Finding Loyal Cheaters

A base of loyal customers is the nirvana of business.

After all, loyal customers act as brand ambassadors, are more resilient to price changes and provide the prospect of future sales. While academics meditate over the exact nature and fabric of loyalty, business decision-makers prefer a more pragmatic outlook. It is generally enough to understand loyalty as a strong or total commitment to a brand. The question then is not so much about what loyalty is but how one can create and maintain such commitment.

Images of Apple fans camping outside a store for the release of a new phone cloud the fact that Western consumer culture doesn’t exactly encourage commitment. We try to belong by carefully matching branded products to the desired image of ourselves as we re-enact our Facebook profile. And with the burden of choice comes the fear of falling behind by sticking with the wrong brand. Dating sites promising happiness through cheating are growing in popularity. Sexting, on the other hand, offers a more low-risk escape from the weight of trust.

The meaning of loyalty and commitment is in flux and requires new thinking and approaches. Chances are the person screaming in ecstasy at an Oprah show will never be your customer. Too often, business professionals respond to the challenge at hand with a sense of denial or nostalgia. Large sums are poured into farming loyalty initiatives, hoping more carrots will eventually curb the grazing. The irony of it all, is that most marketing is designed to break-up relationships. Corporates have largely shaped the very culture which they are now wanting to spend away.

Tell it better

Because loyalty is not something concrete like the latest sales figures it helps to differentiate between loyalty as something we do, and loyalty as a belief we hold. How many of your friends ride a Harley? But how many of your friends believe that a Harley is the ultimate dream of a bike lover? One does not need to be buying or planning to purchase a brand in order to have an unwavering belief about that brand. Maybe your brand will never be in an exclusive relationship with your customers; but this does not mean you can’t tell your story better than anyone else. Without crafting, sharing and refining an honest and truthful story about your business there is no point in any short-term gimmicks under the guise of loyalty and retention.

Don’t bribe

Value which creates loyalty must be genuine. Many brands behave like guilty parents by saying “like us and we’ll give you nice things.” If your bonus offers, cash-backs, competitions and movie tickets are what keeps your customers coming back, it is only a matter of time until someone is willing to give more. You could catfight your competition on the best give-aways or ask yourself the existential question of ‘what are we here for?’

When you discover how your business can live out its profitable purpose better and more visibly than yesterday, the journey of converting a few cheaters into loyal believers starts.

Simon Morgan is the Marketing Lead at ADT South Africa.