Irrational loyalty is the ultimate goal of branding
By: Deb Gabor
The ultimate goal of branding is to create a condition of irrational loyalty. When your customers consider using a competitor’s brand—but ultimately feel like they’re cheating on yours—THAT’S irrational loyalty.
The world’s top brands bond in highly emotional and compelling ways with the customers who are likely to spend the most money with them.
Do you ever wonder how top brands create this condition of irrational loyalty?
Let’s dive in.
The antithesis of the cable company is that any business that treats its customers so well that those customers develop irrational loyalty to that brand. My relationship with Zappos.com is an example of this in practice. Zappos’s entire brand is a customer experience. Zappos has successfully branded a particular type of customer service and customer love, and it shows in everything they do: from the free overnight shipping and free returns they offer to their exceptional, over-the-top telephone customer support when the unfortunate happens. As a result of my experiences with the Zappos brand, I am so irrationally loyal to them that if they sold chicken feed and I had chickens, I would have to buy it from them. This is the type of customer relationship that all brands should aspire to.
Let’s explore that notion of irrational loyalty a bit more.
When I consult with clients, they often ask me to illustrate the importance of branding. That’s when I like to talk about irrational loyalty—this notion of being loyal to something no matter what. The idea behind irrational loyalty is that you have so much positive juju built up in your emotional bank account for a brand that you would go back and buy from the company no matter what it did to you. If you’re irrationally loyal to a certain product or company it could disappoint you, and you would still remain a loyal customer.
A great example of a product that inspires irrational loyalty is the Apple iPhone. I’ve owned every model of an iPhone since the beginning of iPhones. I’ve had iPhones that heated up in my hand and burned the side of my head when I tried to talk on them. I have broken half a dozen iPhone screens, which I think are too delicate. And the iPhone costs about one thousand dollars! For a phone!
I believe there are more durable, technologically superior and better-functioning products out there. But I don’t care. I won’t switch to a different brand because I’m irrationally loyal to the iPhone. I once looked at a gorgeous Samsung phone with a big beautiful screen. I caressed it in my hands and lusted after it. But after about a minute of pure animalistic attraction to the sexy device, I ran out of the store because I felt like I was cheating on Apple. Sad, I know. But that is the definition of irrational loyalty.
The concept of irrational customer loyalty embodies some key lessons about the importance of branding. Irrationally loyal customers say things such as, “I love the whole experience,” or “I like how it makes me feel,” or “I like what that brand says about me.”
The best-loved brands in the world are the ones that become part of the person who uses them.
What does it say about the person that he or she uses this brand and what does it say about you that you use this brand? The reason I don’t use a Samsung phone is because I don’t want anyone to see me using a Samsung phone. I like what it says about me that I’m an iPhone user. I don’t care if there are other products that cost less and function better. I like the iPhone. I am obsessed with Zappos, even though I have to wait for my shoes to arrive with the UPS carrier. I know there’s a perfectly good Nordstrom store with thousands of pairs of shoes just a few miles from my house. I can walk in there, buy a pair of shoes and wear them home today. It seems crazy that I’d trade instant gratification for a customer experience in which I feel loved and embraced, doesn’t it? But I still prefer to shop at Zappos because I like what it says to the rest of the world and to myself about who I am as a person.
Branding is so much more than a clever logo, pretty colors or a funny advertising campaign. Branding is about building strong emotional connections with customers. That’s a seriously smart business move that will have an enormous impact on growth and profitability. Consider this: one of the most significant emotional connections humans experience is love. When people talk about the brands they’re loyal to and the brands they engage with, they often use the word “love.” I love Apple. I love Zappos. I love Audi. I used to drive a Volkswagen, but sorry Volkswagen, I never loved you.
Now that you understand what irrational loyalty means—I’m sure you’re wondering how to put this into action to create deeper connections with your customers.
Lucky for you, I dedicated an entire chapter from my best-selling branding book, Branding Is Sex, to the topic of "The Brand Values Pyramid". How do you get to the top of the pyramid so you can connect with your customers needs, wants, and desires?
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