Brand loyalty – definition and meaning
Brand loyalty is a term used to describe consumer preference for a certain brand – buying a specific brand on a consistent basis. The consumer will stick to a particular brand when considering some purchases. Brand loyalty exists thanks to loyal customers.
The American Marketing Association defines brand loyalty as:
“The situation in which a consumer generally buys the same manufacturer-originated product or service repeatedly over time rather than buying from multiple suppliers within the category.”
Brand loyalty usually takes many years to cultivate, and is worth gold!
Many successful business owners say that basically building brand loyalty is mainly about making a promise to people and delivering on that promise. If you make a promise and keep to it, you get loyalty.
The core is making sure the consumer has a fantastic customer experience. It also involves connecting continuously with the customer to ensure you are doing the right things. In order to do this effectively you need to build up a database of your customers in order to know who they are and what they are thinking, so that you can tailor your offering.
Your brand is essentially the personality and image of your businesses’ products and services. It reflects how consumers perceive you.
You can determine brand loyalty (to an extent) by looking at consumer purchasing habits.
There are numerous reasons why a consumer may be loyal to a certain brand:
- People may not want to go through a decision process again.
- The brand provides excellent customer satisfaction/unparalleled customer service.
- Consumers have a feeling of commitment to the brand.
- Risk aversion – some people are not keen to risk trying out something new.
Sometimes individuals buy the same brands simply out of convenience, this is called ‘spurious loyalty’.
However, true brand loyalty is when consumers are willing to pay higher prices for a brand, go out of their way for the brand, or think highly of it.
Companies benefit greatly from loyal consumers because not only are they willing to pay more for the brand, but they also tend to improve the brand’s image through word of mouth – which brings in new customers.
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” (Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.com)
Coca-Cola’s brand loyalty
One of the best examples of a brand that has a strategic edge over the competition because of brand loyalty is The Coca-Cola Company’s flagship brand Coca Cola.
In 2013, Interbrand ranked Coca-Cola the third most valuable brand in the world, with a value of nearly $73 billion – not including company distribution, bottling, and manufacturing facilities.
So why is the Coca-Cola brand worth so much?
Part of the reason why it is a billion dollar brand is because of its brand loyalty, which it has managed to develop and sustain because:
- Coca-Cola has been available for over a century, giving satisfied customers a chance to buy their products again.
- The brand has symbols (bottle design, logo etc.) for consumers to link to past satisfaction.
- Through advertising, Coca-Cola reinforces and reminds consumers of their past satisfaction with the brand.
These factors, among others, instill a positive image of Coca-Cola among consumers.
Successful brand loyalty is about keeping people interested.
Companies with a large, loyal customer base also cultivate brand ambassadors – consumers who will market a specific brand and say nice things about it to their friends.
Nearly everybody has a relative, friend, work colleague or acquaintance who swears by Apple products and is forever praising the company, its founder the late Steve Jobs, its current CEO Tim Cook, and what the whole business stands for.
Brand ambassadors are examples of unpaid word-of-mouth marketing that contributes considerably to a company’s sales.
Brand loyalty – a business priority
An article in Bloomberg Businessweek, The Importance of ‘Brand Humanity’ for Customer Loyalty, highlights the importance of brand loyalty in pushing companies to success.
When brands give off the impression that their goal is to make money, it is less likely that customers will feel a sense of trust with that brand.
In order for a brand to enjoy healthy brand loyalty, it has to prove that its priorities include individual customer relationships.
Lifelong brand loyalty
Virtually from the day we are born, we are targeted with adverts that convey a feeling of happiness and fun. This starts off with messages related to food products and toys. Many of these ads influence us for the rest of our lives.
A team of researchers from the University of Arizona and Stony Brook University carried out a study that demonstrated that lifelong brand loyalty is pervasive.
The researchers wrote:
“Our research provides an initial investigation into how exposure to ads in childhood can lead to enduring biases that favor products associated with the ads once the kids grow up.”