Your Customers Really Aren’t Loyal

Spoiler alert! I’ve got some news that you might not want to hear, but probably should. If you hold a position as a marketer in any organisation, there’s a good chance you are kidding yourself on a daily basis. This affects the job you are doing, the future success of the brand or brands you work on and subsequently, your career.

If you buy into the commonly held belief that you have a bank of core, diehard brand loving loyalists that support your current sales I’m afraid you are misinformed.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news and please don’t shoot the messenger, but the fact is that most of your sales are not coming from the core target audience you pen profiled. They are not coming from Steve your ABC1 male 35-40 with a wife, 1 house and 2.4 kids, neither are they coming from Lucy the 18 year old student who spends 8.4hrs a day on social media platforms. Some sales will be, but that’s not where you need to be aiming you marketing efforts. Your actual sales come from people who only occasionally buy your brand, and don’t care that much about it.

But its ok, if it helps ease the pain in anyway, your competitor’s customers aren’t loyal either. In fact, they’re every bit as likely to buy your brand as they are to buy theirs. And assuming you are not the clear market leader in your category (sorry but I’m playing the odds on this one), the people out there actually buying your brand are in fact slightly less likely to buy your brand than the market leader.

This my friends, is the law of market share.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I personally shop at Lidl and at Waitrose (and Tesco’s Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Ocado amongst others). I even shop in farmers markets, and contrary to popular belief, I regularly (more than twice a month) buy Pepsi and or Coke. And the truth is most people do (in fact 72% of coke drinkers regularly buy Pepsi), regardless of what the marketing textbooks teach us about market segmentation etc.

So does this mean the world of branding is dead and everything we are doing is a waste of time?

No. No it doesn’t. Quite the opposite in fact, it means that you need to talk to a wider audience than you thought you did at the beginning of this blog, and it also means you might want to think a little harder about what you are actually doing and how to grow your brand. We‘ll be looking at how brands actually grow in a moment but for now I want to focus on the myth that your brand is primarily bought by your brand loyalists.

So Lets look at Harley Davidson. Close your eyes and picture the Harley owner, have you got him (or her) he’s bad ass, he’s got tattoos, wraparound sunglasses on, he’s got cowboy boots and silver jewellery with skulls on, in my head he’s not even wearing a helmet. He has his cut off jacket with his colours emblazed on his back, lets call him Clint… now lets get real, can you see Clint going into a Harley showroom and buying a NEW Harley? In fact can you see an army of Clint’s (approximately 270,000 of them in 2014) doing this? The truth is that he is massively loyal to the brand but realistically he is not the guy supporting the sales of the company.

Lets look at this from another angle. Meet Frank (another random name), he drinks 2 ltrs of a certain brand of cola per day, every day and he certainly would not switch to any other brand… no way, no how.

Now from a marketer’s perspective, Fred should be classed as a brand loyalist, but, do you think that telling him to buy more Coke is going to boost your bottom line? Not really. Also being practical do you think that if you stopped talking to Fred altogether and saved your marketing budget that this will affect his buying behaviour? Again, probably not. To be fair if it did stop him buying quite so much, granted this is an extreme case, would that actually be a bad thing?

One things for sure, that wont kill your brand. There just aren’t enough Fred’s.

Ok, so you’ve read this far, perhaps it’s worth me giving you something useful. All brands like to think they are differentiated and they may be in the minds of the marketer, but do customers care about differentiation, may be, but not at a brand level. Ok so I admit, I’ve led you on a bit as your customers are loyal in a way, but they are polygamously loyal. They will have a range of brands that they buy within a category.

So when you distil it back your job as a brand owner is simple really. That’s simple, but not easy. Essentially, success comes from making your brand ‘easier’ to buy than the competition. There are 2 steps to achieving this. Firstly, make your brand physically available by maximising distribution and secondly, to make your brand emotionally available through positive recall.

How you do this is where it starts to get a little trickier. You have to create recognisable assets for your brand that enable a consumer to build memory structures that enforce positive associations with your product or service experience. These assets can then create signposts, making your brand easier to buy emotionally; you then have to ensure that these assets get noticed and are kept fresh and interesting as well as consistently recallable.

The next challenge is to ensure that you remove all barriers to purchase, and the list here is vast and would be down to the specific offer but would include everything from distribution, to being relevant and competitive.

So to finish on a list (which I understand is a good way to end a blog) here is a list of the 7 rules (taken from how to grow brands by Byron Sharp) that you should use if you want to grow your brand.

  1. Continuously reach all buyers of the category (communication and distribution) – avoid being silent
  2. Ensure the brand is easy to buy (communicate how the brand fits with the users life)
  3. Get noticed(grab attention and focus on brand salience to prime the users mind)
  4. Refresh and build memory structures (respect existing associations that make the brand easy to notice and easy to buy)
  5. Create and use distinctive brand assets (use sensory cues to get noticed and stay top of mind)
  6. Be consistent (avoid unnecessary changes, whilst keeping the brands fresh and interesting)
  7. Stay competitive (keep the brand easy to buy and avoid giving excuses not to buy (i.e. by targeting a particular group)

I would love to hear your thoughts on the above and of course if you would like to discuss how to grow your brand why not drop us a line.

Suggested reading

How to Grow Brands – Byron Sharp