Developing loyalty among consumers has always been paramount to any successful brand. However, in this politically-charged digital age, brand loyalty now extends beyond providing a best-in-class product or service. Consumers want quality, but also want to believe that they support a worthy cause. With a vast amount of information available online, researching and evaluating a brand’s reputation before purchasing has become commonplace. So how does a company build a following of believers? There are four key areas that brands can focus on to stand out in the minds of consumers:
Sustainability. The importance of environmental sustainability to consumers grows year over year. According to a 2018 Nielsen report, “81 percent of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.” Three years prior, just 66 percent of Nielsen’s respondents reported they would pay more for a sustainable brand. Companies like Allbirds that invest in sustainable business practices have seen a significant positive impact to their bottom line over time.
Transparency. Like sustainability, corporate transparency is an issue that has gained in importance. Through the widespread use of social media, evidence of a brand’s perceived wrongdoings can spread quickly, with the public reaction swift and brutal. Just this summer, Wayfair experienced a public boycott and massive employee strike over the leak of their furniture sales to migrant detention centers. Uber is still financially recovering from the 2017 #DeleteUber movement in response to their attempt to profit from a New York City taxi driver strike. When brands are open and transparent with their business practices and data, it builds trust with consumers and leaves the brand less vulnerable to public attack.
Cause marketing. Brands with a loyal audience also address social issues through integrated cause marketing campaigns. While these campaigns are often controversial, many brands have experienced an increase in long-term consumer loyalty when they have invested in their stance on relevant social causes. Recent examples include Nike’s relationship with Colin Kaepernick, Gillette’s stance on toxic masculinity and Burger King’s support of McDonald’s childhood cancer fundraiser. (Be aware, though, that campaigns that appear self-congratulatory, are not embodied by the everyday corporate culture or are contradictory to the beliefs of the target audience can negatively impact brand loyalty.)
Customer service. A consumer’s day-to-day experience with a brand is also an important aspect of developing brand loyalty. Whether it’s face-to-face contact, a phone call, an email or a social media post, consumers place a high value on quick, knowledgeable and personal attention to their problems. The online pet supply store Chewy is especially well-known for building long-term relationships with consumers by going the extra mile to not only service customers but also befriend them.
Ultimately customers want to believe in the brands they choose to support. Having strong values, investing in those values and treating consumers like peers will allow you to build a long-term relationship with your audience that will lead to continued success.