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The concept of loyalty is a very profound human emotion like love and trust. Loyalty is an outcome of shared values and experiences, forged with time. It’s not a fling, its about integrity, trust and dedication. Loyalty truly is the holy grail of brand relationship even in the interactive digital marketplace. When we think about loyalty between people, we know that it takes a long time to develop such deep feeling of trust. The same aspect of time certainly applies to brands too. Brands are concepts you can see, feel and experience, even have a dialogue with via customer interfaces and people representing the brand in question.
Well, think hard and consider which brands, products or services are you loyal to? I would imagine there are some. Then think, which brands show genuine interest in you, making your life easier, helping you, respecting your wishes, sharing your values, trusting you completely. Can you think of any?
Companies are quite good at “doing things right”, professionally and operationally delivering what is expected from them. The superb quality of certain product does create trust and loyalty as such due to rational and emotional consideration. This is especially true when your life could depend on that product. On the other hand companies are not that good at “doing the right thing”. Doing the right thing has to do with a context of engagement, feeling of fairness and trust. If your phone breaks a day after the guarantee closes, what does the company do? In case you have bad luck and you fall behind you payments for some period of time, what does the company do then? If the company has a choice between 10% higher profit margin and environmental or societal benefit, which will they choose? There is a lot of data that shows, how profitable “doing the right thing” actually is in case of reclamation. When you do the right thing, listen to your customer, pay attention and do your very best to make things right, the customers reward such deed with their wallets and hearts.
So, my advice for brands is coming straight out of the Bible, Matthew 7:12, The Golden rule: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” This truth is eternal and applies to Brands on- and offline just as it does to people. Loyalty truly is a concept that takes time to evolve and it can only be earned over time.
Well, the concept of loyalty, in case of commercial operation, means that brands are measuring their brand loyalty with KPI’s like RFP analysis (recency, frequency and monetary), length of customer relationships, life-time-value, share of wallet and Net Promoter Score. All of these measures have to do with loyalty, but they could also be about something else. Not all behavior that appears to be loyal has to do with the concept above. Let’s take a look at commercial loyalty strategies:
1. Rational Loyalty
2. Emotional Loyalty
3. Habit based loyalty
4. Imprinted customers
5. Legal loyalty
6. Structural bonds
Most loyalty programs don’t deliver brand loyalty, really. That is due to the fact that people have all loyalty cards and they pick cherries from where ever they happen to find best offer at that point in time. Points based loyalty programs are often buying loyalty from customer. You get more discount when you buy more and you get offers only available for members. Loyalty can be completely rationally driven model that create a behavioral pattern for customers to buy when it’s cheap. Naturally, they don’t if you don’t have an offer for them. In the open online market its very easy make comparisons.
Most often, members also get bulk messaging in which there is nothing personal. A membership equals the license to sell. Selling is often positive. Customers consider selling as active relationship in which the company is offering new services and value for them (servicing by selling). Buying several products or services from a single company generate stronger relationship and lower attrition probability. Everything above is basically positive, better than no program. However, when customer relationship is based on rational decision, another company with more aggressive approach can do considerable damage.
Emotional loyalty has to do with the true concept of Loyalty. Brand as a whole has its foundation in customer experience, quality, integrity, service, ethics, trust, corporate responsibility and values. If the brand feels right for the customer he’s less likely to consider competitors. Also, the loved brands become part of customer’s own identity and they don’t lose customers without warning. If customers truly love your brand, they let you know if your pricing or position is having a strong challenger and they actively ask your approach to the situation. Emotional loyalty is not price driven. You can have healthy margins and customers accept it. In such a position customers also offer their helping hand and are much more open to participate in open innovation or co-creation dialogue or giving you advice how to improve your service even further.
In current business environment there’s too much of everything all the time. It’s very difficult to differentiate yourself by offering or pricing. The truly emotionally driven approach to loyalty is to consider how the company can show it’s loyalty towards customers. How do you take care of your customers? How do you make certain that the value you are delivering to your customer becomes even higher? How do you solve problems that your customers have?
Habit based loyalty
In most businesses there comes a time when customers re-consider whether to buy the same brand again or to buy something else. If the customer is involved in continuous relationship it requires active sign-off from the current relationship. If you can turn single purchases in to continuous relationships in any way, you are likely to drive much higher loyalty. That’s the best part. Once the customer is engaged in continuous relationship it requires time and effort to close it. The bigger the required effort is, the less like people are to go thru with it. Some of the best psychological themes for loyalty are laziness and minimizing points of discontinuity creating experiences like billing. One of the great ways of improving loyalty is allowing customers to have automatic payment methods directly from account or via credit card (eg. Netflix and Spotify). As a result customer does not get direct invoice for the service delivered but it’s included in credit card invoice or directly paid from account. Attrition probability drop is quite significant with such a method and the relationships could continue for as long as the credit card is valid.
When people establish behavioral patterns like reading a newspaper every morning, their likelihood of attrition is much lower. Habit based loyalty is really about keeping the status quo. Low profile and making certain that there is no need for active consideration for the customer enable very profitable type of loyalty.
I have have been completely loyal to LensOn contact lens selling online store for the past four years. This is because they send me an email enabling me to repeat purchase with only two clicks. I didn’t even remember the brand, but in case I didn’t order instantly I would go back to my email and search: “contact lenses”. This search will bring me the email I am looking for and with only two clicks I’ll order new package of contact lenses. Because my credit card information is already stored in the service, this habit is extremely easy for LensOn to maintain.
Another fantastic case of habitual loyalty is online banking. The first online bank was issued in Finland and since then the whole retail banking has changed completely. People no longer have a reason to go to the bank. They can take care of all their finances online. As an outcome people have become user interface loyal. Only in case of major need for relationship driver service, like mortgage, people would consider changing their bank relationship. Online banking is like electricity, as long as you get it when you need it, there’s no problem. If you don’t, you have a major problem. If the service keeps on going there’s nothing to question the current relationship. Online banking enabled huge cost cuts and automated service processes. Cost to serve is now marginal. Once online banking was introduced and became a habit for customers, the vast majority of customers became profitable. Banking margins and profits have grown and the profitability has increased without attrition.
Customers are not necessarily loyal to the company, but person they are in a relationship with. If customers get imprinted to their counterpart and the person stays with the company, relationships could be very strong emotionally, rationally and habitually. Trusted person can be an enormous asset for a company. The online revolution has diminished the role of person-to-person relationships in consumer businesses. The role of brands and trust in service processes has substituted the void to some extent. It’s not quite the same but works too.
The company’s customer interfaces and people servicing customers should still be trained to reach for such relationships. The brand is as good as the person representing it. Some major hairdresser chains evaluate their employees based on the fact, how many of the hairdresser’s customers book their next visit from the same hairdresser. This measure is beautifully simple and revealing. Being a great hairdresser is not just about the quality of your work, it’s very much about the whole experience. Especially women open up and discuss at the hairdresser. They could easily spend two hours with the hairdresser and spend a lot of money on the experience. It’s about being heard, appreciated and pampered along with getting your hair cut and dyed.
Legal (Contractual) Loyalty
Mobile operators in Finland suffered from very high attrition rates after number portability was enabled. Churn rates reached +30% level even though customers were very happy with their operators. This is a great case proving that customer satisfaction DOES NOT EQUAL loyalty. Customers want to have a new mobile phone every two to three years. The need to get a new handset created natural discontinuity to relationships. Mobile operators have an orientation to offer good deals for new customers and winning higher share of dynamic market. This orientation led to higher advantage for changing a company than staying with the current one. These operators had same level of perceived value and customers had rarely real preference. Most customers had only options that were equally good in general. Only differentiating factors were the brand communications and current offers.
The operators started selling customers 12 month agreements, which offered lower cost calls in the evenings or weekends. These agreements sold quite well and led to lower attrition rates. Once 3G bundles were introduced they included 24 month agreement and were sold with handset subsidies. Against your 24 months agreement you got the mobile phone at about half price. These agreements dropped attrition rates below 10%. In other words agreements offered steady relationships and predictability. As a result mobile operators profits increased and people purchased more expensive mobile phones, which enabled major increase in the use of data creating completely new mass market. Everybody won. After the 24 month agreements ended, the attrition rates increased back to 15-20%. Although the attrition rate increased, they didn’t reach previously familiar 30% rates.
Human nature is lazy and towards many product and service ranges, indifferent. In order to gain market share in a business like this brand has to actively sell and create discontinuity with sales. Electricity agreements are a great example of this. Very few people compare electricity pricing and actively change a power company unless it’s actively sold. When you get a call offering you -5-10% and the offered power is produced with water and greener than your current option, it’s easy to agree. Even better, the new company also close the previous deal so that the only thing you need to do is say ”yes” on phone. It is possible to surprise a competitor with heavy attack in a case like this. Unless the competitor has closed agreements for certain period of time, they are likely to lose a lot of customers almost over night. Who would start comparing for 5%? Very few would. Who would accept such offer when it doesn’t require any effort? Quite many will. Only thing hindering people to accept such an offer would be to tie them in the relationship with an agreement for certain period of time.
Loyalty by structural Bond
What could you sell your customer to make him dependent on you? Structural bond is an interesting approach to loyalty and how to create value in which the customer becomes dependent on.
When Polar Electro introduced their wrist top computers with heart rate monitoring they soon created online Personal Trainer in the end of 1990’s to supplement additional training advice for users beyond possibilities of the cadget in it self. Personal Trainer recorded all your training to a database and created record. It helped analyzing your training requirements and results very effectively. In the early 2000 this was a ground-breaking innovation. When all your training history was online, Polar Electro had a structural bond on you. If you wanted to change to more advance training tools, you had to buy another Polar wrist-top-computer in case you wanted to keep your training record ongoing. Currently mobile phones have same functions and you can use variety of platforms for storing your data eg. Samsung back-up, Apple iCloud or Android saving to Google account. These platforms effectively still create structural bond although some of them are now cadget independent and available to iPhone, Nokia and android. Still, Polar Electro’s Training Tool is an effective loyalty driver for everyone who has been using it for the past decade. The current rush to “internet of things” will produce massive offering of services just like Polar Electro’s training tool. As this market is only just opening, every brand should consider right now, how can they lock their customers in.
Facebook also has a strong structural bond, your friends that are already there. When everyone is already there, it becomes very difficult to leave and completely stop using it. It is also very challenging for other services to get really active users, because Facebook is a strong habit and it holds your entire social life and has become big part of yourself – part of who you are and how you represent yourself to the world.
No matter what you do, some customers will leave eventually. Still, applying effective win back strategies could diminish negative churn. One telecom company actually managed to win back 80% of already lost customers. Win back operation was probably the most profitable function the company had ever created.
Just one more advice, when you are trying to develop your company’s customer relationship excellence, you can’t just look at the customers who are happy and satisfied. Their responses will only strengthen the status quo and hinder innovation and adaptation to changing business environment. Lost customers on the other hand are a great source of insight and improvement advice. Any information that help you predict discontinuity, increase the probability of re-purchase, or shield customers from competitors influence and decrease retention clearly increase profitability.
Loyalty certainly is something worth thriving for. Just remember the Golden rule when you are making choices – even though you work in the interactive digital market place.
- Symbiosis Strategy – Creating the ultimate value proposition
- Branding = Change management and operational excellence
- Marketing’s new and re-designed 7P’s
Managing Brand – The most profound KPI’s and measures /
From marketing automation to service automation
- Managing customer interfaces
Service Design is a ground breaking methodological shift towards customer centered business development. I can’t underline enough how important this new dicipline is in creating completely new and very influential business models. Service Design should also be used in marketing just as effectively.
In my opinion, marketing should evolve in to such direction where we are designing the entire customer relationship from consideration to purhcase and continuously improving relationship with earned trust. Custom communications according to customer behavior is one key issue, because the company should be capable of adapting to customer’s needs and motives, not the other way round. Customer centricity and customer centric innovation accross all touchpoints is the very core of the game.
This presentation is very thorough and insightful approach to Service Design. Check it out and think how you could use these ideas and methodologies in your approach to service designing marketing
When a customer initiates conscious consideration and buying, he’s often the one who’s active. He’s making searches online, reading ads, discussing about his interest with friends and family, reading product reviews, asking questions from professionals and stores, visiting several websites and outlets, asking opinions and advice. Majority of this behaviour can be analyzed online or with research.
When the customer initiate this journey he’s in charge. At least that’s how he feels. That needs to be taken for granted. He makes decisions. While he’s in charge, he’s being influenced by media, marketing, brands, professionals, sales people,… There is an exception though, in case it is possible for you to earn a position as a trustworthy and respected specialist, then you can sell with specialist recommendations. This approach to sales works much better than hard selling. In the end the customer is quite likely to buy something he could not have imagined before actually entering the journey. He does the decision eventually and your role is to influence the choices he makes if you know how to do it.
Check out a collection of Customer Journey Map visualisations in Pinterest “Customer Journeys and touchpoints”
The things that are often neglected, which I find very important are:
- Chain of events > you need to know and understand the people flow across channels and touchpoints
- Competing & neutral touchpoints > You need recognize and understand also the impact of your competitors touchpoints. Your channel capasity to convert customers is the key and you must understand that the customer is not visiting your touchpoints only, but your competitors too. Increasing your conversion and business dynamics score is the ultimate goal of the entire Customer Journey work
The mapping of the customer journey is composed of he following parts:
0. Customers: Who are they? How do they live? What kind of life style and life stage are they in their own lives? What is their socioeconomic status like? How can you reach them? What kind of behavioural conventions their everyday life has in the context of your offering? What do they value? What kind of solution would they appreciate? Who are your most valuable customers? How do customer profiles differ from one product category to another? What kind of potential can be found from your existing customers from cross-selling point of view? What kind of people keeps your company in business now and where can you find growth potential?
1. Touch points: mediums, services, personnel, re-sellers, physical spaces, online.
Do you have control of the touch point or does a partner manage it? At what point of a customer journey is the customer getting involved with a certain touch point? What can you do in that moment and what are your goals and KPI’s? Can that specific touch point result in to an acquisition or do you need to direct the customer further? What kind of roles a single touch point has and how can you make certain all roles are played out right along the customer journey?
2. Service moments and context
What are the most likely contexts in which the customer engages with the touch point? What is he trying to do? How can you help him achieve that? How is that done? How could it make your product or service look more appealing or at best, a most likely option?
3. Motivation and drivers
Are the customers reaching out for you or is it the other way around? In what kind of mindset does a customer engage with your brand? What could drive him further instead of abandoning your brand? What are the conventions and customs in your business and how could you exceed customer’s expectations by breaking them? Are there other companies that have a similar logic to yours and could you implement their approaches, which already have a proven logic?
4. Decision making process
What is the customer’s decision-making process like? Is he doing it himself or using a consultant or services for comparison? Are there predictable qualities in customer’s selection process that would enhance your capability to adapt your organisation to the customer’s behaviour with right content, value proposition or services? How does the customer move from one stage to the next?
5. Triggers and Moments of truth (initiate/choose/drop/buy/attrition)
Where and at what point are the most important moments of truth defining the majority of your business success? What triggers them to decide or act according to your will? Can you trigger customer behaviour? How can you do that most effectively and which kind of approach result in best outcomes? Why do you win and what do your competitors do better if you lose business to them? How can you outperform your competitors’ actions?
6. Post-purchase satisfaction and recommendations
Would customers buy again if they had a choice? What is your Net Promoter Score Index? What were they satisfied about? Was there dissatisfaction? How can you improve your customer experience in order to earn higher opinion? Do your customers discuss about your product online or face to face? What are they saying? Are they endorsing your brand? Could you use their endorsement for others who are still considering it?
7. Business systems, research and analytics
What kind of information your systems currently store from your customers’ behaviour? How could this data help you serve your customers better and create systematic methods for continuous development of your company? Consider ERP, CRM, Online analytics, Contact Center systems, email communications, customer satisfaction and voice of customer studies, reclamations, customer feedback and ideas for improvement etc. How does the infrastructure combine different data sources and make it available for people working in customer interfaces? Do you have marketing automation software in use that could adapt your operation and communications to individual customer’s behavior and store customer’s online engagements and interests that enable realtime action and individual customer care models?
Here are a couple of visualisations I find particularly informative and inspiring:
One by Desonance
Another by Hear of the Customer: Customer Journey Experience Map – Top 10 requirements
Here is a great presentation about how the job gets done and what is the impact on business performance:
also check out how to manage customer interfaces
Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer
Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here
I just found Dr. Rod King’s Blue Ocean dashboard and process tools from SlideShare today and thought about how necessary it is to understand the whole value creation process in order to manage brand effectively. The number one branding responsible inside the company is actually the CEO, as he is often the only person in a company responsible for the total experience.
Brand identity is a reflection of the company, it has to be real and true. False promises and wrong kind of identity only generate dissatisfaction and distrust. You are what you are and you can improve, but you can’t stretch too far. Marketing is often responsible for the identity design, business managers are responsible for the experience. This approach doesn’t work anymore – The brand from the customer’s perspective is one single entity and the experience and perception must be a solid combination.
Mr. Graham Hill, well-known and great CRM and customer experience expert whom I respect very much just published an article: How Stupidity, Short-termism and Immorality Ruined Marketing in Customer Think -blog. Here’s a quote:
“If you take a step back you will see that the ethos of marketing has changed over the past 50 or so years. It used to be the driver of a three-step process of 1. understanding what customers want, 2. organising to give it to them profitably and 3. telling them all about it.
Today, this has been changed so that marketing is now the driver of a much more intrumental three-step process of 1. create more stuff that we already make or that competitors make, 2. tell customers about it over and over again, and 3. manage away the customer queries, complaints and returns as cheaply as possible.”
In my opinion the article just emphasized how important it is to act now and change the way how companies organize for marketing and define the role marketing has within the organization. (Below the article there is also great dialogue about the matter.) Read here
The CMO’s should have the best view on how the customers both perceive and experience the company and translate that reality for business owners and the CEO. Mandate for this position comes from the customers. The CMO’s role is to understand how the product/service range and customer experience influence the overall value experience, brand perception and preference, demand and capacity to generate premium pricing. CMO should define how the company should position different products and services in order to optimize the overall growth, sales and profit margin.
Dr. Rod King’s tools for Blue Ocean dashboard tool felt like rather easy and rapid tool for over all view creation, opening eyes for the whole. Here it is:
Here is my presentation that is about Business Design and how you lay the foundation of business development and value generation on customer journey and diminish the complexity to understandable and measurable insights and practices to marketing, operations and R&D. Recognition and simplification is the way to go and insights come from that. I’ve just landed back to my roots and start Business Development consulting which is really about customer and total marketing driven corporate transformation. That’s why it was relevant to take a look back and make a fusion from past to current.
I came to conclusion that past was already right – but required a lot to learn in order to develop the understanding and methods further.. Even if your theory and concept were perfect – making it a practice and a reality takes a lot of sweat, consideration, trial and error, right context, position and organization. However, enjoy. This material was better than I remembered (I was a founding member at Taivas Business Design and OneExperience planning director before my assignment as marketing architect at Toinen PHD and starated Future CMO transformation consulting and coaching in Jan 2014).
If your brand was a road sign and didn’t have context, emotions and expectations attached to it, it’s like there was no sign at all and the road to destination wouldn’t look comfortable or secure. If the sign does have a meaning for the customer but you are trying to sell something that is out of that world, it’s likely that you face difficulties creating interest, demand and closing deals. Brand extensions are not an easy game either and you should be prepared to work a long time to change and expand your brand perception before making money. Brand can be associated with very narrow specialty or more generic qualities. However, brand is not brand if it’s not recognized and it doesn’t stand for something. Virgin is a great example for a branding of attitude and founder’s mindset more than specific product or service range or Apple, which has done usability and design profile along with technology. Technology isn’t why people pay more for Apple than PC though. You can become a mini brand having all qualities of the brand in smaller area or niche business and then expanding that area. That’s the most likely way of actually succeeding in brand building profitably. (Check another article: Brand as a roadsign)
Real brands can emphasize optimisation of buying when they are considering customer journey. People pay attention to their signs and are likely to consider them when choosing a solution from the brands context. It’s about keeping the customer’s attention and closing the deal. For labels, it’s about selling.. and selling cost money. No one will buy a label unless it’s much cheaper or someone actively sells it to the customers. This is a major challenge when trying to penetrate a market and getting your product or service noticed and approved. Gillette is a great example of using brand as a defensive force. When new brands have tried to enter a market, Gillette has issued 3 at the price of 2 offers and stuffed people with their products for a year resulting zero sales for the newcomer.
The most profound brand related KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that influence the customer journey and commercial success most are:
- Brand perception = attributes that translate as customer perception of context, value and personality
Brand awareness, spontaneous and aided, are profound figures. A roughly acceptable brand heuristic is that awareness often equals trust. If the brand is well-known, it is likely to be considered and trusted also. However, there are eg. Car brands that are very well-known but don’t have appeal resulting sloping sales regardless of their brand awareness. If the brand is un-known it doesn’t exist in customer’s consideration and therefore has no way of making major sales without very pro-active sales activities or increasing the awareness of their brand. Even if a customer would notice the brand, he is likely to ignore it.
Top-of-mind is a figure telling which brand people first think of, when asked to tell which brands they would consider. In many cases top-of-mind is very important. Especially, in fast-moving consumer goods and e.g. Phone services in which people call to ask for advice. 911 must have almost 100% awareness and a top-of-mind position in order to be able to help people when they need it.
Preference rate could be considered as a GPS device that takes the driver to the right destination. When you are driving with a GPS on, you don’t actually pay attention to alternative options and act on the directions the GPS is giving for you. Strong habit and strong preference rate have very similar behavioural influence. Preference is often asked from customers before they actually initiate buying process. It’s a measure telling what brand people think they would most likely buy. It’s an important indicator of brand health and should be treated that way. It is a meaningful KPI figure. However, it can also be misused. In most brand-tracking cases that we have seen people have been told to choose the most preferred brand even if they didn’t have one. We have allowed customers to give none as an answer. No preference combined with potential brand options has been a very efficient way of capturing business dynamics. In some businesses we have analysed 76% of customers had no preference but a majority had three brand options that were equally good in customer’s eyes. There is no GPS to consider in those markets. No preference percentage gives a meaningful indication of customers consideration but it requires from the tracking that it also track brands that customer consider as option for the most preferred brand. If the brand you are working for is not in top three as a preferred brand or is not considered as an option, your brand doesn’t exist in the customer’s consideration. The very first thing to do in case of any business is to become considered! If you are not considered, no one will buy you unless you sell the brand in actively.
Let’s consider a practical case in travel for example. TNS and Kantar Group are offering national and international studies that have very large sample size and concentrate on customers’ perception of brands, their most recent purchases and lifestyle. In case of travel you can share customers to roughly three groups:
- People preferring your brand (Lower distraction sensitivity – driving on GPS)
- Neutral customers, who consider you as an option along others (no GPS) and
- Those who wouldn’t even consider you or would certainly not buy
Based on such data, mostly used by media agencies for their clients, you can tell how many people are in each group nationally, what have they purchased most recently and what are they like, demographics, lifestyles and behavioural preferences. Having this knowledge is a great eye opener and really supports management work in defining priorities and how to engage with people. Behavioural differences between preferring customers and neutral are very important. Considering sales the ratio of preferring customers is around 2/3 most recent purchases and in case of neutral customers around 1/3 or less. Customers who are neutral let all competing brands to their consideration and check all available offers or use comparison platforms, which narrow comparison and democratize brands to same level of information. In such environment brands lose their opportunity to create unique experience and services in a meaningful way. Preferring customers on the other hand come directly to company’s website or directly contact their customer service and thus allow direct service experience by the brand.
Brand perception has to do with people’s heuristics of the brand. What the brand means for them? What is it related to? What is the context? In different businesses there are clear factors in brand perception that have a clear connection to sales. Such factors could be eg. Trust and security, technically advanced, great design, cool, fun, high quality, leader in trends, most durable, etc. In each business it is important to leverage qualities that influence decision-making most and stay in touch with the market and what kind of qualities drive it. The change of drivers could be fast and profound like it was in case of Nokia. Nokia is no longer the most appreciated mobile technology brand it used to be. Apple’s iPhone and Google Android are shaking the business profoundly. Understanding which attributes drive sales, marketshare and preference should guide the priorities in brand development.. in all customer interfaces and communications.
Preference often require conscious consideration, comparison and decision making. It is best suitable for product and service areas where you make “bigger” decision. Liking is more subconscious and spontaneous emotional reaction to the brand. Liking could also be the first step to preference, an opportunity to become noticed and considered.
Liking the brand is a figure that has become more and more important due to digital influence. You can have high preference without liking because of superb product price/quality without being liked very much, but liking the brand has direct influence in preference even if your qualities were not quite that superb. There’s more to liking though. People have more currencies than the content of their wallet. They can speak their mind, write blogs, rate your product, influence your search results or offer you very important feedback or ideas for improvement.
Brands cannot be “created” one way – it’s the people’s perception of a company or product. Brand is no longer a noun; it has turned in to a verb. You could actually think brand as an agreement between a customer and company. Customers can agree or disagree with the agreement, resulting a perception, which could be good or bad. However, a brand cannot exist without the other party. Brand is social by nature. Still, a brand has never been as social as it has now become because of social media and online influence channels that customers are now very effectively and actively using. Customers have real power now that is global, not just local peers. No doubt that customer behavior has changed. It has completely changed in many areas and will continue doing so. Digital influence is the biggest disruptive force along the customer journey.
In current automated communications and self-service oriented world where customers are made responsible for servicing themselves there are many practices that don’t really support brand’s emotional development. Majority of companies consider customers as mass medium, measure “cost to serve” and try to push cost down, build loyalty programs that ask you to buy more and show loyalty in order to get higher discounts and benefits or offer time based commitments as agreements for discount. It’s very much a world of rational thinking. Rational is good but also neglect customer’s social currencies as value. You could call this approach “the indifference marketing”.
In social mediums people interact with their peers. It’s often, but not necessarily, a private space. In this space a brand could gain enormous value if customers would accept it within this context. A customer has enormous social capital. He can judge the brand as stupid or embrace the brand and support it. Customers are actively using their capital and they are getting more and more effective tools at their disposal just to practice this capital to the most. For example WOT, Web Of Trust, crowd sourced trust-rating of websites and brands has currently almost 60 million people rating brands and websites. Any people who have WOT application in their browser has reputation score visually presented after every single link available online.
WOT is a wonderful example of customers’ currencies becoming more and more influential. WOT is an ultimate rating tool. If some company act unethically, spam, or in any way prove not to be trustworthy, >30 million people in WOT start giving red to the brand . As an outcome, company’s online reputation score will become lower and eventually red. Red means, that if you try to enter the company’s website, you get a full page size warning stating that other people have rated this site to be dangerous and not trust worthy. Would you do business with such a company? How likely are you to do business with a company like that has bad trustworthiness?
Social influence online has an enormous steering power. As people treat brands and companies as entities anything and everything the company does also influence their trust rating. If a brand is misusing child labour or employees, has unfair practices, questionable ethics or doesn’t respect environment, it shows in their trustworthiness score. Customers currently rely very much on other online users feedback, even if they are complete strangers. As companies have noticed that people love to rate products and brands and are interested in comparing them, new companies and services emerge constantly. The power is moving a way from institutions like traditional mediums, which have made product reviews and thus defined which products sell and which don’t. Currently smart brands are turning customers to their ambassadors and creating same effect, only it’s completely dependent on people, the customers, which make it feel very interesting and trustworthy.
Currently customers are taking the ultimate power and becoming sellers them selves by turning blog pictures in to online retail channel with Kiosked –service (kiosked.com). E.g. A fashion blog can sell every single garment or accessory represented in photos appearing in the blog. People are creating their own audiences and creating their own image by blogging and making their bellowed products available for followers and readers. Brands are just chips in customers’ games, which they can endorse or decline. Again, liking the brand is the number one thing driving such endorsement.
Liking influence all currencies the Customers have:
- His personal detailed information
- Promise to record purchase history (loyalty card)
- Decision power to all his own purchases
- Freedom of speech and opinion
- His own time
- His personal peers and personal status amongst them
- Own creativity, experiences and ideas.
Of all the currencies above, I argue that most are not rationally driven and liking the brand influence them all! You can’t tell people to tell others they love your brand or tell them to recommend your products and services to others. Also, you can’t expect people to help you make your products and services better unless they do it with their own free will. It’s all about liking.
The most advanced brands have understood that these emotionally driven assets could prove to be extremely valuable and find ways of harnessing them. Open innovation and customer boards are great examples of just that. The good companies will win. Forget about the Adam Smith’s invisible hand, it’s become very visible and very effective. Blogs, ratings, discussion forums, Twitter, Facebook.. It’s written all over the digital canvas.
How segmenting 3.0 changes marketing and management https://futurecmo.org/2016/03/16/segmentation-3-0-disrupting-marketing-media-and-management/
How to take advantage of Brand’s position very fast with Behavioral Economics Making millions with pennies – Behavioral Economics approach
- Branding = Change Management & Operational Excellence
- Marketing’s new and re-designed 7P’s
- CMO’s inside Tornado
- Marketing has an identity crisis
- Customer Journey stage 1: Brand as a platform
- Customer Journey stage 2: Initiation
Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer
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