How to Build a Lovable Brand
A recent study compared interpersonal love to brand love and found that while interpersonal love is (unsurprisingly) far more intense than brand love, brand love produces physiological reactions and subjectively described feelings similar to those evoked by people we like.
The study also found that while interpersonal love can be emotionally one-sided, beloved brands are always described in rational, highly reciprocal terms.
It’s not easy to build a strong emotional relationship with customers, but if you follow the advice below, you’ll have customers all over your brand like maidens on Casanova in a Venetian nightclub.
1. Be reliable and authentic. If all else fails, be transparent.
Since Cyrano de Bergerac, hopeful lovers have tried to mislead those they adore into liking them more. We’ll do everything from wear Spanx to slather on excessive makeup to borrow a friend’s car and claim it as our own.
In romantic comedies everything tends to resolve into a happy ending, but if you try to mislead people into loving your brand, you won’t fare so well.
Gallup defines customer engagement as “the emotional connection between your customers and your company” – basically what I’m calling “brand love.” They measure engagement using the three questions, and the first of these is whether a customer feels a company always delivers on its promises.
A company’s ability to deliver on its promises relates largely to brand alignment, but even well-aligned companies experience mishaps that jeopardize their ability to follow-through. The only way to maintain customer adoration is to be as transparent as possible when something isn’t going right. Brands that define themselves by their authentic commitments to “clean” supply chains and other good operational practices have to be especially vigilant because noble claims so often elicit intense scrutiny.
B Corp Patagonia does a great job addressing issues in its supply chain. Following the release of a video that revealed Patagonia’s wool supplier to treat its sheep less than humanely, the company posted this letter (excerpted below):
We took some important steps to protect animals in partnering with Ovis 21, but we failed to implement a comprehensive process to assure animal welfare, and we are dismayed to witness such horrifying mistreatment.
In light of this, we’ve made a frank and open-eyed assessment of the Ovis program. Our conclusion: it is impossible to ensure immediate changes to objectionable practices on Ovis 21 ranches, and we have therefore made the decision that we will no longer buy wool from them.
We apologize for the harm done in our name. We will continue to update you on our progress to do better.
Here, Patagonia owns the fact that it didn’t live up to its promise and ensures customers that it still plans to. If Patagonia didn’t respond or tried to pass the buck, customers might see the company’s claims of sustainable values as inauthentic or believe that Patagonia can’t be trusted to deliver on what it promises: products that cause no unnecessary harm.
This letter tells customers that they can trust Patagonia to live up to its promises, building engagement and “brand love.”
2. Be responsive.
Have you heard of The Foundations’ song “Build Me Up Buttercup”? It’s a staple for weddings, long car rides and my shower. The chorus goes like this:
Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around
And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby
When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still…
In this song, even though “Buttercup baby” does not call, s/he remains loved. THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN TO YOUR COMPANY.
We forgive people we love who drop the metaphorical ball, but we’re less forgiving when it comes to companies. If you’re not communicative, available and responsive, your customers will not “love you still.”
How can customers get in touch with you if they have a question or issue? Is this information inconspicuously placed on your website and social channels or is it front, center and obvious? After a customer reaches out, how long does it take your company to respond? Do customers know when they can expect a response?
No one wants to be “home / Beside the phone waiting for you / Ooo-ooo-ooo.” They want to get their issue addressed by someone responsive and helpful and then carry on with their lives.
3. Be helpful.
When you want someone to genuinely like you, their problems are your problems. It’s certainly a key component of successful romantic relationships.
So often, troubleshooting with companies ends with someone sweetly apologizing that they couldn’t make X happen. If you want your customers to stick around, don’t just say sorry – work to make things right. Even if you can’t make things perfect, you can still convey to the customer that your company cares about their happiness. These engagements are also great opportunities to learn about customer needs so you can improve your processes, products or services to create an even better customer experience.
The conviction that every customer should leave happy is common at the management level, but it isn’t always reflected in how customer-facing staff treats people. Work hard to communicate your vision to those who represent your company and make sure they have the resources and authority required to make it a reality.
4. Be thoughtful.
I remember when my best friend fell for the boyfriend two boyfriends ago. She said to me “Ali, he took out the trash when he left my apartment. It was so nice!” He was going out anyway but it was a small gesture that showed he cared. It won him major points.
When it comes to customers, anything you can do to provide a little bit of joy will gain you clout as a lovable company. If you can convey your brand’s personality while doing it, the sentiment will go even further. For instance, have you ever seen a really excellent 404 error page?
Ben & Jerry’s 404 page has an astronaut and reads “We spaced out. Our head is in the clouds and we can’t find the page you were looking for." Method’s 404 page features a multicolor unicorn and reads “We’re sorry. We can’t find what you’re looking for. But we did find this rainbow unicorn, which is almost as good.” This is how companies say “Baby, I’m sorry that I’ve failed you but I still want to make you smile because I really do care.”
Use your social channels to share resources and content your fans might enjoy, and consider instituting a loyalty program to provide your best customers with special perks. Think about where you could include little surprises – or “Easter eggs” – in the customer experience to show personality and make sure your customers feel the love. How can you make every communication – from a shipping confirmation to a news update – a pleasant surprise?
Every interaction a customer or prospect has with your company influences how they view your brand. Remember that brand love is described in highly rational, reciprocal terms and make sure that you’re reciprocating to reap the rewards.
For more advice on engaging and retaining customers for your Purpose-driven business, check out the Pegable blog.
Alison Klein is a Content Marketing Specialist at Roundpeg. A proponent of equality in every sense of the word, Alison uses her skills to support businesses building sustainable systems of commerce that meet the needs of the many.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Content Marketing Specialist
RoundPeg, Benefit LLC
I'm a copywriter and content marketer with the imagination to create compelling campaign concepts and the discipline to make them happen. I have experience writing and editing content and copy, overseeing designers and contributing writers, generating content distribution strategy, overseeing editorial calendars, managing community building across social platforms and ideating with teammates to develop fresh and exciting ideas. I [usually] don't kill office plants. I live in Ellicott City, MD with my husband Vince and... Continue Reading
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