Brand loyalty goes beyond product. While having a strong product obviously helps, in many categories the difference between one product and another isnâ€™t always obvious or tangible.
Does Starbucks truly make the best cup of coffee in the world? Or the cheapest? Is there really a remarkable difference between the 200 brands of shampoo on the shelf when you walk into a store?
This is especially true in low involvement categories like financial institutions or telecommunications service providers.
How often does one think about his insurance company or his mobile phone provider, for example? For these cases, the differentiation isn’t just product but also customer experience and, of course, the customerâ€™s opinion of the brand.
The most powerful brands are the ones whose values are so clearly defined that they donâ€™t shy away from taking a stand on issues, even controversial ones. Many tech companies in the United States banded together to voice their support of â€śDreamersâ€ť and decry the Trump administrationâ€™s immigration policies. Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz took a gutsy position on LGBTQ rights when he said, â€śIf you donâ€™t like marriage equality, feel free to sell your Starbucks stock.â€ť
Part of telling a good brand story is taking a stand, even at the risk of putting off some existing customers. As a result of the coffee giantâ€™s position on same-sex marriage, the #boycottStarbucks movement was formed. But clearly Starbucks had taken that potential backlash into account and decided it was worth the risk. They believed it would endear them to a larger audience and further cement loyalty among customers who felt the same way on the issue.
Brand storytelling comes in different forms. Including advertising and, increasingly, content marketing. Industry giant GE, for example, demonstrates its role as a leader in technology and innovation through its GE Reports website. Through both written stories and video, GEâ€™s team of journalists report daily on the companyâ€™s breakthroughs across multiple industries, from medical technology to power generation.
Brands often partner with media companies or publishers, harnessing their expertise in developing content with editorial value. When it comes to telling a brand story with intriguing characters and a compelling narrative, video is the medium of choice. Earlier this year, VISA in Thailand moved audiences with #TokyoUnexpected, the story of a young womanâ€™s journey of self-discovery while traveling alone through Japan. Despite its nearly 15-minute run time — considered long by conventional content marketing standards — the video has already seen over 20 million views on YouTube and Facebook and is considered a viral hit.
Loyalty, the act of consistently choosing your brand over others, stems from trust.
Trust, as with people, comes from shared values. If the consumer feels a brand adheres to the same principles that he himself holds dear, then he is more likely to remain loyal to that brand.
Those brand values are conveyed through the stories the brand tells. Storytelling is an key part of what makes us human. It is through stories that information and values are passed from one person to the next, from one generation to the other.
The writer is Miguel Bernas, vice president, Digital Marketing, at Mediacorp.