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  • By Ankita Rai

Business Standard: Hope, not fear, builds bridges

Author Bryan Pearson tells Ankita Rai that loyalty is the result of customer intimacy, not anxiety.

Marketing through fear and hope can succeed in selling products, but can it build brand loyalty as well?
Absolutely! But what I propose is that while marketers rely heavily on fear to sell products, it is hope that builds loyalty. Many of our most basic fears stem from our instinct to survive a fear of chaos, strangers, the unknown, insignificance and death. These fears have successfully been tapped to sell all kinds of products, from hair growth medications to security alarm systems to hand sanitation products. But unless the message of fear delivers a positive association with your brand, it will not generate loyalty. Loyalty is the result of customer intimacy, not anxiety. Shape the product and the message around the customers’ belief systems and ambitions. What this all points to is the big ‘R’: relevance.

How do marketers draw customers’ attention in a diffuse environment?
Well, a lot of marketers try to achieve this through loyalty programmes. Many companies launch loyalty programmes to collect customer data. But the programme is just the first step; it is merely the mechanism for gathering the data. The trick for marketers is extracting from that information the insights that will help them engage the consumer in a relevant way (again, the Big R). The first step to achieve this is by becoming customer committed. The organisation has to put the customer at the centre of its purpose and then base every decision on what is meaningful to that consumer. Customer-committed organisations enter into two-way dialogues with their patrons and use a balance of data and innovation to design an experience that is meaningful.

How should companies use customer data effectively, without violating privacy?
Privacy is a big issue in India. Almost 40 per cent of India’s middle-income earners said they have not joined a loyalty programme due to privacy concerns, according to research by COLLOQUY, LoyaltyOne research group. Companies should think of data collection as a transaction. If you expect the customer to share personal information with you, you need to provide something of equal or greater value in return. You are accountable for that data and how it is used.

Be transparent and reasonable about what you collect and why you collect it. Never cross the creepy line into the ultra-personal areas such as financial information or questions about children. And always, always destroy data with care.

Between behavioural loyalty and emotional loyalty, what wins and why?
An emotionally loyal customer will stay with your brand even when a comparable or more convenient alternative is made available. Behavioural loyalty is motivated by rewards. It occurs when the customer is conditioned to visit a specific store based on the motivation of price or promotions. But as soon as a more attractive alternative opens up, she will likely see if it is more convenient or price competitive. And if so, that consumer will shift brands. Good-bye, loyalty.

Emotional loyalty is gained when the brand proves itself by providing communications and services that are relevant to that consumer’s needs, on a timely basis. It is a matter of gaining trust, which is hard won but worth it.

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