Building Brand Loyalty – Part 1: What Is Brand Loyalty and Why Your Brand Needs It

In Part 1 of my new series, Building Brand Loyalty, you’ll learn what brand loyalty is and why it matters to your brand and your business. It is always cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new customers, and brand loyalists aren’t just repeat purchasers. They’re also vocal brand advocates that create word-of-mouth marketing which turns into new business. Building brand loyalty should be a strategic imperative for every business.

brand loyaltyWhat Is Brand Loyalty?

By definition, brand loyalty is the consumer’s emotionally-charged decision to purchase a specific brand again and again. The consumer perceives that the brand meets their expectations and identifies with the consumer on a personal level.

This buying behavior and decision-making process can be conscious or unconscious, but it is always based in trust that the brand will deliver on the consumer’s expectations for it.

Brand loyalists don’t purchase a substitute brand if their preferred brand isn’t available. They’ll travel to multiple stores in search of their preferred brand and are more likely to forgo making a purchase if their brand cannot be found than they are to purchase a substitute.

Brand loyalty is based on an emotional involvement that develops between the consumer and the brand. The consumer’s perception is that the brand fulfills some kind of physical need or emotional want in such a unique way that some kind of emotion is evoked during the purchase process and while using the brand.

crest toothpasteFor example, purchasing the same brand might elicit feelings of security.

“When I buy Crest toothpaste, I know my teeth will be as clean as possible all the time.”

On the flip side, not being able to purchase the brand might elicit feelings of fear or impending doom.

“If I don’t get Crest toothpaste, my teeth will rot!”

It’s that emotional connection to a brand that separates brand repurchases from brand loyalty. How do you feel about your favorite brand of toothpaste? If it’s not available will you just purchase another brand without concern or will you visit another store to find your preferred brand? Do you feel like you might get a cavity if you don’t use your regular toothpaste?

Your answers to those questions tell you whether or not you’re loyal to your toothpaste brand. If toothpaste brands don’t matter to you, think about your favorite brand and how you’d feel if it wasn’t available. Those emotions will help you understand just how loyal you are to the brand.

Why Brand Loyalty Matters to Your Business

A powerful brand with a loyal consumer audience behind it can withstand any micro- or macro-environmental factor thrown at it. Whether there is a recession at the macro-level or a corporate re-organization at the micro-level, brand loyalists will keep on buying the brands they love.

The Toyota recalls of 2010 provide the perfect example of a brand that survived and continued to thrive despite micro-environmental factors because consumers still trusted the brand and remained loyal to it.

Brand loyalty equates to long-term, sustainable, business success. You can count on loyal customers to keep buying your branded products and telling their friends about them. There is a value to that loyalty that correlates directly to brand equity. In other words, brand loyalty is an indicator of intangible value as well as a quantifiable measurement of your brand’s success to-date and future performance predictions.

Don’t underestimate the importance of brand loyalty. Emotional involvement is a powerful thing that trumps just about every other purchasing factor you can think of. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Building Brand Loyalty series where you’ll learn how to build brand loyalty.

Images: Flickr, Flickr

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius brings over 20-year of marketing and branding experience as Contributing Editor for the AYTM.com blog. She is the author of numerous books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com.