how to inspire brand loyalty
I have a confession to make. I dropped an unspeakable amount of cash on loose leaf tea this week. Tea. I know. I’ve fallen in love with a specific brand, you see, and now only their brew cuts it in my morning mug. As my order made its way from cart to conversion, I started thinking about why and how brands inspire loyalty in a market where one mistake can have customers fleeing elsewhere.
Building consumer loyalty is like pursuing an unpredictable relationship. For some consumers, it will be love at first sight but for others, the work you put in now may lead to a long-lasting connection. But how do you ask your audience for a second, third or fourth date? How can you transform passing traffic into an affair that will stand the test of competitors, vouchers and naysayers?
Personally? I’m looking for a trifecta of goodness.
If it’s good for me, good for the planet and good to look at (it needs to be well designed!), I will follow the brand to the ends of the internet and beyond. And underneath those three value drivers (environmentalism, health and aesthetics), are four steps that govern every brand identity. Let’s take a closer look.
Step 1: Connection
Hard truth time. As competition becomes tougher, we can’t just solve problems or answer questions, we must invest in our audiences emotionally. Okay, I know that might sound trite, but it is possible to connect with hundreds of individuals with targeted conversations across relevant platforms. You may be tempted to launch on every single social media channel under the sun, but truthfully, your audience is probably using only one or two religiously. So what to do? Before diving into the hashtags of Instagram or re-arranging your messaging, ask yourself honestly, who is my audience? Where are they? Are they online? Do they research while commuting and buy on the weekend? Write up profiles (also called personas), putting a name and history to the person or persons you have in your head. Once you have a couple of target personas, emotions become easier to identify and communicate, utilising language, imagery, slang, even pop culture if it’s resonant.
If you walk away with one question or idea, let it be this. Who are you talking to and why? Why should they want a second, third or fourth date with you in a sea of potential?
Step 2: Consistency
You’ve nailed down audience. What about consistency? Is your messaging on point, concise and reflective of your brand every time, following clear rules and structures? Or is it everywhere, a bit of this and that, without direction or coherence? Although experimentation may be tempting, the human brain is wired to identify markers of reliability. Basically, your audience builds connections between your branding, your offering and your presence, developing a certainty about your positioning and where you stand in their lives. Imagine if you’re best friend suddenly didn’t look like your best friend anymore… would you still trust them? How would you know they are who they say they are? Although they’re still the same person on the inside, wrapping your head around a sudden change may disrupt the relationship until a new norm is established. This is exactly how your consumer base feels if your branding lacks consistency.
Step 3: Become Guilt-Free
How ethical is your business? Going green is no longer the token action it once was, as more consumers expect brands to do their bit for the planet in a meaningful and measurable way. Unless you’re an eco-product, this may seem a little difficult, but small things like switching to recycled paper at the printer (or going paper-free); installing tap water filters instead of buying bottled; changing over to LED lighting; creating mini green spaces (think terrariums, indoor planters etc) and encouraging employees to telecommute all minimise your carbon footprint. Cutting down on paper, buying less plastic and keeping people off roads all make a real difference over time, supplying credibility to your sustainability statement. And your employees will secretly love work-from-home Thursday!
Step 4: Purpose
I’ve saved the most important step for last. Purpose. If you have no direction, no reason, no drive to exist, you shouldn’t be playing the game. But what is purpose? A series of calls to action, a value proposition, maybe a mission statement? Not quite. While these branding fundamentals are essential to the success of any business, they are not the foundation element you need to thrive. Purpose is the question you answer or the problem you solve; it’s why you began your business in the first place – if you can’t articulate this in ten words or less, you need to go back to the drawing board. Your audience wants simple, clear communication – they need to know how you will improve their lives or make their day that little bit easier. Having trouble boiling down your identity into an overarching statement? Stay tuned, I’ll be exploring designing your why in more detail before the Christmas break.
Oh, in case you were wondering who inspired me to write this piece in the first place, I’d like to introduce you to Love Tea. An organic, fair-trade, loose-leaf tea, with consistently beautiful branding (designed by The Company You Keep) and environmental tones weaved into every touchpoint. At the risk of sounding like a raving fan, it ticks all my boxes – it’s good for me, good for the planet and great to look at.