Writers and analysts have had a great deal to say about brands, from their strengths and weaknesses to the corporate identities behind them. Marketing professionals interested in mining the most storied brands for strategic advantages and best practices should consider the skills offered in a Master of Business Administration in Marketing program. Students can expect thorough discussions of branding, promotion and consumer loyalty across a variety of industries and in markets around the world.
Iconic brands like Apple, Harley Davidson and Nike seem to have found the secret to successful branding. Achieving consumer loyalty on the scale of these famous brands requires sophisticated marketing strategies that develop lasting relationships with consumers — relationships that proceed from recognition through consideration, emotional attachment and brand ambassadorship.
The Loyalty Pyramid
Building a brand is like building a pyramid — you do it one block at a time. Building brand loyalty is a long-term marketing strategy to develop consumers’ awareness and create positive associations for the brand. Consider David A. Aaker’s loyalty pyramid, which consists of five levels that describe consumer engagement with a brand:
1. No loyalty, indifferent to brands, switches brands easily, attracted to the lowest price.
2. Satisfied buyer, no good reason to switch brands, distracted by the benefits of competing brands.
3. Satisfied buyer, switching brands requires effort, competitor incentives are necessary to encourage switching.
4. Likes the brand, frequent purchaser, long-term relationship, has an emotional attachment, attached to brand symbols such as the logo.
5. Committed customer, proud of the brand, provides recommendations, the brand is an expression of personal values and personality.
To move consumers to the top of the pyramid, brand marketers must create an emotional attachment to the brand. Every touch point, interaction or purchase in the customer’s journey is an opportunity to develop positive feelings and attachments.
The Path to Brand Loyalty
The path to brand loyalty starts with brand awareness. When it is successful, brand recognition evolves into a positive disposition toward the brand. The next challenge for the marketing strategist becomes eliciting desired behaviors, such as taking pride in the brand.
Eventually, a successful strategy means consumers will adopt the brand’s core values as their own. At the top of the pyramid, consumers feel a sense of belonging to a community, and they become brand ambassadors. They often freely display their loyalty by word of mouth or social media endorsements.
Consumers who reach the apex of the pyramid can be marketers’ most valuable assets, since these consumers may have considerable influence in their social circles. When consumers at the top of the pyramid reach critical mass, the importance of building brand loyalty becomes evident: long-term investments in marketing strategies result in brand equity, which has the potential to increase cash flow and overall growth.
Marketing Strategies Blend In-Store and Online Experiences
Educated marketers know that brand experiences do not only occur in stores where customers see logos, displays and products. Brand experiences happen as frequently online as they do in person.
Consumers now research products online before visiting stores. Mobile devices bring online research and in-person interaction together in a single experience. Because the lines between in-store and online experiences are merging in today’s connected world, brand marketers must ensure consistent brand communications across all platforms. For example, when shoppers find a promotion online, they enter a store expecting the same promotion in person. Any inconsistency could erode the brand equity that the marketer has worked so hard to create.
Brand loyalty comes from marketing strategies that usher consumers down a long-term path from recognition to emotional attachment and ambassadorship. Positive experiences and associations with the brand need continuous promotion, whether online, in-store or through any other communications channel. Its importance becomes clear once marketers achieve brand equity, fulfilling the organization’s need for increased sales and business growth.
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