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What Your Loyal Consumers Can Teach You about Your Brand!

May 14, 2020


What Your Loyal Consumers Can Teach You about Your Brand!

Brand loyalty is something I think about a lot, but it’s been on my mind even more recently. We’ve seen so many amazing stories of people rallying together around local businesses and entrepreneurs. These may seem like little more than feel-good stories for trying times, but there’s so much more to the story here.

We’re not seeing people rallying around businesses because they really love that latte their local café serves or they got a good haircut at the salon that one time. It’s not the product or service, really, that keeps people coming back.

It’s all about the emotional connections these people have to the businesses in their communities and lives. A latte is a latte is a latte—yes, maybe there’s that one café that sprinkles a little cinnamon on top, but it’s ultimately the way the latte makes you feel that keeps you coming back. Maybe you have lots of good memories about meeting friends at this café, or maybe you feel good about buying from them because they support fair trade coffee and sustainability. Maybe you just really love the atmosphere.

How Coca-Cola Won Branding

Maybe the biggest thing here is that we know all this already. All we have to do is look at the world’s #1 ranked brand, Coca-Cola. Coke isn’t inherently better than Pepsi (actually, most people can’t tell the difference in a blind taste-test), but people who love Coca-Cola won’t accept any substitute.

That’s because Coca-Cola is so wrapped up in our memories—a lot of them warm and fuzzy, even. Although they didn’t invent the red suit, Coca-Cola helped popularize the modern image of Santa Claus—a character intimately connected to lots of good memories for lots of people: Christmas, presents, the joyous feelings so many of us have around the holidays.

That’s not the only way Coke has used emotion to build relationships—and brand loyalty—with their customers. Think about some of their recent ad campaigns, focused on sharing a bottle of Coke with a friend, or capturing a feeling in a bottle.

All this to say: Coca-Cola didn’t stumble its way into the top spot. It got there by building strong emotional relationships, by understanding what people are actually buying when they choose Coke.

It’s not cola. It’s a feeling.

The Value of Loyal Customers

Not all of us can be Coca-Cola, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have loyal customers. Brand evangelists are even more common today. These people are fans of your company or your product, much the same way someone might be a fan of Star Wars.

These people love your brand. They look for your brand, they buy your brand, they recommend your brand. They’ll even defend your brand against naysayers.

They’re totally irreplaceable, and we know they’re more valuable to a company than other customers. Over time, customers who keep buying from you will buy more often and spend more as well. It’s often more cost-effective to keep these customers too.

And even so, we still see people offering rewards to new customers, handing out iPads and gift certificates and tossing in freebies to win over these skeptical consumers and get them to sign up.

All while your loyal customers keep right on buying. These people deserve your attention too! They’re helping to maintain your margins. If your category is mature, everyone is competing fiercely—the focus is on growing your market share, getting more and more customers. That’s why we see so many offers designed to attract new customers … and your competitors are doing the same, attracting people who feel you’re neglecting them, that you don’t appreciate their loyalty.

Reeling in new customers may seem like a good goal, but nine times out ten, they’re not going to stick with you for the long haul. You might see the sale as a “win,” but this “new” customer was a one-time deal. You were there, you had the right price, the right package size … There’s nothing holding them to you, nothing drawing them back to you to buy again.

Want to Know What Your Brand’s About? Ask Your Customers

So, what does draw people back to a brand? I’ve already said it: it’s emotion.

Your customers are human beings, and they have needs. Some of those needs are rational: when I go to the store and buy bread, I’m fulfilling a rational need for food. I might look at factors like pricing or package size—maybe I’m having a BBQ, so I want to buy a package of 24 hamburger buns, not the 12-pack. Maybe I’m on a budget, so I’m looking at what’s on sale.

Beyond these rational considerations are emotional needs. Maybe I don’t go to the grocery store at all. Maybe I buy from a local bakery that makes their bread fresh every morning. Maybe that’s because I know the owner or my parents shopped here. Maybe it’s because I know they use certain ingredients.

These are the factors that are going to draw a customer back time and time again. Buying from this bake shop makes me feel good about my purchase.

You can apply this logic to any product or service. It gets down to the core of what your business is all about—or, at least, what your customers see your business as being all about.

That’s something business leaders like us need to remember. We can write all kinds of goals and brand statements, but what really matters, at the end of it all, is what our customers perceive about our brands. We can say we’re innovative or offer the best customer service or whatever else, but that doesn’t matter unless our customers feel that.

So, go ahead. Ask your loyal customers: Why do they keep buying from you? What is it that they love about your brand in particular?

Finding Purpose

Your customers will probably tell you why they keep buying from you. They might point out your competitive pricing or the size of a package, but even that comes back to an emotion: Your brand is priced right, so their money goes further. The bulk packaging helps them feed their family.

In a lot of cases, though, your customers will be able to put things into perspective for you. Why do they buy your brand? “It makes me feel good.” “I know I’m going to get great-tasting bread.” “I love this brand!”

Of course, you need to figure out exactly why your customers love your brand, why they trust you, why your brand makes them feel good. In a lot of cases, this isn’t too hard to understand. The bread from my local bakery tastes great. It’s always fresh. I have a relationship with the people who bake it. I know shopping there supports them. And they use great ingredients, so I know I’m getting something nutritious for my family.

So, now that we have all these factors, we can start to get at the core of the matter: What’s your brand’s purpose? That is, why does your business exist?

It’s easy to say your brand exists to make money or so you can earn a living or something like that. But that’s not your purpose.

You could say your purpose is to serve your customers or to deliver innovative new solutions—closer, maybe, but that’s not it either.

Let’s look at the local bakery again. What’s the purpose of this business? It’s helping their customers create delicious, nutritious meals. Chances are the owners of this bakery have a passion for bread and baked goods, and they want to share that passion with their customers. They understand bread can be so much more than what you get in polyurethane at the supermarket. And by crafting great quality bread, with passion, they share the meaning behind breaking bread with their customers, inspiring them to create truly memorable meals. You feel the love that goes into exceptional food.

And that’s why people come back, again and again.

Building a Brand People Trust

Once you know your purpose, it’s so much easier to understand your customers and why they trust you. Our local bake shop owners are passionate bread enthusiasts who are knowledgeable and eager to share. Customers know they can rely on them not just for a great loaf of bread but great advice too. They trust the product because they trust the people; they trust the brand.

Building brand trust is key, because all relationships are founded on trust. A customer that had a bad experience with your brand will be slow to try again. If you connect with them, you can turn their skepticism into surprise, and then maybe even trust and enthusiasm!

So, how can you get customers to trust you? First, you have to know your purpose. Brands that are in tune with their customers’ perceptions win trust. When we know what the customer expects from us, what they turn to us for, we have a better chance of actually delivering. When we deliver, the customer learns they can rely on us!

Trust is furthered by great customer service, by open and honest communication, and by making the customer feel appreciated. This is not an exercise in converting leads or closing deals. Focus on cultivating relationships—real relationships, between real people—and you’ll see the results.

And to get there? As always, start with the why!


Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing

Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.

Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.

And it all starts with why!

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