The Truth Behind Brand Loyalty
What do you do when everything is changing, but in exactly the same way? Media is evolving. Habits are changing. But the basic components of brand loyalty -- human behaviors and interactions -- are still the same. They just need to be adapted to the next generation of consumers, and the evolution of our own lifestyles.
As you seek to revamp your own loyalty program -- to make it more mobile, more social, more on-demand -- keep the following lessons in mind. And whatever you do, don’t just gamify for the hell of it -- think about your own experiences as a consumer, and what you’ve personally wanted from other brands.
Loyalty is not a "program"
Loyalty is a perpetual experience, built over time, just like any other good relationship. True loyalty can’t always be built through just points and prizes -- that may give you an initial spike in sales, but not the long-term relationships that your brand needs. It’s what Mark Crumpacker, CMO of Chipotle, has referred to as “transient loyalty.”
Instead, always be thinking about the long-term connections between you and your consumers. What does today’s new promotion mean for tomorrow? What keeps people coming back for more? What keeps them engaged with your brand?
Loyalty is often irrational, because it’s tied to emotion
Behavioral economists tell us that emotion drives our decisions much more often than logic. In fact, 70-80% of the decision weight is in the right brain. Go beyond the usual customer surveys and figure out which emotions -- which needs -- are driving people to stay with your brand, and what’s driving them away.
Often it’s about comfort and a sense of stability. Other times, it’s about the exact opposite -- the element of “surprise and delight.” Give people something unexpected -- but something that’s rooted in what they like -- and in the back of their minds, they’ll be anticipating the next surprise, the next dopamine hit.
Sometimes loyalty is tied to significance – people want to feel like they truly matter. For others, it’s about community – wanting to feel like they’re a part of something. And for many people, loyalty is about some combination of all of the above.
Loyalty comes from company-wide passion
Nothing happens in this world without passion. Your brand’s loyalty programs must be embraced enterprise-wide. Not just in one silo of your company: all employees must play a vital part in your loyalty marketing. A passion for loyalty must be part of your company’s psyche.
In January, Forrester published its customer experience index report, which ranks companies across multiple industries on how well they service their customers. USAA took the top spot. Why? Because they understand every aspect of their customers, whether positive or negative, and every interaction point along the buying cycle. And more importantly, their employees strive to make every customer interaction count.
Zappos is another great example. They hire people that align with their values. They ensure that everyone in the organization understands which customers they are responsible for. And they reward their employees to reinforce their customer-centric behaviors.
Loyalty is never easy, but it should always be simple
All too often, we see companies and their marketing partners over-complicate their programs with too many bells and whistles. People want options and choices, but too much unnecessary choice is overwhelming. Instead of flooding customers with options, give them choices that resonate with who they are. Listen and learn from your interactions with them, and give them the customized guidance they truly want.
Hotels, for instance, often have a wide range of preferred partners and benefits to offer their consumers. This creates an enormous opportunity to customize these offerings to people’s preferences. Those who travel for business may prefer a discount on car service to the airport; those coming for a vacation may be intrigued by the hotel's activities and dining options.
In conclusion, don’t overwhelm people with everything at once. Give them choices, depending on where they are in their customer journey. Show them that your brand knows them -- and understands their needs.