MindFire Communications, Inc.
The brand bond
March 28, 2008 | Inga Rundquist

We all have relationships with brands.

During branding workshops, I ask participants to name the brands they’ve encountered so far that day. Participants often mention some of the same brands: Starbucks, Crest, Apple, Dell, Toyota, BP, Google, and Pepsi.

So why are these brands mentioned so much more frequently than others that compete in the same categories? It’s because of the power of brand loyalty.

As consumers, we factor brand into every purchase. We like brands because they make it easier to make buying decisions. A powerful brand has a clear position in our mind. The stronger the brand, the more value it has to us as consumers, and the more likely we are to choose it – again and again. A powerful brand makes the purchasing process faster and decreases the risks of purchasing. In addition, we get functional and emotional value from branding attributes for which we are willing to pay a premium price.

The annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index® examines customers’ relationships with brands in a wide range of categories. The winners are those brands best able to engage customers and create loyal customers.

There’s a good chance some of your favorites are among the 2008 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty winners: (For a complete list, go to www.brandkeys.com/awards.)

Airlines                                          JetBlue/Southwest (tie)

Athletic Footwear                         Air Jordan/New Balance (tie)

Automotive                                    Toyota

Bottled Water                                Aquafina/Fiji (tie)

Car Insurance                                GEICO

Casual Dining                                Olive Garden

Coffee                                            Dunkin’ Donuts

Computer                                      Apple

Credit Card                                   Discover

Gasoline                                        BP/Sunoco (tie)

Laundry Detergent                        Tide

Online Travel                                  Expedia/Orbitz (tie)

OTC Pain Reliever                        Tylenol

Quick-serve Restaurant                 McDonald's/Subway (tie)

Retail Store (Office Supply)           Staples

Toothpaste                                      Crest

Wireless Phone Service                 Verizon/AT&T

The bond of brand loyalty is made up of a combination of emotional values and rational attributes. The strength of the bond represents the degree of loyalty consumers will exhibit toward a brand. Hitting on the right mix of emotional verses rational in your brand position isn’t easy, but if you can get it right, the benefits can be significant.

A strong brand delivers profitability to companies in a number of ways, including:

  • Increased awareness and faster adoption rates
  • Cost savings gained from loyal customers
  • Lower advertising and product launch costs
  • The revenue generated by added value

In addition, marketing communications for a strongly branded company is easier because the message is supported by the implicit message of the brand.

So how do you find the right mix of emotional verses rational in your brand position? There are a lot of ways to make that happen, but the most effective way to get it right is with research. Brand research focuses on understanding how your best customers perceive you, why your customers choose you over competing brands, and how to express your brand universally and crisply across all communications platforms. This is too important to guess about. If you get it wrong, at the very least it’ll cost you a lot of time and money.

Once you’ve done your research and identified an authentic brand position, you have to communicate it consistently and clearly. Every point of communication- internally and externally – needs to communicate and reflect the brand. Deviations from the brand weaken your brand and the impact of your communications investment.

Take another look at the list of brands that are at the top of the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. I think you’ll agree that most of these brands have found a good balance between emotional and rational attributes, and have used clear and consistent communication to convince you to try the product or service for the first time. Once they got you to sample, they made sure the experience lived up to the promise.

The process of building a powerful brand is challenging, but the effort has the potential to yield great rewards – both for the brand and the consumer.

- Lynn Manternach, Ph.D. This article originally appeared in the Tree Full of Owls column in the Corridor Business Journal.


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