We live in a competitive environment. Survival of the fittest does not just apply to civilization. Your brand needs to be a finely tuned machine to remain at the top of the corporate food chain. Is your business a hypothetical house cat? Then maybe you need a kick in the tush to increase your market share and become king of the business jungle. Just launching a product? We can tell you the one person to stop from getting in the way of a successful business or product — YOU.
In the industry for over twenty years, Steve Salloway, Director of Account Service at Davis Advertising, said advertising can play different roles for different companies, depending on the placement and circumstances of the company itself or its product.
“The goal of advertising is either to reinforce the perception, change a “position” (the perception of where the brand fits inside the consumers’ minds), or introduce a product and build awareness,” Salloway explained.
In the long run, brand loyalty is always the ultimate goal of a company and its marketing and advertising. Businessdictionary.com defines brand loyalty as, “The extent of the faithfulness of consumers to a particular brand, expressed through their repeat purchases.” There are different strategies within marketing, and thus advertising, depending on if the majority of your audience is brand loyal already and to whom.
“You never want your competition to dictate your strategies,” Salloway explained, “but you always must take them into account.”
In any case, innovation will outflank your competition, he said. If you have a totally unique product or service, it could be easy to make people brand loyal to you. If you have what Salloway calls a “me-too” product, you may need to tout how you are the best of all worlds, rather than being the best at just one aspect of your item. But he said advertising the product can only do so much toward creating brand loyalty. The rest is up to the product itself.
“Advertising can build awareness and preference, but then you sell it. It’s the relationships the customers get after they buy it that is brand loyalty, because that is based on trust,” he said.
This potential relationship is what Salloway considers to be an answer to the promise that advertising gives. He said that brand loyalty is established as long as the experience remains consistent for the consumers.
If you are trying to target consumers who are already brand loyal to the competition, there are a number of strategies, but Salloway warns that it is very expensive and it takes a lot of time. One tactic is to reposition the competitor, therefore building preference for you. You can compare yourself to a competitor in a stealthy way, so as to not call them out, but mostly call attention to your products’ own benefits or what makes your product special. The best way to do that is by word-of-mouth — opinions, ratings and rankings, mentions on social media…Have actual consumers be your advocate. A lot of times companies decide to change positions on their own, willingly, which creates a golden opportunity for you. Additionally, if you so choose, you can put yourself up against your competitor and engage in what can be called a “drag race,” but he warns that it may defeat your purpose.
“You can do that if you have very deep pockets, because you need to dominate the conversation,” he explained. “(Otherwise) you are setting yourself up for counterattack. You’re going to get outspent, and they will start attacking YOUR weaknesses.”
Salloway said that advertising is just one arrow to fight brand loyalty, but in the marketing spectrum there are many different avenues to try to reposition the competitor. First, identify a weakness. Attack the competitor for not being what they claim to be; call out the betrayal of that trust that creates brand loyalty. Then try to own that same category by utilizing all of marketing. Focus on honing your own position. “These are all levers to disorient people and the position that the competitor holds in people’s minds,” Salloway said. Brand loyalty is just that — all in the mind, according to Harry Beckworth writing for Psychology Today.
“You’re not trying to kick your fingernail munching issues, but you are attempting to let go of something that brings you comfort through familiarity, and letting go will make you anxious all the same,” Beckworth wrote.
That being said, a possible tactic to fight brand loyalty is to get consumers to realize their loyalty is nothing more than a bad habit. Tell them how it is negatively affecting them; this is where touting your products’ benefits come in. Your product will be there to comfort them, offering the advantages they were giving up by being brand loyal to someone else.
What’s even harder than converting an already-brand-loyal consumer? Keeping one brand loyal TO YOU, says Salloway.
“It’s now more dangerous than ever to try to sustain a brand. The cheapest customer is one you already have,” he added.
It is easiest to build a relationship and dollar share with someone who already uses your product. However, if your company does not provide a consistent experience, across all the various touch points that you have with consumers — like your physical location (or point of sale), your Web site, product placement, your representation in the marketplace, etc.— you will not maintain and grow your business.
“Now more than ever you need to own something that’s unique, provide an experience with more touch points than ever, and your team of employees needs to maintain that,” Salloway said. “You can’t control the Wild West of the Internet and people’s ratings of you; all you can do is respond in a consistent way that’s based on your values.
“Through poor customer service, through lack of product innovation, and other competitive threats, you could lose (your customers), and we help clients retain them. As an advertising agency, we provide consistent, cohesive communications across all touch points,” he added.
Until now we’ve only talked about changing and maintaining brand loyalty from a professional’s standpoint. But what do the statistics show? In research done for the Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Matthew Shum found that advertising does counteract brand loyal tendencies.
“Equivalently, advertising reduces switching costs in this market. Furthermore, counterfactual experiments demonstrate that in markets with brand loyalty, advertising is an attractive and effective option — relative to alternative promotional activities, such as price discounts — of stimulating demand for a brand,” Shum wrote.
Long story short, advertising does help convert people who are brand loyal to the competition, but it’s not the best way. Your primary objective should be to keep the brand loyal consumers you already have by keeping your identity consistent with your principles and values. Capabilities like those at Davis Advertising can help you clearly communicate those ideals.