Growing up, I always wanted to rock the same shoes — Air Jordan’s of course. When one pair wore out, my next pair was an easy decision — the next model of MJ’s. I was not only rockin’ the coolest shoe on the planet, but looking back, the brand connected with me. After all, what kid didn’t think he could Be Like Mike? Nike drove my…er, my mom’s…buying decision.

Then, I loved my Air Jordan’s —  and nothing could convince me otherwise.

Today, well, it’s a different story. The power has shifted from the business to the customer and everyone is on brand overload. Internet, social media, and TV make it easier than ever for your audience and customers to tune out your message, delegating your business to the commodity game.  With information at our fingertips, it’s always easy to scour the internet for the cheapest option.

That doesn’t mean brand loyalty is dead. It does mean that in order to create brand advocates that come back and repurchase from your business, you have to show the real story behind the brand they buy, now more than ever. Consumers want to connect with businesses on a meaningful level. Which means as business owners and leaders we need to build brands that are more than just logos and taglines. We need to tap into the heart and soul of our audience, imprinting our lovemark on their mind.

The question is, how?

Champion the Customer

No longer can you push your message and brand onto your audience.  Brand loyalty is a two-way conversation that requires building an authentic relationship with your customers and online visitors across all channels.  Instead of focusing on the one-time sale, think of your brand as a platform you can use to engage your ideal customer at every point in your relationship with them. This means that you don’t stop connecting with consumers once they make a purchase, but continue to surprise and delight them after the sale.

Zappos is a great example of championing the customer. They don’t just deliver shoes, they deliver happiness. The customer is at the heart of Zappos’ brand and it shows. It starts with perks like free shipping, and is carried out in Zappos’ legendary customer support stories. The Zappos team repeatedly goes outside the box to wow and delight customers, fostering great brand engagement and loyalty.

 

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Build Trust

Consumers today are inundated with choices. To simplify the decision making process, they look to both online reviews and their peers to get an inside look at what it’s like to do business with your brand. Negative reviews on review sites, comments on social media, or a customer sharing a bad experience with their network can sink your brand. It is more important than ever to be authentic and build trust with consumers. So don’t be shy in owning up to your mistakes when you have a problem. We are a forgiving society. Customers appreciate it when businesses are actually honest and authentic-giving a more human side to your brand.

When it comes to fostering brand loyalty, it’s super important for your business to earn the trust of your customers and to keep it. Building trust starts well before a customer lands on your website or walks into your establishment. It starts with building awareness of a brand that other customers love doing business with.

Deliver an Awesome Product

A key to capturing not just the wallets but the hearts of your customer is a commitment to delivering great products. Take a look at Apple. They have done a masterful job at innovation and a relentless pursuit at building products that their customers want and need.

Last fall, Apple released the iPhone 6. While there are other smart phones on the market that have stepped up their game and closed the gap to compete with the iPhone, it didn’t stop loyal fans from lining up in droves before iPhone 6 even came out. That’s because Apple’s laser focus on simplicity through product innovation has built a lovemark for its brand. In fact, Apple leads all phone manufactures with a 90% brand retention rate.

 

 

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Foster Goodwill

A recent article from the Harvard Business Review indicates that the majority of consumers don’t just desire a relationship with a brand, but seek to share values with the business. That means that in order for your business to stand out from the crowd, you need to clearly communicate what you stand for  — in other words, connect to people with your brand values.

Recently one of my teammates here at Hatchbuck shared with me her experience Chevrolet’s recent #DayItForward campaign.  The #DayItForward campaign is designed to engage Chevy’s audience in a discussion around what they would do to make the most of the extra day in February (this year being a leap year).  So Lindsey from our team reached out to thank Chevrolet for making a difference, one of our core values here at Hatchbuck and a value that Lindsey does an amazing job of living out every day:

 

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Chevrolet responded right away with a personalized message, letting her know there was some RAK — Random Act of Kindness  — on the way.

In fact Chevrolet sent her a $10 Starbucks gift card to grab a latte and to be used to impact the person behind her in line:

 

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Lindsay reached out to me, blown away by the online experience she had with Chevrolet. Why? First, Chevrolet tapped into Lindsay’s heart and shared value-To “Make a Difference”. Second they made the communication personal and meaningful.

Is Lindsay going to spring for a new Chevrolet? No, probably not the minute she signs off of Twitter. But it has increased her loyalty to their brand and it’s delivered an unforgettable experience. She also not been shy about sharing it with others who may be in the market to drive home a new car.

Tap into the Data

When you leverage technology such as social media, CRM and marketing tools that capture valuable insights and behavior about your online visitors and customers, you can better understand what motivates them to buy and what they value. Ultimately, today’s access to data about your audience can move you from a brand with a one-size-fits-all message to a brand that delivers a personalized, engaging experience.

The proliferation of tech tools plus the rise of content marketing has given businesses new ways to engage with consumers right where they are with just the right message. Studies show that content is a big driver in brand loyalty.  Beyond just the product you sell, a healthy content strategy helps to solve your audience’s biggest challenges and allows you to establish yourself and your brand as a thought leader, giving you a voice in the most important conversation for your audience.

Creating brand engagement only happens when your business works to develop a two way street and personally communicates with customers and potential customers.

Today, brand loyalty is no longer a given.  Brand loyalty is earned when your business delivers a great product, establishes trust, and connects with the shared values of your audience. Your customers are looking for brands to be transparent and follow through on what they stand for. Alexander Jutkowitz of Harvard Business Review puts it this way: “People expect convenience from a transaction, but what they crave is meaning.” Brand loyalty isn’t dead, so put your lovemark on your customers to win back their hearts.