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But less than devotion or a cult.
Between the time you woke up and left for work, how many brands did you come across? Were these the regular brands that you always use? Does your monthly shopping list include brand names instead of the name of the product/item? Do you go an extra mile for that favorite product of yours that is not available at the store near your place?
All these are attributes that point towards brand loyalty. A textbook definition describes it as “the positive association consumers attach to a particular product, demonstrated by their repeat purchases of it even when given choices of competing alternatives.” What makes customers loyal to a brand? Brand loyalty is a residual of the benefits that branding a business provides. Whereas, for marketers, brand loyalty becomes the biggest reward of their activities. There are a lot of aspects on which the purchase of a product is dependent. One of them is brand loyalty. It gets difficult to judge a consumer’s repeated purchase since it could be just a convenience or actual connection with what the brand means.
Habits and consumer behaviors
Behavioral psychology proves that we are creatures of habit. Habits give us a sense of order around us and hence, a small amount of comfort. But again, psychology also further goes on to the fact that variety is the spice of life.
Humans are the most complex animals and the most important part of their body, even more so- the brain. When you go to the mall, there are literally thousands of products that are screaming for your attention. Similarly, there are tens of thousands of messages neurons are passing in your brain while looking at all these stimuli.
Although, the brain does less analytical calculations as compared to something as simple as gap-filling. It will take all this noisy incomplete information from around you and will quickly fill in the empty spaces on the basis of past experience. You might form impressions on the basis of this bias or it could be pure intuition- A decision made without reflection. In layperson terms, the gut feeling.
Is brand loyalty even a thing?
All of this doesn’t prove anything but the fact that it is so complex that you cannot predict human behavior. What you can do is communicate in order to form better impressions that might work in favor of your brand when the consumer mind is doing all these calculations.
But then, what does this prove? Is brand loyalty something that brands must aim for or a concept that MBA schools have added to the textbooks to fill space?
Just like many other concepts, the words brand loyalty also have lost meaning over time because of the wrong usage, or just plain overuse. Brand loyalty is a relationship between the consumer and the business which is not a monogamous blind following of one brand for eternity but a more breathable concept that allows an open relationship with multiple brands. (Looks like randing made polygamy cool way before millennials.) It allows humans to seek the comfort of habit along with the spice of variety. How does that happen?
As Simon Sinek says, start with why. Why would a consumer keep your brand in their lives? As opposed to brand loyalty concepts, research has proved that a majority of 77% do not want a relationship with brands. Out of the 23% who do consider having a relationship 64% cited shared values.
What are these shared values?
A brand that provides cruelty-free organic food might convince you to become brand loyal towards them because you believe in the brand. Emphasis on the repeated use of the word ‘brand’ and not ‘business’.
Why brand loyalty?
Let’s put things into perspective.
Let us take two extremes of why a consumer chooses your product.
Convenience and Cult.
Now let us put these on a spectrum.
What does cult mean? A perfect example would be Apple. Research has proven that the same amount of neurons are fired when devotees talk about god and when a few extreme Apple users talk about Apple products. The sweet spot lies somewhere in between which is called brand loyalty. Nike is a brand that has successfully reflected the same values as its users. This can be seen when they stand with the athletes. Although, it has received outrage on going off their brand value but agreed on their mistakes and rectified immediately.
When we look at the importance of brand loyalty, we can look at the benefits of brand loyalty. The brand benefits with sales and also consumers becoming brand advocates. Acquiring new customers is also costlier than retaining the existing ones. The consumer gets a sense of emotional satisfaction for loving a brand and also sharing a great find with others along with having a feeling of belonging to a community and a common connection with other brand admirers. Not having to make one more decision is also a plus for the consumer once they find a brand they like.
The question you must ask to find the point of brand loyalty customers can experience with your brand is why would they return for your