Are you ready to “make it official” with your customers?
If you haven’t yet jumped on the brand love bandwagon, it’s time to hop on! Nurturing brand love can reap benefits for your organization by building long-term relationships with your customers. We surveyed over 3,300 consumers to learn why they love certain brands and dislike others, and a whopping 70% said that there is nothing that would compel them to switch away from a loved brand. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Building deep brand love—that’s the kind of relationship every brand dreams of for their customers.
But in order to be loved, you need to consistently provide your customers with great experiences, to make sure that they won’t be lured away by the next bright, shiny object that might grab their attention. To win brand love, you need to prove your value and exceed the expectations your customers have of your brand. Consistency is key: customers need reliable and exceptional experiences to continue to buy your products and evangelize their love for your brand to their friends and family.
It’s this consistency that empowers customers to forgive you when you stumble in delivering the experience. When you foster brand love, you are building a relationship with a loyal, retained customer—someone who won’t be easily lured away. Below, we highlight a few ways for you to exceed expectations with customers—and, in turn, develop lasting relationships with them.
The Peaks and Pits of Brand Love
A peak experience, coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow, refers to a transformative moment of joy for an individual. When it comes to brand experiences, peak experiences are touchpoints along the customer journey that represent the height of a customer’s experience with the brand—one that evokes joy and positivity, leaving a positive impression on the customer. In contrast, pit moments are negative customer experiences—such as when they receive a defective order or have to wait for 30 minutes on the phone to speak to an advisor.
When every interaction that customers have with you is a fantastic experience, if there’s a stumble or a slight hiccup in their experience with you—and let’s face it, we all make mistakes from time to time—they’re much more likely to forgive and be less upset because 99% of the time you are exceeding their expectations. That’s powerful, because it’s so much harder for a brand to win back a customer who has sworn off the brand for good than it is to keep them. In our research, we found that 66% of customers say that once a brand has lost their love, there is nothing that could win them back as a customer. That’s a significant impact, as the cost of customer acquisition is time and cost prohibitive.1
It’s the Little Things That Keep a Relationship Special
So what’s the difference between love and a deep, meaningful relationship?
In real life, most people build a relationship first, and later decide they’re in love (or not). The relationship between brands and customers is very much the same. A brand relationship (and customer lifecycle) starts with awareness and moves into consideration—like the dating phase of a human relationship. But as with dating, when the relationship is nurtured, it evolves—in this case to purchase, then to retention and finally to advocacy. And advocacy is where we reach brand love nirvana.
With human relationships, you can try multiple dating apps, but you’re still limited by your standards, values, and preferences (we hope!). It’s easier, logistically, to switch brands than it is to switch partners, so you need to figure out a way to elevate your brand relationship to the advocacy phase with top quality, excellent customer service, and brand trust—instead of relying on factors such as cost. Our survey showed that cost trailed quality by 23% and customer service by 12% in driving brand satisfaction and promotion among customers’ favorite brands, and trailed trust by 62% in driving first trials for favorite brands.
Because frankly, unless you are a brand that already has a cult-like following, you’ll need to earn the status of brand love from customers. The climb is steeper than a human relationship because you, as a brand, lack the nuance that comes from person-to-person connection that makes up all the indescribable feelings that fuel love between two humans.
Or do you? There’s no denying that a brand-to-customer relationship can never match the emotional bonds of a human-to-human relationship. But what you can do is create a brand connection where even the most mundane item can engender brand love. It’s not hard to find customers who are amazingly passionate about their facial tissue brand or their toilet paper—even socks! And how could that be, you ask? We go back to the basics of reliable quality, customer service, and brand trust.
All these little things that contribute to brand love—ultimately build brand relationships. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive on how to cultivate a deeper devotion to your brand.
Our Brand Relationship Roadmap
So, do you want to develop relationships with your customers? Of course you do. Here are some broad suggestions on the little things to give to your customers to let them know you’re there for them (both literally and figuratively).
- Leverage personalization to give your customers what they want and need—before they even realize what those things are. Of course, you shouldn’t offer steep discounts on everything they buy. But when you tailor your offerings to customers personally—specifically, their values, interests, and motivations—you show them you’re paying attention to who they are, and what they want/need.
- Go above and beyond with customer service. When explaining why she rated a popular hotel chain so highly, a survey respondent said, “what actually won me over as a lifelong customer is that we had a terrible experience once at one of the chain’s hotels. How the company handled it was above and beyond, and that customer service when things go bad, is what determines the integrity of a company.”
In other words—it’s the sum of your behaviors that build up to loving relationships with your customers. Moments like the above example may seem negligible—but they matter. On the flip side, a customer relationship can go south when a brand doesn’t do the little things that add up to love. One of our survey respondents summed it up well when he explained why he gave an airline a bad rating: “I’ve had multiple bad experiences with them. Delayed flights with no compensation, rude employees, poor value. It’s not an airline I’ll be using in the future.”
- Build trust by standing for something. We found that 84% of survey respondents agree that their most loved brands are ones that they trust, and on the flip side, 70% of respondents don’t trust their most disliked brands. In addition, it was clear from many of our survey responses that who a brand affiliates itself with is important, and that being authentic and consistent is key to a brand fostering trust among customers. When asked for a moment when her feelings about a food and beverage brand changed, one of our respondents declared that she “felt much more positive when I learned about their efforts to operate in an environmentally sustainable way,” and said that she would be driven away from the brand “if they did or said anything racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, or otherwise bigoted, if they acted in an unethical way, or if they stopped acting in an environmentally sustainable way.” When you and your customers care about the same values, and you stand for those values unequivocally, you create opportunities to connect with them on a deeper level.
Forming a relationship with your customers isn’t hard, but it does require you to put in the work, as all relationships do. Follow these tips and you should find your love with customers blossoming into a beautiful relationship.
Discover more tips on how to earn your customers’ love in our latest report, State of Brand Love.
VP and Managing Director, Loyalty Solutions