Brand Awareness and (In)Fidelity: The Battle for Consumer Loyalty

Written by Tecwyn Hill | 5 min read
Published on: September 4th 2018 - Last modified: June 10th, 2021
Brand awareness neon sign showing I am bold

Just like people, brands come in all shapes and sizes, and their ‘personalities’ range from bold, zany and hip, to discreet and sensible, through to downright annoying. Also like people, no matter their character, every brand wants to engage. Companies frequently run special offers to lure potential mates away from competitors, while consumers often ‘brand-flirt’ without committing long-term to new suitors. Brand awareness is a battle of fidelity vs. temptation, and the divorce rate is rocketing.

See you in Court!

Courting the consumer: The process of brand awareness

The word “brand” derives from the ancient Norse “brandr,” meaning “to burn.” From its very earliest usage, branding meant staking a claim of ownership, and making sure others understood what was yours. In the 1500s the first forms of ‘logos’ were burned on cattle, while trademark registration began in 1870s to prevent competitors from creating confusingly similar products.

Over time, this feature of brand recognition has evolved into a symbol of quality rather than ownership. People are willing to pay more for even the idea of luxury, while research shows that children as young as three can identify logos and associate them with brands.

Brand awareness requires loyalty and equal payback

Fittingly, the 1300s definition of “brand” was a burning torch, and the accelerant of the internet and social media has ignited the next evolutionary stage of brand awareness. Unlike consumers of the past, the internet-connected communities of today aren’t satisfied to merely consume—they want to participate. Social media brands like Facebook and YouTube rely on their users to help establish value, including how they are perceived by the public.

In fact, brand strategies now need to navigate the ‘what, where, why, when, who, and how’ more than ever, while delivering critical messaging. This is because branding is much more than developing a logo; it’s about building a reputation and a relationship. This, in turn, fosters brand identity, but also requires an introspective understanding of what makes a business unique and what separates it from its rivals.

If we consider that on average, it takes 6-7 interactions for someone to remember a brand, but 10-13 additional interactions to defuse poor impressions or bad experiences, the need for consumer connectivity is paramount to company success.

With this in mind, branding has two levels:

  • Brand recognition is the degree to which the public can identify a brand from its products and visual symbols.
  • Brand awareness is a leap further, to the point that the public can recall information, emotions or general impressions of a brand.

Loyalty Cannot be Bought!

Brand awareness is more than just spending money

Although internet-based companies give up some control of their brand image, the loyalty from an actively participating customer base is unparalleled. Content sites like Amazon and Yelp depend on their relationship with reviewers to provide their most persuasive content.

At the same time, the interconnected nature of an active consumer base enables organizations to deliver products and gain visibility without spending millions on advertising and infrastructure.

In fact, search engine optimization (SEO), viral marketing, and outsourced delivery enable organizations to deliver products and gain visibility without spending millions on advertising and infrastructure.

However, as with every relationship, there are bumps in the road…

Fleeting Glances Towards the Competition

When brands start to lose control of the market

Let’s be clear: a brand is not just your Facebook page, Twitter account or a beautifully designed Pinterest board. A brand is the soul of your company, the eternal connection with your customers. Your brand is the expectations, emotions, and aspirations that are stirred when someone hears your name, driving the decision to choose your company over a competitor, even when prices are lower elsewhere.

Yes, you can use data, analytics, research, and algorithms as inputs to develop your brand, but it is people outside your organization that define its success. Fortunately for any organizations aiming to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, the psychology of the consumer—the way they react emotionally and physically to companies—is far easier to influence today, via smart, connected and digital brand campaigns.

Brand-flirting: Are things really better?

With this, brand-flirting may be defined as a short-lived experience in which a consumer engages with and/or indulges in the alluring qualities of a brand without committing to it. There might be some feeling of guilt, when you swap from an iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy, but the consumer will always return to their first love. Maybe they’ll even be more committed!

But then come the disruptive brands. These are the organizations that rock consumer loyalty and cause consumer/brand divorces.

The Decision: Amicable Split…

Brand awareness: Disrupting the status quo

Disruptive brands are such because they market innovative ways of speaking to their audience. Of course, this has existed around the world for centuries. Indeed, every time an organization floats a concept that earns the attention and respect of an audience, a ‘disruptive brand’ is born.

Whether it’s Google and their internet dominance, Tesla’s influential new forms of energy, or even Uber and the mobility revolution, there will always be an appetite for disruption in the consumer world. Customers will move to the competition if the product/service is perceived to be better.

But building a brand with potential isn’t enough, and figuring out where you ‘fit’ into your current industry is too blasé; it’s about finding a new way to break the mould. Raising brand recognition and awareness is not just delivering new products to market, it is about looking beyond business horizons towards new consumer needs.

I mean, who doesn’t want to try something that makes life more comfortable, more innovative, and more incredible?!

… Moving on

Process management: Supercharging future brand value and digital change

But massive disruptive change has hit the 21st century like no other, due to rapid and constant technological advancement, globalization, statutory changes, and mobile/social connectivity. Consider Airbnb, the power of social networking, and the explosion of online streaming apps like Netflix.

However, within the sphere of digital possibilities, Gartner estimates that over 70% of transformation initiatives fail due to unclear processes. It is here that business process process management (BPM) can impact all industries by designing, modeling, automating, discovering, and analyzing.

To drive their brands and to meet new challenges and digital transformation, the world’s most advanced companies integrate and align process technology within their operational structure. Amazon and Apple are prime examples—and in several cases, they created the internal technology and business strategies themselves.

As discussed, customer experience is also vital to achieving brand success, and an active process management initiative, coupled with tight customer journey mapping, helps us look beyond traditional process methods, and case models, to more customer centric constructs.

The Grass is Always Greener (sometimes)

The battle for consumer loyalty and the power of change

One of Coca Cola’s first slogans in 1905 tapped into consumer functionality: “Coca Cola Revives and Sustains.” If individual consumers didn’t feel particularly quenched by the beverage, there was little they could do. In more recent times, technology has helped the consumer’s voice become louder and much more public.

Consumers can publish their experiences and compare them with others. While the ability of major brands to respond, comment, and interact with consumers also has a profound effect on the way they are perceived. If the customer is always right, then companies must be ready to empower all opinions–be they positive or negative.

Top brands can connect with, and influence, the consumer more than at any point in history. But similarly, the consumer can disrupt and even bring down all the archaic companies incapable of flexibility, listening, reflecting and strategizing.

What was once called word-of-mouth is now fully branded user-generated-content. A bad review, a shoddy product, or unfriendly service is seen by millions. Instantly.

On the other hand, if you get your strategy right and connect your brand with the right processes, emotion and empathy, you transform brand-flirting and consumer infidelity into global high-fidelity success.

*Check out part two of this blog series: The Wild Card: How Companies Punish Consumer Loyalty.

As High as Fidelity will go

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Published on: September 4th 2018 - Last modified: June 10th, 2021