding is the strategic implementation of brand and the chance to create a memory.
© 2018 Future Point 4 Business Limited
Brand and Branding are inextricably interwoven with marketing. By recognising the two concepts as related but distinct, it is easier to know what to adjust to maximise the impact of both.
Is brand loyalty simply a lifestyle choice?
Covid-19, the plague of the early 21st century, has changed the way we live, at least temporarily. It has changed the way we think, perhaps permanently. A huge amount of shopping has moved online and larger commercial decisions are made with much greater regard to managing risk.
Anecdotally, a supermarket near me has actually gained customers during the pandemic. The manager has gone out of his way to make it as visibly clean and as well controlled as possible. People feel safe when they go there. As restrictions are lifted, there is every chance that those new customers will remain loyal, even though there may be cheaper alternatives. A simple branding activity has visibly strengthened the brand.
For many, new choices that have come about because of the pandemic may be superficial. For others, they may be part of a paradigm shift. Either way, for a business to respond positively, to reclaim old customers or to keep new ones, intelligent use of their brand and branding is going to define their success.
Building loyalty is a series of conscious choices
Human beings can be fickle, so building and keeping brand loyalty requires effort and a bit of luck. And for ‘luck’ read, in the words of Eliyahu Goldratt, ‘opportunity meets preparation’.
And, despite great suffering caused by Covid-19, it has created very real opportunities too. In particular, showing you care matters.
Many customers have stayed loyal to a brand during the pandemic (and as we tentatively approach its end) because they recognize and remember that 'when the chips were down' the brand really came through, and gave genuine support when it was needed. Both parties benefit, even if profit margins have been cut. In the long term, support given is rewarded by loyalty.
Likewise, service suppliers have been able to 'step up' and to attract new clients with a delivery of their service being newly imaginative, and tailored to need during and after the unique consequences of Covid-19.
It’s a matrix, reloaded, holistically
The details behind these relatively simple propositions can be complex and overlapping, but the simple actions of helping someone else also represents the re-modelling of well-known marketing strategies, all of which keep the brand strong with positive customer memories.
Assuming the product is good, loyalty is created (and maintained) by great customer service that is personalised. Customers feel valued (and in the retail sector at least, perhaps also by a loyalty programme), and business customers feel a sense of community with their counterparts. On top of this, act constructively on customer feedback, and your business will be in a strong position.
Critically, these strands of activity are part of a whole. They sit alongside purposefully keeping the branding alive though specific pro-active marketing activities. Today, this means strategic activity online in a range of modes: updated website content, online advertising and regularly refreshed social media marketing – everything, in fact, that re-enforces the benefits of the brand in the customer’s conscious and subconscious memories.
Loyalty dwells in the whole being of your customer. To keep it strong and see it grow, keep your brand ever present and your branding dynamic. Do it now. If you wait until tomorrow, you may be a memory forgotten.
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