We’ve all heard the term “brand loyalty.”
Oh, how awesome if our clients were so loyal that they stayed with us for years… purchased all of our products or services… and spread the word to all their friends.
Brand loyalty is a tough thing to achieve.
It requires that you offer something worth being loyal to. That means it can’t be something your clients can get anywhere else.
It requires you to know your clients so well you can anticipate what they want even before they know they want it.
It requires you to constantly innovate and come out with new ways to make your clients’ lives better or their businesses more successful.
Clients can be fickle.
New products and services come along everyday. If those new products and services are perceived as better or cheaper or any other “er” that’s important to your customers, chances are they’ll jump ship, unless you’re offering them a compelling reason not to.
A story about brand loyalty lost.
I’m a long distance runner. I’ve been running since high school and I still run several times a week. It’s in my blood.
And so were Saucony running shoes… until about a year ago. I started wearing them back in the 1980s during my marathon training days. I LOVED them. For years I would wear nothing else. Heck, I wouldn’t even try on anything else.
Until about 10 months ago.
I was in a local running superstore and the sales clerk brought out several different brands of running shoes for me to try on. Yes, a pair of Saucony’s were among the bunch, but there were also other brands.
I decided to keep an open mind and try on ALL the shoes. After much debate, I went home with a pair of Saucony’s; after all I had loved the brand for 30 years. But within 30 days I wasn’t happy. They didn’t feel good on my feet. Something had changed. They didn’t fit the way they used to.
I took them back and decided to try a new brand… a brand that fit better and felt better. I fell in love all over again. This time with a pair of pink Asics.
Just last week I headed back to the running superstore. Time to replace my running shoes again. I asked to try on a new pair of Asics—the same model as the pair I purchased 10 months ago. But once again the sales clerk brought me out several other brands to try as well.
Guess what happened?
I found a shoe I liked even better than the Asics. They were Brooks, a brand I haven’t worn since high school. I’ve been running in them for about a week and I’m in love again. (Update June 2013: I’m back to a pair of Asics I bought on sale!)
It got me to thinking about brand loyalty.
What is it that makes us so loyal that we won’t even try another brand? And, is that loyalty going away in an age where we have more choices than ever, instant access to information and product research via the Internet, and access to more products via large-scale superstores and big box retailers?
I believe these factors have definitely impacted brand loyalty.
I also believe in an economy where many people are more price-conscious that ever, they’re less likely to be brand loyal. If a lower priced product or service can fill their needs, they’re probably going to choose it.
But one of the biggest factors in the brand loyalty disappearing act is the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to find brands that really stand for something. With a unique positioning, or a product or service that offers something the competitors don’t, it’s easier to attract and keep a loyal following.
Unfortunately, if you look around, most brands are simply copying other brands’ products and services instead of innovating their own. And service professionals are notorious about this. Maybe because we’ve been taught that modeling is the secret to success.
Modeling is just another word for copying.
If that’s the strategy you’re using in your business, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not innovating and being a leader. There’s also a pretty good chance your services are not unique; they’re services that are offered in similar form by many other people. If that’s the case, I think you have to ask yourself what reason you’re giving your customers to be brand loyal.
The worlds’ most innovative brands.
If you take a look at the world’s most innovative brands and how successful these companies are, it should be enough to inspire you to start creating and leading, instead of following. Atop Fast Company’s 2011 list of the most innovative companies, you’ll find brands like Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Groupon, Google and Netflix. Not really a surprise, is it? You can’t get what they have to offer just anywhere. The question to ask yourself is how can you be more like them?