With companies spending billions on advertising each year, you’d expect these brands to resonate with consumers. In reality, few actually transform their buyers into loyal brand fans. For the small amount that do, the rewards are phenomenal. Loyal customers that are enchanted by a brand from a young age will consistently provide recurring sales. They will remain loyal despite the arrival of competitors, or price increases and will become a brand’s very own advocates.
With this in mind, brands need to uphold customer loyalty throughout their marketing efforts. Yes, obtaining new buyers is vital to a business’s success and can help drive growth, but are companies neglecting the bread and butter of their income, their existing customers?
According to APCO, the relationships that consumers form with brands have the potential to be as meaningful and deep as the connections we make with other people. To evidence this, we only need to think about the thousands of people that camp out overnight to demonstrate their dedication to new product/game launches or movie premieres.
Did you know that 75% of buying experiences are based on emotion? Fans that love a brand are clearly a very powerful force and in order to move forward, companies need to feature them at the heart of their strategies.
The Benefit of Brand Loyalty
Companies that can establish a loyal brand following of fans who are incredibly faithful to their offering or product will find themselves at a significant advantage. The advantage of having brand fans is that it is based upon a strong emotional connection with a company or brand – the consumer sees a particular brand as superior because of the relationship they have established with it.
Sounds great right? Yes, but a loyal following of brand advocates isn’t built overnight, it takes considerable time and an unwavering effort.
In 2019, we are seeing markets becoming increasingly saturated and inevitably, fierce competition between brands. This puts the consumer in a considerable position of power with dazzling offers being put in front of them wherever they turn. This overwhelming amount of options available has made the consumer more demanding in terms of engagement.
Consider this…you have two brands to choose from, both of which offer the same service at the same price, but one has made a conscious effort to engage with you in a personalized, helpful way. Which one would you choose?
We thought so…
A study carried out by global brand share found that 87% of people want meaningful interactions with brands, but only 17% of people think that brands provide this. In other words, consumers aren’t just after your product, they want a deeper connection: a strong relationship built on a foundation of honesty, loyalty, reliability, longevity and commitment.
The test of Time
Just as it takes time to build a relationship, it takes time for a brand to become popular (the capacity to be loved by a large proportion of the population). Here at BrandTrends, we measure the popularity as a composite index between the awareness and the likability of a brand. Typically, it will take a minimum of 2 years for a brand to reach its prime in terms of popularity.
After 2 years of popularity, new brands will launch and the shelf space once dedicated to the former will take new ownership. Even though the brand may still be firmly placed in the hearts and minds of the kids, there will inevitably be a decrease in sales – what retailers consider a decline.
A decrease in retail sales does not mean a decline in brand popularity! Consider Disney’s Frozen as evidence. The film premiered in Nov 2013 and reached the peak of its sales in 2015 and yet, is still one of the most popular brands amongst young girls (#1 popular brand among girls aged 3 to 6 in the USA in October 2018, source BrandTrends Entertainment), as well as being one of the most known brands amongst girls of that age (92% awareness rate among girls 3 to 6 in the USA in October 2018, source BrandTrends Entertainment).
How does Disney do it?
Example of Brand Loyalty in Action: Disney’s “Frozen”
Does Disney call its consumers buyers? Certainly not, they are hard-core fans.
This principle was initiated by Walt Disney when he started the company and the authentic relationship that the brand has built with its customers is key to Disney’s success. Many companies produce a product and attempt to build a story around it, whereas Disney begins with a story (a movie), and then produces products and services that enhance the story/experience.
Consider ‘Frozen’ – The highest-grossing animated movie of all time that grew from a heartfelt storyline, distinctive characters, and the song, well, we just can’t let it go. Disney fans initially fell in love with the story and its characters, Elsa & Anna. Then came the merchandise which enabled consumers to develop their affinity with the story in a new way.
It’s clearly not just the movies that Disney has mastered. Their commitment to the story is apparent in everything they do from the theme parks and resorts, all the way through to the hotels, rides and customer service.
Thanks to the lifecycle of the brand, six years since the film’s release warmed the heart of kids (and many adults) across the world, the Frozen brand is relentlessly thriving due to its continued sales and diversification in merchandise and other ventures.
The franchise is featured throughout Disney’s theme parks, there is a Frozen on Ice, as well as, a Broadway adaptation which launched last year.
To see this, you need only to look at the soundtrack sales. The album is still featured in the charts and was amongst the best sellers throughout the festive season last year.
Transform Buyers into Brand Fans
In order to establish brand loyalty, companies need to gain the power to transform buyers into brand fans. There is no exact formula or science to make this magic happen but certainly, brands need to have a strong offering and differentiate themselves from the crowd (is a super-hero weak & indecisive? No, that’s why they are super). Brands must build an emotional connection with their living, breathing and feeling audience. They aren’t just customers.
More and more, we are moving away from the term ‘customers’. Why? Because it is associated with monetary value and suggests merely an exchange of a product for money. It’s now about ‘fans’, an audience that loves a brand, not just a buyer who likes a brand. Buyers/customers are lured in and persuaded to buy a product, unlike fans who purchase of their own accord because they have developed a strong emotional bond to it.
As mentioned above, we don’t refer to Disney consumers as buyers or customers, they’re loyal fans. This is solely reliant on their emotional relationship with the brand, whether that’s built on happiness, nostalgia or awe. By building a relationship with kids, brands are establishing an emotional connection that is very hard to break. Often their child-hood memories will live on in their hearts all the way through to adulthood where they may share these emotions and memories with their own kids, and so the chain continues.
Turn Awareness into ACTION
Brand awareness is certainly a start, but it won’t drive sales alone. In order to ignite desire, loyalty and affinity, brands need to grow a community of loyal fans. Brand awareness can be driven by branding and advertising, but it is brand experience that evokes emotional ties and loyalty.
In order to turn awareness into action, these steps should be followed:
awareness ➜ engagement ➜ loyalty ➜ action.
awareness ➜ action; something meaningful needs to lie between.
It is clear that by creating brand love amongst children from a young age, companies can gain competitive advantage and take their products to new heights as they extend the potential lifecycle of the brand. With greater brand affinity, comes greater loyalty, and a greater potential for sales. However, this bond is not something that is easily achieved and takes considerable time, resources and effort. With 70% of consumers believing that brand’s motivations are self-centered attempts to drive sales, marketers should be striving to establish strong, meaningful relationships with fans built upon a foundation of honesty, trust and loyalty.
Interested in learning more