Loyalty, in general, is an interesting topic … but add in loyalty to a company … or a product or service … or <oh my!> a ‘brand’ !?! … well … now we officially move into mind boggling category.
Mind boggling because there are actuarial models, theoretical models, regressive models and just about any model <excepting a sports illustrated model … oh … although you can receive a sports illustrated model issue if you are loyal enough> all with the intent to ‘build’ loyalty and get more money from loyal customers <some models suggest that should be called “encouraging ongoing loyalty’>.
From a philosophical standpoint I dislike the suggestion I can actually buy loyalty.
Yeah yeah yeah … in every single one of those models’ power point presentations somewhere in the first five pages of the 110 page presentation you will always see the cursory ‘you have to earn loyalty.’
Its kind of a slight head nod to some ethical standard as well as a wink in the eye to the product has to be good enough and deliver upon expectations <to earn any type of loyalty>.
I guarantee that within two pages the expert will be launching into how to build loyalty and maximize profitability & sales from your buyer group <whether they are actually loyal or not>.
That rant aside.
Far too often I hear and see brand loyalty in terms of absolutes. And it is not. It is in degrees. And it is also measured in moments and not lifetimes.
Realistically … <generalizing> … loyalty is not something really earned. And I say that because ‘earned’ suggests that there is a balance of ‘loyalty credits’ available to you that you can sell off on occasion <mistakes or things that could be construed as ‘behavior of someone who is not loyal to me.’
Here is where I would end up on the ‘earned’ topic.
Fool me once, shame on you. <one credit used>
Fool me twice, shame on me. <no credits left>
All this bullshit about ‘depth of loyalty’ is … well … bullshit. Sure. I can be deeper than this ‘once’ I just mentioned … but 3 mistakes?
Whoooooooo. That may be tops.
There are always that fanatical few who wear the brand and live it, sleep it, breathe it, talk ad nausea about it and … in general … freak people out over it. But they don’t really do you any good. They are just some wackjobs that everyone recognized as completely bonkers over anything the brand may do and say <even if it makes no sense at all>.
In other words … your most loyal of loyal simply freak people out.
Beyond that … a brand has some people who tend to like you more than the other stuff they have purchased. This can be driven by a combination of price, quality and overall Maslow type stuff <this is the whole ‘brand is a badge I wear that says something about me to the people around me’ gobbledygook>.
Think of it how like your parents treated you when you actually did clean your room.
They made a deal with you. They may not have said it in so many words … but there became an understanding of a deal.
You cleaned your room and they didn’t nag … or they gave you a nickel … or they stayed out of your room. It was a deal. The best deals were ones that you <the child> actually had some value in and participated in building. I suggest that because people often think incentive is always about money. Its not. One kid may have put the value on receiving an allowance if they sucked it up and cleaned their room while another may have put the value on privacy <’stay out of my frickin’ room>.
You get the point.
Deal loyalty is NOT brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty marketing experts suggest things like “we are in the midst of a genuine marketing revolution, a revolution fueled by extraordinary data and amazing technology.”
And … “brand loyalty doesn’t just happen; you must make it happen.”
I don’t really know why … but that type of thinking and those words make me cringe.
I guess I know why.
It sounds manipulative.
There are gobs of advice on how to consciously build loyalty. So much in fact that you may get the sense you can actually buy loyalty. That is sad. Sadly manipulative.
People are not stupid.
In general we like gifts … and as long as you are willing to give me gifts without asking for anything in return I will continue taking them from you.
But please, please, do not misconstrue this for loyalty. I am just accepting unasked for gifts.
Here is where I argue with ‘brand loyalty’ program experts. Most of the time the things they suggest has nothing to do with loyalty … but everything to do with smart business development – going after those who seem to like the shit you sell, reinforcing that someone made a good decision when they bought our shit … and maybe … well … that’s it.
Reinforce a purchase decision.
Is it simply an argument in semantics that this isn’t loyalty?
But sometimes semantics defines your attitude.
And, yes, you can be smart about how you go about doing it.
Doing things like:
- First and foremost recognizing that a purchase is not a discrete event in the lifetime of possible purchased. Understand that one decision always begets another decision. And it is in your best interest to reinforce the initial decision. And of course … encourage another decision.
- And while it pains me to say this … but it is true that not all customers are created equal. Recognizing those who purchase your shit a lot versus someone who doesn’t is just smart business. Inevitably someone who buys a lot of your shit knows fully well they are doing so … and they like it when you step up to the plate and recognize that you know. There are gobs of models showing how you should manage e the behavior <and attitudes> of return shoppers. Me? All I suggest is that your life becomes fairly easy if you simply admit that each purchase is important. And each purchase decision should be reinforced.
- Always recognize that solving dissatisfaction is always the easiest way to create a stronger bond. This doesn’t mean you should treat dissatisfied customers better than your most frequent shoppers. Simply treat each situation as discrete and understand if you satisfy someone who at some point was dissatisfied, they like you exponentially more than one who has been plodding along generally satisfied with what they have been getting.
- Loyalty isn’t about selling shit.
Whoa. Did I just type that? You betcha. The moment you start believing that loyalty should be equated to sales you will … well … end up trying to be a salesman. And someone who is loyal wants some love … not some schmooze.
Semantics again? Possibly.
But loyalty is about value … not sales.
I bring up all my concerns with how loyalty is approached because most company research <across all industries> show that the most significant declines in loyalty were primarily due to the self-inflicted wounds of misguided, mistaken management.
Loyalty experts would be lining up to begin advocating how to fix their loyalty programs.
In the end.
You can buy short term behavior … but you cannot buy long term behavior. Long term behavior is dependent upon on attitude.
In this case some people would call that “loyalty.”