What comes to your mind when you think of brand loyalty? Is it the image of those people who camp for days in front of a shop window displaying the logo of a bitten apple? Or perhaps it’s the image of an old man standing in a near-empty, third-rate football stadium, in the pouring rain, watching his team lose 3-0 again? While these images are powerful ‘surface’ expressions of immense brand loyalty, it’s important to look at the real underlying causes for such passion.
True brand loyalty is much more than customers waiting for the latest product release, or the fading hopes of a pensioner longing for the return of his team’s glory days. Rather, it’s about a relationship. A relationship that the customer feels deep down in their bones. And like all relationships, it is the mixture of familiarity and common identity and values that drives its success—reinforced by frequent, authentic communication.
Community interactions develop the loyalty of customers’ hearts and minds.
The marketing industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising each year, with each company vying for the attention of audiences who are becoming ever more sophisticated and discerning. While this type of marketing spend certainly has its place, if your aim is to increase brand loyalty, it’s worth taking a step back and looking towards more organic approaches to increase trust and win the hearts of your customers.
For example, advertising consists largely of one-way communication. A brand informs an audience of what products and services are on offer, the value it has to offer, and how it benefits the prospective customer. But this type of communication is not ideal for building relationships or fostering loyalty.
This is where a brand community can play a crucial role in developing loyalty. It not only opens up two-way communication by allowing customers to have a voice, it also provides a platform where that voice can be amplified and heard by many others. It’s this type of environment and experience that drive a sense of identity and belonging.
A brand community should not only provide a voice to customers one time and then forget about them. On the contrary, community managers are constantly engaging with members and fostering continual, multidirectional communication to promote a close relationship. This ensures that your brand is always top of mind and your customers are less likely to be swayed by the flashy ads of competitors.
Why being the best does not drive loyalty.
Does having the best products and services on the market really drive customer loyalty? You might think so at first glance, but in reality this is not as clear cut as it seems. What counts far more are things like personal experiences and connections—in other words, how the customer feels.
Let’s consider the example of the lifelong football fan watching his mediocre team losing. He knows very well that there are better teams out there. He just doesn’t care. What matters to him is his connection to his football club. Maybe he remembers a childhood experience of being chosen to be the team’s mascot one week, or of receiving a match ball signed by all the players for his birthday. It is his connection and experiences with the club that matters, not the quality of the team. And for this reason, he will continue to buy tickets week in, week out.
Similarly, do you have a favorite Hollywood actor or director? If so, how likely are you to stop watching their movies simply because they have not yet won an Oscar? Let’s face it. Over time you have developed an emotional association with these individuals, and it is these emotional experiences that drive your loyalty—not what the film critics say.
So, what about the company you work for? Does it have the best products on the market? If so, then great! But remember, it is not the products themselves that drive customer loyalty. Rather, it is the experiences and emotions created by the customer’s use of these products.
Likewise, if your brand does not have the best products on the market, there’s no need to worry. Strive for excellence by all means but put your focus instead on creating memorable brand experiences and building positive emotional connections with your customers. Whatever the quality of your organization’s products, a brand community is one of your best tools for cultivating and reinforcing powerful emotional attachments—and these are the true drivers of loyalty.
These are community methods for boosting loyalty.
A buzzing brand community offers many ways to build a strong and loyal customer base that stands the test of time. Frequent, positive, and personal interactions are key for building good vibes and warm familiarity. You can also encourage your customers to complete a range of tasks—from reading a blog post to providing a detailed professional referral—in exchange for loyalty points which they can later exchange for prizes, rewards, or discounts. The more memorable and fun the challenges are, and the more personal and meaningful the rewards, the greater the feelings of connection and shared values.
Through your community you can also offer learning experiences so your customers can deepen their product knowledge and become masters of your solutions. This could be through quick tips and tricks from case studies, or by creating discussion topics where everyone can contribute ideas to create a stronger product and community.
People are far more likely to both promote and remain loyal to products that showcase their own expertise, so encourage customer learning wherever you can and think of ways that you can use the community and platform to boost the customer’s own personal and professional brand.
By showing understanding, support, and genuine care for your community members’ wellbeing and success, your brand will bring real value and a sense of belonging to their lives and create deep emotional bonds that customers will be keen to reciprocate.
Building true and enduring brand loyalty takes time, and there are many contributing factors that should not be underestimated. However, a community has the power to cultivate customer-brand connections and loyalty in ways that other marketing methods frequently lack—not least by showing the human side of your brand.
Through regular, high-quality communications and by investing time to establish authentic relationships based on common values, you can spark meaningful emotional experiences for your customers and foster the kind of undying loyalty that lives inside the most avid brand fan.