In an ideal world, all your customers would be loyal to your brand. Loyalty means a customer is willing to come back to your brand for multiple purchases and experiences, forgoing your competitors — even if they’re offering lower prices or similar incentives.
Some studies (and opinions) suggest that brand loyalty is a concept that’s dying; for example, 79 percent of the population ranks quality as their most important purchasing decision, rather than name brand. In the information age, where information on thousands of competitor products is available instantly, it’s no wonder why so many people believe brand loyalty is on its way out.
However, some evidence suggests that brand loyalty is as strong as it’s ever been; 77 percent of consumers return to the same brands, over and over again, with 37 percent of people qualified as “brand loyalists,” who will stay true to a brand even if offered a superior product from a competitor.
So what are the psychological factors that are responsible for this manifestation of loyalty?
First, there needs to be some degree of novelty to catch consumer attention. The world is full of different brands similar to yours, so if you want a shot at winning a new customer, you either have to offer a product that’s never been offered before, or you need a compelling, persuasive pitch that can potentially attract loyalists from other existing brands. On top of that, novelty is linked to stronger memories, which can instill familiarity and positive feelings upon repeated exposure.
Brand loyalty doesn’t depend on novelty to sustain itself, but it is a necessary first ingredient.
Associations and Positive Reinforcement
Much of human psychology is built around the concept of associations; when we eat something sweet, we experience a release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine, so we learn to associate sweet foods with pleasant experiences. When we touch a hot stove, we associate pain with the stove and avoid it in the future. Once you’ve captured someone’s attention, the next step to securing someone’s loyalty is to ensure your brand is associated with positive feelings.
This goes beyond giving your customers a good experience, mind you — you have to somehow associate that experience with your brand. That could mean adding more overtly branded materials to your physical location, or using slogans and imagery at opportune times during the customer experience (whether that’s serving food or delivering a package) to reinforce the connection to the brand.
This takes time, but with every positive experience, your customers will become more loyal to you.
Identity and Tribalism
Humans are a social species, and we’ve learned to engage with one another by forging an identity, sticking to it as stubbornly as possible, and participating in tribalism (sticking close to people like you and vilifying or avoiding people unlike you). This is the main reason politics are so divided, and a contributing factor to the thrill of sports rivalries.
Tapping into this identity and tribalism can also be used to secure brand loyalty. Apple is a notorious example of this, using imagery of cool, laid-back, colorful people to showcase its brand, while using stuffy, unlikable characters to portray its rival brands. Instilling a sense of community identity (and in this case, elitism) is the key to making your customers feel like they’re a part of your brand — and once they have that feeling, they’ll become virtually inseparable from you.
The Key Takeaways
So what can you learn from these psychological factors? What can you do to make people more loyal to your brand?
1. Stand out by being different. You have to start with a notable brand, capable of differentiating itself from the competition. Without this step, loyalists of other brands will have no reason to switch to yours.
2. Know your target market, and cater to them. If you want to give more positive experiences and memories to your target market, you need to understand exactly how they think — and what they’re looking for. Find out what that is, and give it to them.
3. Incorporate a series of positive, branded experiences. Always keep your brand present, consistent, and top-of-mind. If customers lose sight of your brand, it won’t matter if they have a good experience — they won’t remember you.
4. Allow your customers to interact with each other. The best way to build a community is to nurture an organic one. Foster a sense of tribalism by allowing your customers to engage with one another.
5. Make your brand a component of personal identity. Find a way to make customers feel your brand is a part of their personal identity. Once it’s there, it’s going to become virtually impossible to get rid of.
Brand loyalty isn’t dead, and it’s not especially mysterious as a concept. With the right strategies, you can earn more brand loyalty from your most interested customers, and grow to even further heights.
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