HOW TO ACHIEVE BRAND Loyalty
Apple is one of the ultimate examples of brand loyalty, which very few brands can achieve. Every single year Apple releases a new version of its product for essentially the same price. Like clockwork, consumers loyal to the brand will have no issue getting in line and paying 1K+ for the new product. Granted, most highly successful companies are trying to stay innovative and improve their products or services, but usually, it's done to stay ahead of the competition. The fascinating thing about Apple right now is they passed the competition, awhile ago. Consumers will still wait in line for the new release even though they most likely already have the most advanced smartphone in hand.
I found myself watching the release event this past month marveling at the new round of genius they've been able to come up with, and drooling over the idea of pre-ordering a new iPhone 11. I was a little baffled though at how Apple was no longer competing against their competitors, really just competing against their last release from a year ago. For instance, their A13 Bionic chip allows for GPU Performance that is the best in the world, most advanced ever in a smartphone, but their A12 Bionic was already holding that position.
CONSUMERS WANT PEOPLE TO THINK THEY'RE COOL
Like all great innovators, Apple is pushing themselves to the next level, they're aiming to outdo themselves, and outdo the last project they did. They have set the mark between themselves and the competition even further apart. Granted they do a great job of adding some new features along with improvements. It's not just that the camera is better, consumers will have access to some things on iPhone 11, that only those users will have. But that lead me to ask myself, why would a person who already has an iPhone XR from 2018 buy an iPhone 11 in 2019? Brand loyalty is key and a surface level answer, but at the core, it's the desire to be "cool".
Consumers are subconsciously obsessed with the idea of being cool. They want to achieve some sort of perceived "status", which we've been taught, to be cool and have status one must acquire certain goods and show them off. Companies say, "give me your money and I'll give you the ultimate prize of status." Brands strive to come off as cool, so the mass population will think the consumer associated with that brand as being cool themselves and having status. The iPhone 11 and an Apple Watch are essential features of the modern-day "cool kit". That's why when consumers already have a product that is best in the world, like an iPhone XR, they're willing to throw it away for the next best thing. Consumers say, "I'll give you give you more money if you give me more status."
GIVE CONSUMERS ELEVATED STATUS
These three circles are the world's new status symbol when it comes to smartphones. Think of the Apple Watch and the AirPods, Apple makes sure your investment will not go unnoticed by the general public. They will help you stand out from the crowd and let your status be known. That's the whole point, isn't it? If someone can't tell your new phone is THE new phone, why would you pay $1,099 for it? Apple changes the shape of their phone so drastically over the years, I just got asked yesterday if I had an iPhone.. while my iPhone 7 was sitting face up in front of me and directly across from the person asking. There's that cultural phenomenon of subconsciously shaming and/or judging me based on the purchase I have made or decided not to make. I'll be honest, the other week I sat with the iPhone 11 Pro in the cart, but talked myself out of the purchase after I removed the emotional entanglement from the buying decision. Now as a marketer, it is my job to play into people's emotions to convince them of making a purchase, so I get it. Which times like this, my career path is probably the only reason I'm still sitting here with my handy, dandy iPhone 7 vs the new iPhone 11.
Some people might get defensive at this idea, and some consumers had legitimate reasons for buying this new phone so quickly. Perhaps their phone was recently broken or it was time for a new upgrade. Some were convinced by their phone provider about additional benefits they could get like a second phone for free, an Apple TV subscription, or a deal on an Apple Watch. While some are just die-hard fans of the Apple brand, and others just wanted the newest Apple invention.
Brand Loyalty Secret Sauce
So what does it take to get your brand to this level? Okay while 53.8 billion for a Q3 might be a little bit beyond my level of expertise at the moment, I do believe we can break down the building blocks here.
Establish your brand's identity: It's important to know who your company is and what your brand stands for. Your brand is not your logo, your color palette, your mission statement, or your product. While these are elements that help make up your brand, your brand identity is everything complied into one message and one promise you give the consumer. Your promise is your identity, and your ability to live up to that promise will determine the level of loyalty a consumer will give your company.
Brand buy-in from employees: One important aspect of developing a solid brand is the buy-in you have internally. If your employees don't live, eat, and breathe your values while at work for you, how do you expect them to fulfill that brand promise to the consumer? Some companies think having a great product will be enough to satisfy consumers. Wrong. If you have company values written on the wall but nobody cares to embody them in the office, consumers will not have a good experience as a customer. You will have consumers at the first purchase, but if you fail to keep your "brand promise" throughout the customer cycle, consumers will jump ship for someone that will keep their promise. So long loyalty.
Evoke emotion: The fastest way to get someone to make a decision is based on their emotions. Logic can get the way of an impulse decision, or logic can be helpful when a buyer is considering which purchase to make between two competitors; however, putting logic to the side, grabbing consumers by the emotions will win them over. Make consumers feel something, something great, something powerful, and do it throughout the entire time they're associated with your company. Don't just razzle and dazzle to get the deal, build on the emotions throughout their entire journey with you. Hence the reason social media is so powerful today. Companies can influence not only potential buyers, but they can continue to engage emotions long after the initial purchase.
Sell status: This is the final trick. After you've accomplished the first three steps, which are difficult to achieve and much more complex than the few sentences I've written about them, then you are at the crucial stage of status. Who determines status? Well, the people do, collectively, but what makes something appealing to consumers? This is where design plays a big role in your brand. Does your company's logo and collateral come off as visually appealing and send the right message subconsciously to your target audience? Does your company have a personality associated with it? Think of a high school cafeteria with everyone trying to fit in but obvious cliques/groups established, it's kind of how brands are today. From general observation, we group brands into categories, but only a few of them seem like the "cool kids" we want to be like or associated with. That's what a successful brand does, they're the cool kids that say if you associate yourself with us, people will think you're cool too.
Apple of my Eye
Brand loyalty is not easy to achieve, but it is worth the investment. If you show consumers you invest your brand and uphold the promises you make, they will be willing to invest in you, and they will tell other people how great you are. A friend of mine can recommend a coffee shop to me, and without ever hearing of them or even doing any sort of investigation into the establishment, I will most likely go check the place out if I trust that friend well enough. A classic example of a company making additional revenue due to loyalty one consumer has to its brand. That's the magic of it, not only do you create lifelong customers, but they will champion for others to check out your brand, FOR FREE! This all happens because you established your brand's identity, lived up to your values, evoked emotion, and sold them status. This is how Apple can sell an estimated 36 million iPhones in a single quarter!