May 16, 2019

This blog post has been contributed by Philip Hwang, strategy director, Anthem Worldwide.

You and I both know it — technology has made brand hopping not just easy, but almost expected. Beyond being inundated with choice, advances such as voice shopping and predictive shipping are collapsing “first” and “last” mile, sometimes taking purchase decision out of consumers’ hands.

The trillion dollar question—is brand loyalty dead? Thumping headlines aside, reality is a lot more nuanced.

Fact: we have more choice, are better informed, and can buy anything with a click. But this simply lets us trial new brands easily, but doesn’t necessarily mean that switching continues.

While global CPG’s market share is down, local brands are up. And they’re increasing because their products and marketing are more attuned to local needs. Barriers to production and distribution have fallen, increasing consumer confidence in the quality of upstart and local brands. Meaning that loyalty hasn’t disappeared, but has simply moved away from global brands.

All-star brands like Glossier combine community, content, cultural resonance, and quality products to command incredible loyalty. Brands simply have to work much harder for loyalty, when consumers demand a much richer relationship beyond “just products.” Meaning that brand loyalty hasn’t disappeared, it’s just being reinvented

So how can a brand gain and retain loyalty in an age of brand hopping? We highlight 4 ways:

1. Innovate and refresh, constantly

Gone are the days when a new product can take up to 2-3 years to be launched — in fast-moving markets like Asia, products are launched every 2-3 MONTHS. Brands like Chobani owe its growth to rapid innovation in flavour, nutrition, pack format, and occasion. And it doesn’t have to be core innovation to keep your brand fresh. Lululemon’s collaboration with RockSalt Pilates blur the lines between gym and street, and serves to reinvigorate the brand among millennials.

So instead of ending the journey at purchase, think instead of what has to be done next to keep fickle consumers coming back.

2. Make yourself useful

It’s no longer enough to “interrupt” the shopper. When we have a shorter attention than a goldfish, loyalty means ingraining yourself into the daily life of the consumer.

Nike+ is an ecosystem of apps, events, and community mean to be so useful for the athlete, that it makes the brand indispensable in daily life. Likewise, Tide’s recently launched laundry service turns a one-time purchase into a lifetime relationship, while solving clear consumer needs. In short—make yourself useful, and you’ll always be top of mind.

3. Be relevant, wherever the consumer meets you

The explosion of media, social, and distribution channels mean that “copying and pasting” isn’t just consistent—it’s consistently boring your customer to death. Beyond simply being “present on all channels,” each piece of collateral must flex in tone and message to be relevant, wherever the consumer finds you.

So go ahead—be chatty on Twitter, interactive on Facebook, eye candy on Insta, and irreverent on WeChat. Within the spirit of the brand, make each interaction a chance for your customer to discover a different side of you.

4. Stand for something

Consumers now require brands to do more than sell—they require them to act. Standing for a belief that resonates creates an emotional affinity that’s—put simply—at the root of loyalty. And cause-based marketing is only the start (think Harry’s successful ads redefining masculinity). Frontrunner brands now interweave ethical, social impact into the very fabric of their business. Poverty-fighting Thankyou and ethically transparent Everlane give a pretty good reason to be loyal, above and beyond good products—contributing to a better world.

In 2019, better business CAN be better for the world too—with irresistible brand loyalty its positive side effect.