The marketing industry is awash with terms like “loyalty”, “trust”, “engagement”, and most recently the term “love” has worked its way into our diction, too.
But can people really love a brand? Do they actually care that much?
We say they can, and they do. Over time, consumers have started to hold certain brands close to their hearts. And by ‘certain’ brands, we’re referring to those brands like Apple, Disney and LEGO who really pull out all the stops when it comes to engagement. In turn they have earned themselves doting fans, enviable Net Promoter Scores, and some soaring profits to boot.
Research shows that the connections we make with brands can be as deep and emotional as the relationships we have with other people. Much like one would do for a significant other, people have been tattooing brand logos onto themselves, or even camping out overnight to show their dedication.
And in fact, 75% of buying experiences are based on emotion. So brand love is a powerful thing, and brands need to be building strategies and campaigns around that little L word.Demanding consumers
With such saturated markets and fierce competition between brands, consumers are in a position of power with offers coming at them from all angles. And due to this abundance of choice, they are rightly demanding so much more in terms of engagement.
Which brand would you pick out of two which offer near identical services, but just one of them made an effort to engage with you in a meaningful and memorable way?
And although 87% of people want meaningful interactions with brands, only 17% think brands are actually delivering today. They don’t just want your product, believe it or not. They want something deeper than that. Consumers love brands that act in more human and personal ways. They want an emotional engagement; a solid relationship consisting of loyalty, honesty, reliability, longevity and commitment.
Brands have become one of the ways that many people, especially millennials, have started to define themselves by. So make your brand one that a consumer would be proud to associate with. More than ever, brands have a responsibility to make people look good. In November Apple was voted the UK’s coolest brand, and then in January it declared the biggest profits ever made by a company. Your street cred is evidently vital to sales.
Perhaps because they have grown up in a world where they have learnt not to trust everything at face value, millennials in particular really value transparency and honesty in brands. This generation is far more aware of marketing and advertising than previous generations – and with this commercial awareness comes scepticism. They see through baseline marketing strategies; if they feel they’re being “marketed to”, they are likely to switch off.
Thus brand loyalty can no longer be assumed; it has to be earned.Turning customers into fans
The days of talking about ‘customers’ is in decline. We find it a slightly off-putting term that we discourage our team from using, as therein lies too much of a monetary implication and of merely an exchange of money and product.
Now, it’s all about ‘fans’. ‘Fans’ who ‘love’ a brand; as opposed to ‘customers’ who may simply ‘like’ a brand. ‘Customers’ need to be lured in to buy a certain product or service whereas fans come by their own accord because they have an emotional connection to it. While customers give their money, fans give their hearts. And brand fans of course will share your message.
We don’t refer to Disney advocates as customers, do we? They’re fans, through and through. And that’s because there’s an emotional attachment - be that pure joy, nostalgia or astonishment - that has been cemented through meaningful, memorable and magical brand experiences. Disney World is the best and biggest example of an ongoing live brand experience. And of course, the multitude of interactive events surrounding the Frozen craze hit the mark on fan engagement.Turning awareness into action
Brand awareness alone won't drive sales. Brand love is what drives desire, loyalty and advocacy. Unlike awareness - and The Beatles will back us up here - you can’t buy love; you have to earn it. Branding and advertising creates awareness but it is live brand experience that creates a tangible emotional connection and there is nothing more tangible than that feeling of love.
The journey should go awareness - engagement - love - action. It doesn’t simply go awareness – action; there needs to be something meaningful in-between.The value of loyalty
With love, of course, comes loyalty. Anyone in love knows – well, should know - that. And that loyalty is valuable; according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, customer loyalty can be worth 10 times as much as a single purchase. So with that in mind, brands should be seeking 1,000 people who love them, rather than 10,000 people who merely like them.The power of a recommendation
People who love your brand tend to be evangelical. They want to shout it from the rooftops, and their love is highly influential on their peers. Indeed, in the 2015 Digital Dopamine Report it emerged that across the U.S. (76%), the U.K (75%), Brazil (60%) and China (79%), Word of Mouth came out as the top influencer for the purchase decision. That’s way above traditional advertising, and it actually boosts the effect of paid media by 15%.
Being liked is easy, but being loved is another thing altogether. Marketers should now be striving to forge meaningful relationships with fans built around trust, loyalty, honest and reciprocal commitment. And considering 70% of consumers believe brands’ motivations are based upon self-centred desires to increase profits, rather than part of sincere commitments to their customers, there’s still a way to go.