When’s the last time you switched products?
While I can’t remember every brand I’ve switched to, I have a vivid memory of switching one product in particular: milk.
Oat milk is one of those products that tastes different depending on which brand you choose, despite the fact that the ingredients are basically the same. About a year ago, my family had a specific brand of oat milk we loved: Chobani. It tasted great. We never planned on trying something new.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and oat milk was one of those things that you couldn’t find on shelves regularly.
We had to give up our preferences just to find a brand of milk that was available. Because options were limited and our favorite brand wasn’t available consistently, we swapped to Oatly because it was on shelves. After a few weeks, we grew accustomed to it. Now, it’s our go-to brand.
But I guarantee you: If another shutdown happens and we can’t find our new brand of milk, we wouldn’t hesitate to find another.
For years, brand loyalty has been seen as the driving force behind long-term sales. It's better to harvest and hunt, they say. Businesses set up brand loyalty programs. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars researching how to build a loyal customer base. But in the end, they’re left with nothing to show for it.
That’s because brand loyalty doesn’t exist. At least, not in the way we think it does.
So let’s dig a little deeper into the psychology behind why brand loyalty doesn’t move the needle—and what strategies are far more effective.
Why Aren’t Customers Loyal Anymore?
Before we explore why brand loyalty isn’t effective, let’s clarify what it is from a marketing standpoint. Brand loyalty is defined as consumers' tendency to continue buying the same brand of goods rather than competing brands. Previous research indicates that customers will stay loyal to a specific brand for several reasons, including:
- Increased value
- Corporate social responsibility
- Personal extras, such as gifts
- Consistent quality
In earlier years, brand loyalty was considered to be a driving factor for consumer behavior. Companies invested hundreds to millions of dollars into brand loyalty programs in an attempt to retain customers and foster loyalty themselves.
But over recent years, brand loyalty has been diminishing. New research has revealed that since COVID-19:
- 75% of American shoppers have altered their brand preference
- 62% of people who have changed their brand preference will make that a permanent change
- 73% of customers have tried new buying strategies
- Consumer reviews hold more influence than brand messaging
- Consumers are spending significantly less on apparel, entertainment, travel, and transportation while spending more on food and groceries
Even before the pandemic, brand loyalty was declining. Consumers are naturally picky. They can and will change products for any number of reasons—financial hardships, bad customer service, and better alternatives to name a few.
A problem we’re seeing even more often as a result of COVID-19, however, is that customers don’t become loyal in the first place.
Years ago, many marketers followed the famous 80/20 rule. This rule stated that 80 percent of your sales come from a loyal group making up 20 percent of your customers. Then this rule shifted into a 60/40 rule. And today? Some experts estimate that it’s more of a 50/50 scenario.
Still believe in loyalty driving long-term sales?
If Brand Loyalty Doesn’t Work, What Does?
The biggest issue with brand loyalty isn’t the fact that humans can’t be loyal to a brand. It’s that loyalty connects brands to people's standards, their principles, or their values. Conventionally, businesses believe that if they can represent the values that their customers represent, they’ll maintain a loyal following.
The problem is that we know through behavioral science that our values change, given context, given how we're feeling in that moment, or during that day.
Simply put: As our context and feelings change, so too does our loyalty.
Instead of trying to build brand loyalty, businesses can achieve more success by trying to build attachment. Attachment is a deeper form of connection. It’s not focused on a shared value you may have, whether it's honesty or dependability or respect. It helps you connect to your customers as a whole.
In other words, you don’t just connect to your customers because you understand their values. You connect with them because you understand them. You know how they feel, what their goals are in life, and what deeper motivations lie underneath those goals.
Attachment is all about treating people as people, not as customers. It’s about becoming your clients’ most trusted ally and friend.
How to Build Attachment with Your Customers
Attachment may seem like a difficult thing to curate, but it’s actually simple. All you have to do is ask, “How are you?”
Don’t ask for a deal. Don’t ask for a sale. Don’t follow up on a project or a proposal or an unanswered sales call. Just reached out to your customers because you care about them.
Ask how they are not how business is going, how they’re adjusting to the post-pandemic world, how their family is. This simple act of trying to connect with a customer at a human level versus a financial level can have a profound impact on your customer support.
Another simple way to build attachment is to show a human side of yourself. I have a family. I want my customers to know that. I want them to know that I’m not a consultant trying to sell you something. I’m a father, a husband, a Cowboy’s fan.
You have to be open to talk about your family and your life, as much as or until they feel more comfortable talking about their family and their life. Place photos of the people or things you care about around your desk. Take a moment when you call someone to talk about your weekend.
Ask them questions about their lives. Make that connection. I guarantee the results will surprise you.
Build Deeper Attachments Using Mindstate Marketing
You can’t connect with your consumers if you don’t know who they are.
The purpose of Mindstate Marketing is to help you gain a deeper understanding of what drives your specific customers’ behavior, so you can build attachments to them and make them feel more comfortable purchasing your product or service.
If you’re ready to dive in, purchase the Mindstate Marketing Masterclass. This course will teach you how to identify your customers’ personal mindstates, create messages and visuals that appeal to those mindstates, and grow your business without losing your hair in the process.
Click the button below to learn more.
And if you want to learn more about how COVID-19 permanently impacted brand loyalty, watch Mindstate Marketing Hour Episode 11.