Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Do We Care About Brands?

Do customers really care about brands?

A couple weeks ago, SDL shared a post of theirs that included 25 facts about customer experience, including a variation of this one:

Most people worldwide would not care if more than 73% of brands disappeared tomorrow. -Source: Havas Media

The question I ask is, "Why?" Is this even a thing? Should we be worried about people not caring if brands disappeared from their lives? Do people care about brands? Can people care about brands?

Consider this: companies spend a ton of money on marketing and advertising to lure customers in, and yet, we couldn't care less if most of them weren't around tomorrow. Are companies wasting their money?

I know... that's a lot of questions.

Let's start with a definition of brand loyalty, a rough proxy for people caring about brands. If you're loyal, I suppose you'd care if the brand disappeared or not. Use Apple as an example; if you're an Apple fan, would you be upset if Apple ceased to exist tomorrow? I think so. But then again, maybe not.

BusinessDictionary.com defines brand loyalty as:

The extent of the faithfulness of consumers to a particular brand, expressed through their repeat purchases, irrespective of the marketing pressure generated by the competing brands.

Are we really "faithful" to brands if we don't care if most of them aren't around tomorrow? Is brand loyalty just a myth?

Let's assume that people can care about a brand. What are those brands doing wrong? I can think of a few things. They...
  • don't focus on the customer
  • are not providing value relative to price
  • are not providing value relative to the competition/alternatives
  • have broken customers' trust
  • don't deliver on their promises
  • don't care about customers
  • don't meet customer expectations
  • are not innovative (think "same old same old")
  • deliver a fragmented or poor experience
Bottom line: the relationship is broken.

Companies can start by designing a customer experience that's worthy of customer caring and loyalty. What are some of the attributes of a great experience? As I wrote previously, I believe a great customer experience is built on trust but is also personalized, memorable, remarkable, and consistent. I also think there's an emotional component, perhaps even a bit of nostalgia, i.e., a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Although we think that decision-making about brands depends strongly on functional benefits, it all comes down to one question: how will this make me feel? –Kim Cramer and Alexander Koene, BR-ND 

At the same time, it is often said that customers buy from brands with which they align, whether that alignment is with the brand's purpose, the corporate social responsibility policy, shared values, or something else. Are those the only brands customers truly care about? What can companies do about that? Stop being selfish, self-absorbed, and all about the collective "corporate me." Instead, do something for the greater good. Take up a cause. Be a part of something that matters to people. Do right.

Need an example? Think TOMS One for One. They state, "We’re in business to help improve lives."

Is taking up a cause the answer to getting people to care? Maybe. Again, I think alignment is the key to caring, whether that's with a cause or a purpose or whatever. That alignment does become a part of the overall experience.

I recently saw a USAA commercial that stated that 92% of their members plan to stay with them for life.

Can you say that about your customers?

The ethics on which brands are built need to be ingrained in the business if the brand proposition is to be credible to consumers. –Paul Gaskell, brand strategist


8 comments:

  1. Thanks for the mention of my article on the SDL blog. It may be that a brand can't physically hug back but they can orchestrate a level of experience that shows just the right amount of empathy and respect to the consumer that their imparts time and money unto the brand that aligns best with their values and expectations.

    @SDLjames
    SDL

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    1. You're welcome, James. I agree with your point. If only...

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  2. We do have to differentiate between Loyalty and Advocacy. A loyal customer may not automatically promote your brand to all their friends, but in both cases it is important to build and nurture that relationship.

    I agree with Annette, it does start with earning your customer's trust.

    James, time for you to trademark your "hug back" solution for brands :)

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  3. Annette,

    I once read that people ask themselves 3 questions before they buy anything:

    1. Does it meet my need (functionality)
    2. Do I feel good about what the brand says about me
    3. Can I afford it

    In that order.

    Of course, you can read all sorts on the internet so you can take this with a pinch of salt, but it does rather play to your point.

    James

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  4. Hi Annette,

    I wonder if expected longevity of companies is also having an effect on how loyal we are or how much we car about brands? Over the last 50 years, the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company has shrunk from around 60 years to around 18 years now and that is projected to fall to under 15 years by 2030.

    Adrian

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  5. Hi Adrian,

    Those are interesting numbers. The critical question then becomes what is the cause and what is the effect? Did customers stop being loyal because of the lack of company longevity or did company longevity become a problem because they could not generate customer loyalty?

    Any company that fails to receive the customer loyalty they desire has failed at exactly one thing, meaning. The companies that enjoy the greatest level of loyalty are those that are meaningful to their customers. Look no farther than Harley Davidson. Harley has many different meanings to people, freedom, independence, rebel, and so on. Harley is more than a brand or even a motorcycle, it becomes an extension of a persons identity.

    People have never really been loyal to brands per se, they've always been loyal to themselves. Any brand that augments or enhances a persons vision of who they feel they are is a brand they will remain loyal to. Loyalty can only be achieved when the need for meaning is met.

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  6. Hi Mike,
    Good points and questions. The questions I don't have answers for. However, you have given me something to think about and look into.

    Thank you,

    Adrian

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  7. Thank you for interesting article. I've known you publishing a lot of articles related to brands. It is essential to get insights about increasing visitors and improving conversions.

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