Many believe brand loyalty is a mirage. They say there is no such thing as a loyal customer. Among other things, their argument finds anchor on the fact that there are too many alternative products been shoved into the consumers’ nostril most of which are mostly of acceptable quality. Of course, this is truer in certain industries than others. In the fast-moving consumer goods industry for instance, how many shoppers that are loyal to say Ariel will walk away from So Klin and Omo simply because Shoprite did not stock Ariel on the store shelf? Quite an extreme few, if any, to be honest.
That notwithstanding, many specialized medical service providers have garnered such an enviable brand power that some patients will refuse to be attended to by any other physician when their preferred physician is unavailable. The same is also true for those of you who use the services of certain consultants. Until a little less than two years ago, this writer has been and still is, such an ardent loyalist of the Nokia brand. For about thirteen years, I didn’t use any other mobile phone brand except Nokia. It is safe to say that there are still brand loyal customers. In fact, of my current two phones, one is Nokia product.
The loyalty, however, will be in several intensities as we will soon discuss. Also, you will most likely find that as loyalty intensifies, the number reduces.
In the past, companies wishing to test their brand’s performance will usually measure all of or some of the following:
- Brand awareness: this is taking a sizeable number of prospective customers and asking them if they have ever ‘heard’ about a say Huggies;
- Brand recognition: this measure customers’ ability to recognize a brand’s associated colours, packaging, logos, slogan, advertisement and such like. If a product is placed face down with its name obliterated, will a consumer still recognize it? What if Huggies is jumbled together amid multiple other diaper brands? What colour will you look out for?;
- Brand recall: when you read the first mention of ‘Huggies’ above, did you immediately know I was referring to a diaper product? Mothers are most likely to while I can bet most men drew blank. Assuming also your company ran an advert, you can decide to approach some members of the target audience to test the extent to which they can recall the key message in the advert;
- Intent to buy: many companies go as far as asking potential customers, to whom a brand has been exposed, to rate the possibility or their willingness to buy a particular brand under a defined circumstance. If Huggies is sold at 20% higher price than other brands, will you still buy it? What if it is priced 50% higher? Ok, what if they are all same price, which brand will you chose?
The above four criteria, however, are no longer enough to ascertain your brand’s market effectiveness. You have to broaden your inquiry to measure how much the customers are on your side. You might argue that intent-to-buy represents an aspect of this but we all know the intention is not the same as reality. A prospective customer may express an intention to buy only to renege or end up buying from the competition. There is also no guarantee that the person who bought your brand yesterday will buy it again today and tomorrow. Those are the possibilities wherein lies your growth in the future and should, therefore, command your interest.
What other factors should you measure as a brand owner?
- You should be interested in knowing the ‘Customer-Perceived Value’ of your brand. Have your customers rate you and competing brands on all their quality-impinging criteria in a given scale. For Huggies, such criteria may include but not limited to longevity (until mother can change baby’s diaper), reliability (ability of the diaper to effectively hold baby’s waste without spillage), price equivalence (extent the customer value the benefits enjoyed to the money they paid for it), fragrance (ooze out sweet perfume strong enough to counteract baby’s waste), baby comfort (the extent the design and feature makes the diaper easier to use and dispose as well as how it makes the baby feel), You have to list all the relevant value constituents and give room for the customers to add as well as rate each in the corresponding scale depending on your industry.
- Customer Satisfaction: many brands have built systems that measure the rate of satisfaction after each customer touch-point experience. Some ATM automatically pops up a question asking the customer to rate their usage experience after each transaction. If you can afford it, consider an exit-door system that encourages customers to rate their experience in your office as a way of opening the door. Just one keypunch is recommended, though. In the same vein, mothers who claim to use Huggies can be encouraged to rate, in percentage, the extent they’re satisfied with the product.
- Customer Share of Wallet: Ok, so you’re wondering how do I do that, right? If you know how much is available to every single one of your customer per month for grocery or domestic need shopping, would that knowledge impact your planning? What if you know what percentage of that is spent on diaper or even Huggies diaper to be specific? Oh, I forgot you’re a service provider to corporate customers. Can you find out how much they have budgeted for corporate gifts items? What percentage of that comes to you each year? How much is that distributor’s business worth and how much of their monthly spend goes into your product each month?
- Customer Retention: for some businesses, it is far easier to track customer who has stopped buying in the past year looking at the database, contact list or sales records. For others, especially those who make use of layers of middlemen, it is far difficult. Yet, the makers of Huggies can concentrate their inquiry on its list of dealers. Who bought last year and which of them have stopped buying? At the far end of the spectrum, we could track the percentage of consumer who said they were using Huggies previously but have switched brand. We could as well find out why?
- Finally, we could check our proportion of Customer Advocators. These are the customer who has continually have a positive experience with us so much so that they are freely evangelizing others by preaching the good gospel of your brand. They do it not for any form of gain but it is an expression of how gratitude toward your brand. These are devotees and friends. Ask them if they can recommend their friends, they become animated and exclaim ‘why not? I was the one who talked so so and so into buying from you and I think this and that may be interested to buy as well.’
Now that we have discussed what to look at when measuring your brand building effectiveness, l will recommend sifting each of your customers into each of these pyramid layers I developed from Aaker’s 5 Customer Attitudes toward a brand.
The interest should lay more with customers in 3,4, and 5 as they are most likely to determine your brand’s profitability going forward.
If you have learned something from the above exposition, kindly leave a comment or point of divergent views for continuous collective learning.