I always ask this brand leaders this question, and I rarely get the right answer.
Unfortunately I usually hear, “No, we all our customers the same”or “Our system does not really allow us to treat customers differently or “We have never thought like that”.
My 19 year-old daughter, who is waitressing while going to University intuitively knows she should treat her regular customers better than everyone else. She knows it leads to bigger tips! Then why don’t marketing professionals do it?
Are you crazy? You should be treating your best customers better. They are your “regulars”.
As a consultant, I have been lucky to travel many times around the world. I have accumulated millions of points for Air Canada. I even have the Visa Card that collects points for Air Canada. While they are a better airline than United or Delta, I can safely say that I am not treated any better than the average Air Canada passenger. Now, as a Canadian, I am relatively stuck. Or as I say sometimes, “I am in points prison” which means I have collected so many points now, that it is hard to quit the program, even if I desperately want to. Last year, after one more frustration with Air Canada, I finally asked one of their representatives “So what do I get for being such a loyal customer?” And her answer floored me: “Sorry sir, we treat all our customers the same”.
I started to wonder: So I collect all these miles so I can go on free trips with an airline that I tend to hate. Maybe I am the crazy one.
Old-school marketing no longer works
The old logical ways of marketing no longer work in today’s world. These brands feel stuck in the past talking about gadgets, features and promotions. They will clearly be ‘friend-zoned’ by consumers, to be purchased only when the brand is on sale. The best brands of the last century were little product inventions that solved small problems consumers did not even realize they had until the product came along. Old-school marketing was dominated by bold logos, catchy jingles, memorable slogans, side-by-side demonstrations, repetitive TV ads, product superiority claims and expensive battles for shelf space at retail stores. Every Marketer focused on how to enter the consumer’s mind. Marketers of the last century were taught the 4P’s of product, place, price and promotion. It is a useful start, but too product-focused and it misses out on consumer insights, brand promise, emotional benefits and consumer experiences. The Crest brand knew their “Look mom, no cavities” TV ads annoyed everyone, but knew it stuck in the consumer’s brain. No one cared how nice the Tide logo looked, as long as it stood out on a crowed grocery store shelf. The jingle “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is” was repeated often to embed itself in the consumer’s memory bank. The side-by-side dish detergent ad showed spots on the wine glass of a competitor, just to shame consumers into using Cascade. Brands that continue to follow a logical play only, will fail miserably in today’s emotion-driven marketplace.
The purchase funnel is now circular
Old School was just about getting consumers into the purchase funnel and let the rest of the people in the organization satisfy them. Knowing some consumers would fall out of the funnel, our role was to keep getting more and more people into that funnel. The new purchase funnel is a circle, where the biggest brand fans drive awareness and consideration for that brand. The best brand needs to find ways to create such happy moments for these influential ‘brand lovers’ that will make them want to tell everyone in their network. Instead of just yelling to everyone at the top of the purchase funnel, you should be whispering to your most loyal brand fans, so they whisper to their friends.
Brands need to build a passionate and lasting love with their consumers.
How can brand leaders replicate Apple’s brand lovers who line up in the rain to buy the latest iPhone before they even know the phone’s features, the Ferrari fans who paint their faces red every week, even though they know they will likely never drive a Ferrari in their lifetime, the ‘Little Monsters’ who believe they are nearly best friends with Lady Gaga, the 400,000 outspoken Tesla brand advocates who put $1,000 down for a car that does not even exist yet or the devoted fans of In-N-Out Burger who order animal-style burgers off the ‘secret menu’ that no one else knows about? Every brand should want this type of passion and power with their consumers. It takes a smart strategy to balance the rational and emotional management of the brand-to-consumer relationship. Yes, these brands are all special. What makes them so special is how well they treat their most loyal consumers. They make them feel loved.
The consumers of today must be cherished and ‘won-over’. Consumers are surrounded by a clutter of 5,000 brand messages a day that fight for a glimpse of their attention. That is 1.8 Million per year, or one message every 11 waking seconds. Consumers are constantly distracted—walking, talking, texting, searching, watching, replying—most times at the same time. They glance past most brand messages all day long. Their brain quickly rejects boring, irrelevant or unnecessary messages. Brands must capture the consumer’s imagination right away, with a big idea that is simple, unique, inspires and creates as much excitement as a first-time encounter.
Consumers are tired of being burned by faulty brand promises. Once lied to, their well-guarded instincts begin to doubt first, test second, and at any point, they will cast aside any brand that does not live up to the original promise that captured them on the first encounter. A brand must be worthy of love. The best brands of today have a soul that exists deep within the culture of the brand organization. The brand’s purpose must be able to explain why the people who work behind the scenes of the brand come to work everyday so energized and ready to over-deliver on the brand’s behalf. This purpose becomes an immovable conviction, with inner motivations, beliefs and values that influences and inspires every employee to want to be part of the brand. This brand conviction must be so strong; the brand would never make a choice that is in direct contradiction with their inner belief system. Consumers start to see, understand and appreciate the level of conviction with the brand.
Brands must listen, observe and start to know the thoughts of their consumer before they even think it. Not only does the brand meet their functional needs, the brand must heroically beat down the consumer’s ‘enemy’ that torments their life, every day. The brand must show up consistent at every consumer touch-point, whether it is the promise they make, the stories they tell, the innovation designed to surprise consumers, the happy purchase moments or the delightful consumer experiences that make consumers want to tell their friends about. The consumer keeps track in the back of their mind to make sure it all adds up before they commit. Only then, will the consumer become willing to open up and trust the brand. The integrity behind the brand helps tighten the consumer’s unshakable bond with the brand. Brands have to do the little things that matter, to show they love their consumer. Every time the brand over-delivers on their promise, it adds a little fuel to the romance each and every time. Over time, the brand must weave itself into the most important moments of the consumer’s lives, and become part of the most cherished stories and memories within their heart.
The pathway to brand success comes from building relationships with consumers
The best brands of today engage in a strategy that follows a very similar path to the rituals of a courtship. Through the eyes of consumers, brands start as complete strangers and if successful, they move into something similar to a trusted friendship. As the consumer begins to open up, they allow their emotions to take over and without knowing, they begin to love the brand. As the brand weaves itself into the best moments of the consumer’s life, the consumer becomes an outspoken fan, an advocate and one of the many ‘brand lovers’ who cherish the brand. From the strategic mind of the marketer, this follows a very similar pattern to the strategies of a successful courtship. The brand could move into a position where the consumer sees it as a forever choice.
To replicate how brand building matches up with the building of a relationship, I created the Brand Love Curve, as consumers move through five stages that includes unknown, indifferent, like it, love it and onto the beloved brand status.
It takes a strategic mind to figure out brand love
I first came up with the idea when I ran a marketing department with 15 different brands that exhibited various degrees of success. Honestly, it w as hard for me to keep track of where each brand stood. I did not want to apply a one-size-fits-all type of strategy to brands who had dramatically different needs. I could have used some traditional matrix with market share versus category growth rates, or stuck with revenue size or margin rates. But every day on the job, I came back to the idea about how tightly connected the specific brand was with their consumer. I could clearly see that those brands that delivered a stronger bond with their consumer outperformed those brands that did not have that kind of connection. I wanted a unique way I could map out the level of emotional bond between brands and consumers.
The Brand Love Curve helps make strategic choices
I started to see how the Brand Love Curve influenced the strategic choices that will create success for the brand. For ‘unknown’ brands, the strategic focus should be to stand out so consumers will notice the brand within a crowded brand world. For ‘indifferent’ brands, the strategy must establish the brand in the consumer’s mind so they can see a clear point of difference. At the ‘like it’ stage, the strategy is to build a trust with each happy, and find ways for consumers to connect to the brand emotionally in ways that motivate them to buy and want to be part of a movement or a following. At the ‘Love It’ stage, the focus shifts to tug at heartstrings that will tighten bonds with the most loyal brand fans. At the ‘Beloved’ stage, the strategic challenge is to create outspoken loyal fans, which will whisper to their friends on the brand’s behalf.
The Brand Love Curve can also inspire how you write your annual brand plan, with an inspirational emotional brand vision and purpose to guide the team, or the selection of strategies that are suited to where the brand sits on the curve. Here are 20 potential brand strategies that you should focus on, based on where your brand sits on the curve.
The tighter the bond you can create with your consumers, the more power and profit you can generate for your brand.
To learn more, here’s a presentation on how to create a beloved brand:
Beloved Brands: Who are we?
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