Every time I think of brand loyalty and shared values, I can’t help but think of the NFL. It hits me how strong of a bond holds a team and its fans together. Regardless of having met before or not, fans share the same feelings and language. The NFL teams are undoubtedly some of the best-positioned brands there are.
Consumer-brand bonds share a lot in common with relationships and the building of relationships in general. They start with shared values and a happy and positive experience from exchanging these values. As individuals, we seek the company of people with whom we share our values.
It’s the same thing with brands. Of course, this understanding is not something new, but surprisingly, most companies are yet to build their brand loyalty out of this knowledge.
If you want to boost your results, you need to start planning for loyalty.
Facilitating interactions between customers
In a study of 7,000 consumers in the UK, the U.S. and Australia, 64% of those who said had a brand relationship, cited shared values as the main reason for the relationship. Your brand story is the key to developing shared values.
For example, Harley Davidson provides their customers the opportunity to share their passion for the motorbikes through the Harley Owners Group (HOG) . Not only do the owners benefit through shared insurance plans, roadside assistance and even branded products, they also get to interact with each other at local and national events (even concerts!). This has resulted in HOG members typically spending 30% more than other Harley owners, on such items as clothing and Harley-Davidson-sponsored events.
Much of the intent of this branding effort is presenting Harley-Davidson as an American icon, with the focus on authenticity and pride in being American-made. All of this is credited with turning flagging sales around, and allowing the Harley-Davidson company to grow again.
Controlling the message on your platform
The biggest mistake most companies make is trying to please everyone, and so they end up pleasing nobody. Create a brand that stands for something and your customers will affiliate themselves to your brand’s activities, ethos, and lifestyle.
Engage with customers where they are. Then pull them into your owned platform (i.e. forum) as you get to provide a consistent story through all platforms. By having a forum, you become the end destination, where you can view your customer analytics and have access to your customers, unlike on social media platforms which limits insight into customer behaviour.
An excellent example of a brand that’s as real as they get is Toms’ Shoes. When you buy a pair of shoes from this company, they give a pair to a child in need. Who doesn’t want to be part of such a worthy cause? Though the brand is relatively new, it has become popular because it has managed to tug at its customers’ heartstrings and provide customers with the opportunity to do good.
They’ve encouraged customers to be more involved in a much deeper way through Tom’s Tribes. This has resulted in local events being held by their customers ranging from One Day Without Shoes to the Style your TOM’s event with concerts. Members connect and interact through various social media platforms showcasing shoes, the charitable fundraising events and travel pictures.
By focusing on community building, values and relationships, your company will build assets that can’t be easily imitated. Communicate who you are and the values you stand for. People will effortlessly buy from you if your brand is aligned with who they are.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you now know that Under Armour owns the largest digital health and fitness community. With its acquisition of the health app MyFitnessPal and the fitness social network Endomondo, Under Armour is now enjoying a mammoth audience of connected health devotees.
Why should you care about this?
1. Community building is a key business responsibility.
For Under Armour, the acquisition of MyFitnessPal was not simply about acquiring a calorie-counting service, but tapping into the community. Today, companies are building and growing communities that allow people with similar interests to connect. These aren’t just limited to customers; they are also consumers of competitive products as well as prospects. In the case of MyFitnessPal and Endomondo, each has dedicated users who depend on the apps to stay on a healthy track. From what we are seeing, we can expect a community-based approach at the forefront.
For marketers, the important lesson to learn is that building and growing engaged communities is all about relationships and not selling.
2. Customer loyalty as a competitive advantage
As many industries are being commoditized, competitive advantage lies in not only the brand story but through customer engagement. And many customers prefer it. In fact, 13% of people said that frequent interactions were the reason for having a relationship with a brand.
Today, Under Armour is a tech company in every right owing to the fact that they own and control a massive digital audience that they can engage with. By owning this relationship they deepen customer loyalty.
Forget about the social media bigwigs such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; we are now seeing more and more of niche social communities on owned platforms such as Fitocracy, Nike Plus and Endomondo.
It’s in these communities where brands will be able to develop the deeper relationships that lock out competitors. When a brand facilitate relationships between customers, their peers and itself, it builds deeper brand loyalty.
Get to know your customers, engage with them on a personal basis and offer them a great service for an unshakeable brand loyalty.