Picture above: Louise Findlay-Wilson, Founder and Managing Director at Energy PR

It’s certainly worth trying to build a loved brand.  After all, the research for our Brand Love report suggested there’s a clear link between a brand’s lovability and the loyalty it enjoys. We found that people who love a brand are three times more likely to recommend it and are twice as tolerant of its mistakes. For instance, on average people will give brands they love 2.44 more chances to mess up before they take their custom elsewhere.

In a world where recommendations matter, and even the best of us makes mistakes, having customers who love you sufficiently that they rave about your business and forgive you when you slip up, is powerful stuff.

What Matters

So how does a company go about establishing that love? We spoke to over 100 leading marketers, people responsible for the success of top brands. They told us that while innovation may set a company apart from the pack, loved brands aren’t necessarily the most innovative.  Just one in 10 marketers we interviewed thinks innovation counts. Nor is love determined by price or customer support. Only 33% think value for money is important, and 34% believe love is driven by customer service.

Instead they said that genuinely loved brands have values which align with the customer’s values (55%) and become part of someone’s life (42%).   In short, loved brands really know their customers identity.

How to Know Your Customer

So how can you understand your customer with this level of intimacy?

Customer data is a good place to start. Thanks to ‘big data’ companies – both those selling to consumers or to other businesses – can now develop clear ideas of customer preferences, buying behaviours, and decision patterns.

Big data doesn’t just provide access to classic identifiable demographics such as age, marital status, ethnicity, income level, and employment status but also non-identifiable parameters. These are the things which make us tick – our preferences, lifestyle, personal objectives, influences, and interests.  Properly analysed, this data will help ensure a business, its approach and communications are in step with the customer.

For instance on the marketing front, the content shared, the products/services offered and the form and timing of all interactions, when informed by data, will fit with the customer and their lives. The customer will not feel like just another name on a list, but someone properly understood.  And that’s powerful stuff.

Stand For Something

It’s not just marketing that’s shaped by this customer knowledge. By truly knowing the customer, a company can modify its decisions, so that its values and approach end up in sync with the customer – further binding them in.

Ikea is a classic retail brand which does this brilliantly. Indeed, it gets an honourable mention in our Brand Love report as does Timpson, the shoe repair firm.  Both have absolute clarity about what they stand for and know this chimes with their customers.  Their values are in-step and this translates into everything they do.

For example, conscious that their customers are increasingly expecting a better environmental performance from them, IKEA has created disassembly guides for its biggest sellers. The idea is that consumers are encouraged to take their Ikea furniture with them when they move. The easy-to-use guides also mean people can more easily give or sell their old furniture on to others, as the furniture can be taken apart without damaging it. This development is based on a real understanding of the customer, their values, lifestyle and what they therefore want from IKEA products.

Timpson has different but equally strong values. The company’s management approach is based on a culture of trust and kindness. For instance when an employee gets married, Timpson gives them a £100 bonus, an extra week off work for their honeymoon and use of the company limousine and driver for their wedding car! Staff can also take a paid day’s holiday to take a child to school on their first day.

One customer said of all this: “I love the work life balance and the general empathy from your company. Will make it a mission to find a Timpson before going anywhere else.”

This comment perfectly illustrates the power when a company truly understands its customers identity, values and lifestyle – and acts accordingly, allowing the knowledge to shape business and marketing decisions. Brand love and loyalty follow.

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