In the modern day context, brand loyalty is not about buying the same brand every time but allocating the maximum 'share of wallet' to a particular brand. To me, the key to building a fanatically loyal customer base is to create an endearing customer-brand relationship. The journey starts with finding a metaphor from human relationships and evolving from the 'casual friendship' to the 'marriage', where customers become emotionally and behaviourally committed to the brand.
Here are some key steps to building a strong customer-brand relationship.
Put the consumer at the centre of the relationship
In its early days, Kellogg India failed to realise that the middle-class Indian family did not have breakfast on a regular basis. When they did, they consumed milk, bread and region-specific preparations like idlis, parathas etc. Kellogg's wanted to change breakfast habits and banked heavily on the quality of its crispy flakes to do the job. To its surprise, Indians poured hot milk on the flakes which made them soggy and ruined the taste.
The problem was Kellogg's tried to build a relationship placing the product at the centre, rather than customers and their beliefs. In contrast, Maggi noodles understood that the Indian mother needed a quick snack for the hungry kid and introduced the product with a '2-minute' preparation-time proposition. This placed the consumer at the centre of the brand strategy and created an instant connect.
Lesson: Identify what you can offer in a relationship, not why the consumer should enter into a relationship with you
Offer relevant positioning
To build endearing customer relationships, brands need to offer a relevant and differentiated proposition. A brand that promises too many things is not able to perform exceptionally well on any one of them fails to occupy a special place in a customer's heart.
Lesson: Have a clearly defined platform to enter into a relationship.
Weave your story around emotion
Products are built on facts but brands are built on emotions. A story build around emotion can bring the core brand values to life.
Johnson & Johnson is a leading brand of baby skin care products and is preferred by young mothers. The brand could build a strong relationship with its customers because it understands that 'having a baby changes everything for a woman'. For years, it has been telling a story about the bond between a mother and her child. The brand story weaved around this emotion is so compelling that it resonates with mothers generation after generation.
Lesson: Facts can find a place in the mind but emotions find a place in the heart
Include employees in your brand story
It is important to ensure that every employee of your company understands the values your brand represents. They interface with consumers and potential consumers and have the power to bring brands to life. While organisations spend millions on advertising, packaging etc, they often fail to include their employees in the brand building process.
Mahindra, before launching its new positioning, 'Rise', undertook an internal branding programme to ensure that every employee within the organisation identified with the new positioning and the underlying principles behind the same.
Lesson: Co-opt internal customers before you rope in external consumers
Create 'magic' at every touch point
A brand is as a brand does. The brand idea is brought to life at every customer touch-point. To create a consistent brand experience all consumer experience points should behave like an orchestra, in complete harmony to get across emotional essence seamlessly.
Coke continues to build on its promise of happiness with the 'smile' campaigns. Apple is an uncluttered yet sophisticated brand that is the experience it communicates through products, packaging and the store layout.
Lesson: Magical experiences inspire; creative engagements help to retain.
Associate Professor of Marketing, Head of the Department, SPJIMR, Mumbai