Why building long-term brand loyalty starts from within

Brands must understand every aspect of consumers’ lives and strengthen social bonds if they want to secure loyal, happy customers, but first they need to empower employees, according to new research shown exclusively to Marketing Week.

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Max Henderson, co-founder of Hotpod Yoga, says brand loyalty and consumer happiness are “intrinsically linked”


It’s fair to say modern consumers don’t have a lot of trust in major corporations. In fact, just 6% of Brits trust brands today, according to a study from marketing consultancy Rare.

However, incorporating a culture of positivity into the core of a business could be a way to remedy this distrust and engender loyalty. The research found that low quality (cited by 58% of survey respondents) and bad customer service (51%) are the top two reasons people lose trust in a brand. Yet these are negative experiences that can be turned into positive ones if companies start from within by investing in and training their employees.

Making a positive difference to consumers’ lives

The ways to make a positive difference in consumers’ lives and engender loyalty vary by demographic. Yet, the Rare research shows that the biggest driver of happiness among consumers is health, and its importance increases with age, according to the survey of more than 2,000 consumers.

Millennials (80%), Generation X (86%) and baby boomers (87%) each place it as the number one driver, while for Generation K (those born between 1995 and 2002) it is the second most important behind fun and enjoyment (80%).

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Marketers should therefore look to tap into these drivers. Rare suggests they can do this by considering its five pillars of loyalty. These are:

  • See things through a positive lens: Happiness is crucial to people’s wellbeing, sense of self and feeling towards brands, the report states. It suggests organisations that help customers achieve emotional wellbeing will be in a better position to build long-term bonds.
  • Understand the bigger picture: Marketers need to understand that everything a consumer does – from browsing a website to buying a drink – is part of a long-term life agenda so brands’ marketing activity should be aligned with this.
  • Create opportunities to help people achieve: In uncertain times consumers look for guidance, so marketers can encourage engagement by strengthening social bonds online or helping people celebrate important life moments.
  • Get to know the nuances: People of all ages have things in common to help achieve happiness but they may not all take the same route to get there. Marketers should therefore look to personalise content enabling them to connect on an individual basis.
  • Positive marketing starts from within: In order to make customers happy business leaders must start by empowering employees. Happier employees become positive brand advocates which in turn impacts how customers view the business.

Yet the solution for each brand will vary. Rare’s founder Ben Pask says he is concerned that only one in three UK brands currently carries out customer research. Subsequently, he believes many are trying to make their customers happy in the wrong ways.

“How can you create a business based around consumer needs if you don’t even know what they are and refuse to do any research?” he asks.

Starting from within

For Innocent, it’s the fifth pillar that marketers should take most note of. “Naturally, if you build a great internal culture, it gets talked about externally and becomes part of your story; part of the marketing,” Innocent’s head of brand Dan Germain tells Marketing Week.

“Ultimately, if you’re ‘doing’ culture well, and with a common purpose at its heart, you’re creating a sustainable story that people will hear somehow, be it through social or from a friend who works there. That’s the best kind of marketing you can come up with.”

He says a focus on personalisation has helped Innocent create this culture both internally and externally.

“We’ve had some great personalisation in our team over the years. For example, we have a list of drinkers that we’ve had excellent conversations with throughout the year, and then we send them a little Christmas card to let them know we’re thinking of them,” he explains.

“We respond to tonnes of our drinkers’ emails with a personal response, give tours of our office for everyone from local schoolchildren to tourists, and answer calls from our drinkers on our ‘bananaphone’, the same way we’ve been doing it since day one. It’s that personal touch and keeping our drinkers at the heart of our business that makes us who we are.”

It’s not for us to make out that everything is sunshine and roses 100% of the time


Dan Germain, Innocent

Personalisation isn’t always the right approach though and he warns brands off trying to be too familiar before making a genuine connection: “Personalisation doesn’t have to mean slapping someone’s name on a targeted email or flyer – it can mean doing something completely personal to that one drinker in a way that makes them feel truly special.”

For a seller of smoothies with strong health credentials, generating happiness does not sound like too much of a stretch.

However, Innocent’s Germain says that although happiness might be the best way to build trust and loyalty, marketers must also beware of making things too sickly.

He adds: “Happy is good, but natural and human is better. I think if we sounded deliriously happy all the time, it could grate, and to be honest, it’s not the truth. As a business and as people we have good days and tough days, so it’s not for us to make out that everything is sunshine and roses 100% of the time.

“Our tone of voice is the sound of the people in our building, being themselves, talking to people with their own voice.”

Pask says Innocent is a great example of a brand that generates an authentic happy brand tone throughout its business. But for others to replicate this, he says, they need to push the values across the business, not just in the marketing team.

If you deliver something that makes someone healthier that’s far more powerful for building loyalty


Max Harrison, Hotpod Yoga

“Only 13% of people within a UK business can correctly articulate the values of their company,” says Pask. “If we are all in the same boat but not pointing in the same direction, how possibly can we serve customers? How is it possible to consistently drive a message of happiness? It isn’t.”

And Innocent’s Germain says brands should not get caught up in being happy and instead try to be honest and authentic to rebuild trust and loyalty.

“Spreading honesty is better than spreading happiness. I think people trust brands who they feel are being honest with them; brands who aren’t pretending that everything is perfect,” he adds.

“It is said that we live in a post-truth world, so it feels like right now, brands should be striving to be open, transparent and honest with the public. Building long-term trust is the best loyalty programme ever invented.”

Post-loyalty?

Max Henderson, co-founder of Hotpod Yoga, a franchising business that offers individual yoga instructors and entrepreneurs the opportunity to have their own yoga business in an area local to them, says driving happiness must go deeper than traditional loyalty schemes.

According to Rare’s research, loyalty is primarily driven by likeability (according to 86% of consumers) and trust (83%), rather than reward schemes. Purchases, meanwhile, are driven by price (81%), quality (80%) and convenience (55%).

“If you deliver something that makes someone happy and healthier in the short or long term then that’s far more powerful for building loyalty than giving someone 10% off after making 100 purchases.”

READ MORE: Are loyalty schemes broken?

But while building happiness might sound like an obvious way of attracting consumers, brands are still struggling to adopt this model. Pask puts this down to the culture of rapid change that currently engulfs big businesses.

“A lot of it is due to the pace of change, it’s hard to keep up. There’s so much short-termism; the average tenure of a CMO keeps falling and falling. This means there is never enough time to implement something that is consistent, which means consumers think they are being lied to when a brand tries to portray a happy tone. By the time the message washes through, there’s no-one left to implement it and it’s on to the next one.”

READ MORE: CMOs have the shortest tenure in the c-suite

Ultimately, Pask says Lush is a brand marketers should be learning from due to its ability to create sustained happiness throughout its business.

He concludes: “You go into a Lush store and it just oozes enthusiasm. Their ethical message is shared by staff as they are open and transparent on their brand mantra to the point where every employee falls in line. It has a level of consistency that makes it impossible for its consumers not to be happy and loyal to the Lush brand. It’s just a shame more businesses don’t follow this mantra, because it’s pretty obvious it works.”

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