my turn


The Best Brands Focus On Loyalists, And Create Content

Branding consultant and author Zain Raj (his most recent book is Brand Rituals) spoke on Thursday at a marketing event in New York sponsored by The Hub. He preached the Eight-Fold Path. No, not that one. Siddhartha Gautama was not in attendance. 

Raj’s reference was to the ideal consumer path from errant one-time purchaser all the way to a brand’s Nirvana, the devoted fan, the loyal customer who, in aggregate, generates the lion’s share of transaction revenue.

The eight steps he described evoke for me all kinds of imagery — from the bird-feeder, where some birds stick around like glue, and some fly in, take a peck, and leave; and the structure of an atom, where the electrons closest to the nucleus adhere, and the high-energy ones are apt to bounce in and out, or go elsewhere permanently. 

The eight steps: the “passables,” the “present,” “optional,” “convenient,” “accepted,” “trusted,” “dedicated,” and “devoted.” That's it. And those devoted customers  constitute 59% of repeat buyers, he noted. Raj compared brands like McDonald's and Arby's; Walmart and Target; and Southwest versus United using these parameters. 



I won’t get into the value weighting of each of those steps, because I don’t quite understand it (I’ll have to read his book). But what was clear was his main message: brands that are too focused on winning prospects at the expense of their best customers are going to lose. “Start with your most devoted customers to convert prospects,” he said. “Most brands fail because they create innovation but don't reward customers.” 

Jeannie Cho, VP of marketing at Frito-Lay, spoke about how the PepsiCo unit is using technology both to win new customers and keep loyalists engaged. She pointed out correctly, to my thinking, that the real competition, at least in the digital landscape where marketers are transmogrified into marketing technologists, is consumer content. 

Frito-Lay has its own path, a five-fold path, around marketing as a technology practice: data is number one, since it's the key to unlocking knowledge and understanding; second is creating conversations; third is engaging consumers; four is to be content creators (not just curators); and finally, cultivating a “test and learn” mentality. Frito-Lay uses the 70-20-10 marketing investment paradigm, where about 10% of spend is against pure experimentation on new platforms like Periscope.

When it comes to engaging consumers, the key is saying goodbye to persuasion ads, and hello to content (entertaining and immersive, obviously) made for sharing. The engaging consumers part, for Frito-Lay and for most brands now, involves doing the dance consumers are already doing on social media, where the content people watch is content made by people like themselves. “Make them the heroes,” she said. 

For Frito-Lay the biggest example of that, and the most risky at the outset, was Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign, now in its tenth and last year. Back in 2006, when the company started doing that program, user-generated content was fairly new, so the program was risky on several fronts. The biggest risk was filling a multi-million dollar ad slot with something created by a regular person. Which proves it’s possible to feed two birds with one feeder: engage consumers by celebrating content created by consumers, and pay homage to brand advocates, since it’s unlikely that someone who is impassive about the brand will take the time and effort to engage at that level.

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