As a brand marketer I obviously understand the value of great brands. But then as a consumer, I feel I betray the marketer in me, with my frivolous flitting between companies across a number of markets. And there lies the dichotomy and reality between today’s marketing and society’s purchasing behaviour.
Of course, there are so many ways in which we as marketers can boost the brand and reach out to our audiences. See my blog http://www.vgandassociates.com/key-attributes-for-great-brands/. We must still engage and nurture relationships. We must ensure we are accessible and open to our customers. We must make their whole buying experience easy and hassle-free. We need to keep front-of-mind and ahead of the competition. All this, having ticked all the good brand values and service attributes, we do in the vain hope that our consumers will come back to us and stay loyal.
But will they? So many surveys are now showing the decline of customer loyalty and the 20%/80% rule of customers accounting for turnover is fast becoming 50%/50%. Brand switching is on the increase and costing companies a small fortune.
Below shows an infographic by Marketing Week of consumer behaviour in switching brands based on customer service. Note the £116 billion brands are losing from people switching each year!
A recent Readers Digest survey shows the results of a European Survey for prompts in switching brands and once again poor service ranks as one of the highest reasons: http://www.rdtrustedbrands.com/tables/brand-switching.shtml
An increase in price is more likely than anything to prompt consumers to switch brands. People are more likely to react negatively to poor service than a reduction in the quality of a product.
Average agreement Very often / often Sometimes / Never The price increases 52% 40% Poor service 48% 43% Product quality reduces 41% 51% Unable to communicate with anyone who can help me 37% 54% Want to try something new 36% 57%
All the stated ‘prompts’ resonate with me as a consumer. Once I’ve experienced poor service, I find it very hard to give that company a second chance. And when it comes to something like car insurance for example, it becomes all about the best price and a quick and easy decision. And then for other purchases such as holidays and household goods, I go and look at online reviews from people I’ve never met, instead of researching what the company says and does!
So if I as a marketer can ignore a company’s marketing details and messages, we have to think that this is probably how a lot of today’s society are thinking and acting. We are all too busy and hectic to spend too long about certain purchases. We also have to accept that we live in a commoditised market where price comparison sites have a huge influence.
Consumers are using mobile devices to research prices in shops, home or even in the office.
The emphasis and power has shifted over to the customer and their high expectations. Not only do they/we want value for money at the best prices, but there is also the demand for real added value where companies deliver over and above what they used to. If you ask a customer to ‘like’ your facebook page, they will expect something in return.
And of course, social media itself has added a whole world of comment and influence from peers and previous customers who share their opinions and experiences, which can override any marketing communications you may have spent ages planning. Add to this, the manic, high pressured, fast pace of life and customers want all the above, plus the ability to make quick purchasing decisions without any stress.
Having said all the above, in terms of customer loyalty, when I think of my own consumer behaviour, I do have a few brands I stick with and go back to on a regular basis. Why? Because I trust them, enjoy the experience and they seem to be on my wavelength which suits me and my life.
So what can brands do to strive for the all important engagement and affinity which shows that their customers actually care about their brand? Well, first, you have to be realistic about what your company provides and how much people can genuinely care about your brand. How much impact does it have on a consumer’s life and to what degree can your company offer a true ‘brand experience’?
This is where I think marketing has to pull together the whole company and realise that the successful top brands these days are those who can:
a. relate to their audience
b. be totally relevant to people and culture
c. have an impact on their life.
This means understanding what is most important to the target audience and their life right now. Do you know what really makes them tick and what their looking for? Is it a bargain, some added value, or a completely new proposition which somehow makes their life just that little bit better? It may not just about making the best product, but the product that has real positive impact on people’s life.
And whatever your product or service, make sure you know how to capture attention. Where are your customers consuming information about your market and who is influencing them? Mobiles cannot be ignored. Important details should be placed in the right channels. List all the good and maybe not-so-good reviews about your company on your website. Push out useful and unique content via social media with key hooks to pull in the leads. Consider the need to reinvent your positioning so that you stand out from the crowd, are more current or even ahead of the curve.
It’s taking marketing and the company vision, to another level. People will still care about brands, but we have to put brands into today’s life context and culture to make the most of how we plan our marketing and communications.
I’ll leave you with a recent article by Marketing Week about a study on the ‘happiest brands’, which explains:
The study clearly suggests that both emotional and rational attributes are valid ways to leave an imprint with a consumer and brands that have a measure of both prove popular with consumers.
According to the research, the way to jump up the happy rankings is not in ‘poisoning the world with message-driven advertising’ but through employing good old-fashioned charm: using a carefully tailored tone of voice and showing that the brand owner is ‘human’.