What brands do you love? Why? Do they have funny social media posts, respond to your calls with a real human, or remember your purchase history and past behavior?
These are the questions CMOs were asking each other (and themselves) during their recent Digital Roundtable discussion, moderated by Kyle Schlegel, Global Marketing Director, Racquet Sports at Wilson Sporting Goods. Members agreed that there is – due to incredible variety in the types of brands and consumer relationships that exist – no set “Brand Love Formula” for creating a beloved product. However, they got pretty close to cracking the code by highlighting general mindsets that can make or break a consumer’s perception of a company.
Members dug a little deeper by identifying five specific actions that a brand can take to move from having loyal customers to being the brand that people feel they absolutely NEED.
- Be Purposeful
Having a solid purpose starts from the inside out. It’s important to understand why you exist as a brand and understand the employee role within that. Take the time to determine what your brand purpose means in each situation and how you can deliver on that operationally.
You can state your purpose, but if your employees don’t feel it and your brand doesn’t live it in every way, it’s not going to be present for your customers, either. By first translating your purpose internally across functions, it will naturally expand externally through actions, not words.
“Just like you can’t tell someone you are cool, you can’t tell consumers you love them. You have to show them.” said Schlegel.
The real magic is turning your purpose into behavior, and one brand that really understands that is REI. They value outdoor travel, family and their employees – and made that crystal clear to their customers when they chose to #optoutside for Black Friday, closing their doors on the largest shopping day in the United States.
- Show your Human Side
A company is simply a group of humans that have come together to share in a common mission. So, why not show it?
Similar to REI, who stood by their purpose and made it all about the employees behind the brand, Amazon has made it all about the customers. At least once a year, each employee is required to spend time in the call center, where they begin to understand how the company affects consumers on a personal level each day.
By turning a spotlight on their employees to the customer and their customers to the employees, these brands have dialed in on the core of what customer service is: human interaction. The result is a connection with the brand, that makes customers feel more like they are talking to a trusted friend instead of a large corporation.
- Surprise and Delight
Whether you are a commodities brand known for it’s outstanding service and acute attention to detail or are a true disruptor in your industry, there must always be Total Customer Experience – and then some.
Take for example Simple, an online bank that is revolutionizing digital banking experiences. Recently, a customer was having an issue ordering a pizza. He called the bank to resolve his card problem and, rather than just fixing the issue, the bank purchased the pizza for him and had it sent directly to the customer (oh, and they also fixed his credit card issue).
Quite fittingly, their Founder has been cited saying: “Just because we are a bank, doesn’t mean we have to act like it.”
Follow their example and look at ways you can make your ordinary product extraordinary. Think of everything; be personal. Consumers are coming to you for your product – don’t just give them amazing service within the parameters of what they are expecting. Give them a WOW.
How do you know when a customer decides your brand isn’t just one they like, but one that they love?
In marketing, we look at data and react to numbers, but it’s important to know what’s behind those numbers. Make sure you listen to your customers – are you as good as you think? Do you think you are better than you really are? You’ll miss out on the meat if you don’t include good qualitative insights to complement your data.
To do this effectively, one CMO put together an internal team that acts as the conscience of the brand. Their goal is to act as the customer compass – sans internal or corporate filters. By doing this, they can effectively get to the bottom of the customer experience and customer feedback, cutting through the mass of numbers and listening to what customers (and employees) are actually thinking.
- Love Back
Love is a two-way street. So, make sure you are showing your customers and employees that you love them back.
This is where brands have the opportunity to be unique and really deliver their own component of the “Brand Love Formula.” Start by owning the entire customer experience and continue to revisit and reevaluate where you can add value.
Follow Simple’s lead and create an arts and crafts station where employees can send customized letters to customers, or make a public stand on something that aligns with your brand purpose – like REI.
No matter how your company approaches customer loyalty, it’s important to know that there will always be some aspects of the equation that you simply have no control over. However, by doing these five things and making sure the customer is taken care of in every way possible, your company is well on the way to establishing themselves as a brand to love.