Branding

Turn Brand Loyalists into Brand Advocates

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Chevy or Ford? Pepsi or Coke? Mac or PC? Burger King or McDonald’s? iPhone or Android? Chances are when reading those questions, you had a polarized response to at least one.

“I NEVER would buy a PC. Too unreliable.”

“Didn’t you read the report on what McDonald’s does? I wouldn’t eat there if my life depended on it.”

Many folks claim that brand loyalty is yet another thing that millennials have killed (insert eye roll here), but what truly drives a customer to say “this is the brand for me. No other will do”?

In this blog, I’ll cover the important factors that make customers coming back for more, and more importantly, singing your praises to their friends and family. I’ll cover how and why customers become brand loyal and how to turn brand loyalists into brand advocates.

Recall a brand that you’re loyal to. What does this brand personify? Are they an expert in their space? A trusted source for new information? Maybe they make you feel at “home” or were the first interaction you had with that type of product. Chances are, the reason that you are loyal falls into one of the following reasons:

It’s Personal

From emails to social media interactions to experiences with one of your customer service representatives, nothing feels contrived. It’s not just a transactional relationship of customer to employee, it’s an individualized interaction that feels natural. I think Netflix is a good example of earning loyalty based on delivering a personalized experience. Based on your viewing history, they provide other relevant content that you may enjoy in your queue and also send personalized emails based on your viewing preferences.

 

Target email featuring Netflix

Trust is Key

While companies are made up of individual human beings who have faults and make mistakes just like everyone else, you know that the company has your best interest at heart as they have never steered you wrong before. Furthermore, if they make a mistake, they don’t hide behind processes or procedures. They own up and make it right. Trader Joe’s is a great example of a company that exemplifies trust. With their incredibly lenient and understanding return policy, Trader Joe’s not only trusts and stands by their products, but they also trust their customers to be honest when requesting a refund. Furthermore, on the rare occurrence that a product recall is issued, I’ve learned that you don’t even have to bring the product back in to receive a store credit.

Trader Joe's no-hassle return policy

They Give You a Place to Belong

Their customer base is made up of other people like you, or people that you aspire to be. In an article published by the University of Southern California, it was found that 76% of people who purchased an iPhone replaced it with another iPhone. How does Apple achieve this amazing retention rate? They lean in to their position as an affordable luxury good and backed it with a healthy dose of belonging.

 

Brand Loyalty Infographic featuring Apple, Ford, and Starbucks

You Had a One-of-a-Kind Experience

Whether it was a great meal at your favorite restaurant where they comped your whole meal because it was your anniversary or a fantastical festival sponsored by your favorite adult beverage company, the experience stuck in your mind, and you remember it fondly. Think about Uber Puppies, where you can have adoptable puppies delivered on-demand, or Lyft’s latest—Taco Mode. Both of these ride share platforms turn the ordinary (going from point A to B) to the extraordinary.

Lyft and Taco Bell team up for Taco Mode

You Sincerely Feel Valued

Every interaction is genuine and provides value to your experience. When I bought my first iPhone and MacBook Pro in 2009, I knew I was an Apple Geek for life. Apple solidified this with excellent customer service, long-lasting products, and by always being at the forefront of technological advancement. In 2016 while I was writing the last paper of my MBA, my (eight-year-old!) MacBook crashed. I freaked out, of course, but knew that AppleCare would be there for me. Carlos, my AppleCare rep that day, stayed on the phone with me for two hours while we navigated the fix.

When we hung up, I told him that as long as my paper was still there when I powered it back up after the software install, I would dedicate my final paper to him. Furthermore, Carlos went on vacation the next day, and when he returned, he emailed me to make sure that everything went smoothly and that I graduated on time. You can’t fake sincerity like that. Carlos exemplified Apple’s brand in our customer service interaction solidifying my brand loyalty and turning it into brand advocacy.

This isn’t the first time that Apple had saved my bacon either. A friend accidentally cracked the screen of my phone years ago, and Apple replaced it for free. I tried to hug the Genius at the Apple store because I was so thankful and excited. The key takeaway here is that Apple’s sincerity and sense of belonging keep its users loyal but going the extra mile with customer service made me a brand advocate. In both experiences, I took to social media to sing Apple’s praises, and now years later still recall every detail to the point where I can blog about it.

The key takeaway from these experiences is that actions speak louder than words. Apple didn’t just apologize, they made things happen. This is how to turn brand loyalists into brand advocates. You can talk the talk all you want but does your company walk the walk too?

Don’t Trash Talk: Prove Your Worth and Demonstrate Why You’re Different

This should go without saying, but it’s important to note that YOU must also wholeheartedly believe in what your selling in order to facilitate brand loyalty. Even the most skilled liars can’t fake the sincerity that comes with truly loving the product you’re working with. Moreover, tearing down your competition is not a particularly effective way to build a brand and create loyalty, in fact, more often than not it can be detrimental and make your customer doubt your intentions.

What can your company do to go the extra mile with its customers to turn them from brand loyalists to brand advocates? Or, if you’re not surrounded by brand loyalists, what elements from this blog can you incorporate into your marketing strategy to drive loyalty? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.