Subtle Nuances of Brand Loyalty

A recent survey of Gen Z consumers revealed that loyalty to a few household name brands is still prevalent behavior even among some of the youngest consumers. Brands such as Abercrombie, Starbucks, and Birkenstock have demonstrated a strong level of staying power, somehow managing to stay relevant across multiple generations.

What lessons can be gleaned from the fierce loyalty of these consumers to the brands they’ve known for years? What chances do newer, up-and-coming brands have to take on the juggernauts that are the big names such as Target or Amazon?

Brand loyalty has become a larger area of focus throughout the years. With more brands introducing rewards and loyalty programs and encouraging referrals, consumers are now accustomed to giving a select number of businesses their money for most things that they need.

Much of the marketing around this concept is the idea of creating “tribe” around a brand. Prominent ad agency Gin Lane (now operating under the moniker of Pattern) co-founder Emmett Shine spoke about this idea at length in a new Digiday podcast episode.

“I think people have tribalism of finding affinity through brands that they think represent their values,” Shine said in the interview. This is a true statement, and it’s clear to see in just a rudimentary audit of marketing efforts made by many brands. Prevalent throughout marketing is a tie-in to societal ideals, aspirations, or goals. Brands have always sought to solve a problem or offer up a solution to common “pain points” for consumers — now, there is an additional tie-in to core values and an increase in the quality of a consumer’s life.

“Friendly” marketing is also common, playing on the concept of establishing rapport with consumers and encouraging them to enter into a friendly relationship with the business. This can be achieved simply, with just a tweak of a color palette or a redo of the way ad copy is written.

“You want to be friends with people that share similar values to you and make you feel better about yourself. That is a good relationship,” Shine continued in his Digiday interview. This concept applies to marketing from a brand loyalty standpoint.

Brand loyalty is about more than consumer dollars, though. While conversions and revenue remain a focal point for all businesses, some brands are finding that deeper connections can be achieved by aligning with social issues or core values of consumers. A company that stands behind initiatives such as combating climate change, for example, and takes the time to make changes that will impact our environment in a positive way such as reducing plastic usage may find that consumers may want to attach themselves more willingly if this also lines up with their values.

At the end of the day, however, brands must do all that they can do to walk the walk and not just talk about all of the great things they support or want to do. Not doing enough through actions to support the ideals put out by a brand can be damaging to consumer loyalty metrics, and this is the type of damage that’s often difficult to come back from.

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