In the digitally and socially connected world that we are in, there is a sea of big fish out there trying to swallow the smaller ones. When I say fish, I’m referring to brands. It is important to have an understanding of the sort of brand that are you trying to build.
What are you looking to target – brand loyalty or brand affinity? And how does brand loyalty differ from brand affinity?
Brand loyalty simply means the tendency of consumers to continue buying goods of the same brand rather than buying from your competitors. It could be because your product has been consistently high in quality and other parameters that matter to them.
I hope the interest that your customers show in your brand is not just out of apathy, or practice. Practices can change due to something as small as a change in the merchandising style of a store, new design of product packaging, or a reduced price offered by a competitor. Without an emotional connection to the brand, as it would be in the case of brand affinity, the barricade to transpose would be lower.
Customers could very well switch sides and support your competitors. That would result in you losing them and their connections through word of mouth, that goes viral speedily, especially if it’s negative. You do not want to witness the after-effects of negative word of mouth as that would mean serious damage to your brand’s image and can result in brand failure.
Public relations (PR) certainly plays a crucial role in establishing brand loyalty and brand affinity. You do promotions to create awareness about your brand amongst the target market and the target audience, and hope to build brand loyalty that gets the customers back to you for more.
PR is about the bond, the link between you, your brand, and your customers.
Hence, it becomes extremely important to connect with the customers on an emotional level. Share that one emotion that drives you, and then to each other. It could be a strong and a solid feeling that doesn’t have to be logical. When you actually create and establish that bond, brand loyalty becomes brand affinity.
The intention is not just to emphasize solely on building brand loyalty, or persuading consumers to buy something promptly, but to foster and nurture brand affinity by providing online social communities with worthwhile information.
The information you provide them should help them form a unique and a personal connection with your brand. You want to build a brand which the customers can identify with and relate to as much as you do. You need to give them something that entices them. Brand affinity makes the entire process of establishing a loyal customer base way quicker, cost effective, and influences people to promote referrals.
Apple and its fans all over the world demonstrate what brand affinity is all about. But how can you achieve that for your brand?
- You could start by building a quality and a user-friendly brand, which speaks for itself. The physical store as well as the online store should be easy to navigate even for new visitors. The easier it is to navigate it, the higher is your chance of converting that new visitor into a potential customer. Always try and walk in their shoes to get the real picture of your brand. Learn about your customers and get to know as many as you can on a personal level. This will help you advance in a customer-focused style and address their core needs.
- Every new version must out-perform the previous one, and be better than the best you have built so far. Let your customers know you for your workmanship through thoughtful product design. It would be a good idea to be open to making a certain level of custom changes to make your brand special for those who wish for something unique.
- Be present on social platforms that your target audience actively uses. Participate in conversations, be composite and vulnerable to good/bad feedback coming your way. Handle their concerns in the way in which you would like yours to be addressed.
- Give them the kind of customer service you would like to be treated with. Timely and logical explanations can convert an irate customer into a happy and a loyal one. It is a good idea to share exclusive news with the customers first, then with the general media. Offer some sort of incentive to the loyal customers on repeat purchases. Never hesitate in walking that extra mile, it always pays off. And you are sure to earn some brownie points.
- You should strive to give your customers a delightful, pleasant, and seamless shopping experience. Consider the training and disciplining of your staff as very important when it comes to representing your brand. Let the knowledge and know-how of your product speak.
- Touching base with your customers can be fruitful. Try to occupy your customer’s mind space for the right reasons. This will establish top-of-mind recall for your product /service, and think of you as the first point of contact to satisfy their demand. Make sure you are available to them at all times.
Be transparent in your communication with your customers. Always make it a habit to communicate the good and the bad news to them without panicking. Honesty helps build trust and faith. Your customers will certainly appreciate that you took the time to reach out to them and acquainted them with the facts.
- It is important to stay ahead of your competitors even if you have managed to expand your customer base, and get the coverage and the mentions you need. Even the blink of an eye could take a toll on your brand loyalty and affinity. Do not let anyone steal your niche.
- You are putting in efforts to make a place for yourself in the already established market in your niche. But you really need to understand who your target customers are and sell to them, instead of selling to all and sundry. Your brand must serve or solve a problem for a category of people, who in future could be your brand advocates. Use the media to communicate what your brand has to offer. It is only when you understand your brand well that will you be able to make your prospective customers understand it.
- You may also want to share your brand’s story. Make sure that you, your brand, and your staff come across as one integrated entity. Your story should talk about who you are, how you have evolved, and who you want to become. Take care that these things always fall in alignment to each other. Customers would not want to stand by a brand which is confused about its own identity.
- Make the best use of the already established relationship of your PR executive with the media. Advertising will help build brand awareness and get you recognition. But PR will help you reach out to your target audience in the best and the fastest way possible through authentic and genuine endorsements.
Another important aspect to work on would be brand advocacy. It starts when your brand satisfies your a demand for a product/service at the best price and is efficient enough to make customers believe that they have made the right decision.
This should be followed with meeting the expectations you had set while trying to sell the product. Offer assistance and help proactively as and when needed, and check on how well your brand performs. It is only after you have converted your customers into loyal consumers, that they will become your brand advocates. Your brand advocates will stand by you and invest their time, energy, and resources for the love of your brand without expectations.