Most advertising and selling initiatives communicate a diatribe of product “features” and do not offer much by way of distinctive value or any focused or truly compelling benefit. This is despite the fact that customers no longer want to be spammed with information about the product or service; they want to feel the connection with it.
The point of a brand personality is to create an emotional attachment to your business and therefore hopefully create a loyal and happy relationship with your customers. Great marketers don’t make stuff, they make meaning.
Every brand must have a story, otherwise it’s just a logo. The story includes expectations and history and promises and social cues and emotions. It is the story that makes us react (positively or negatively). Yet when we asked advisers to talk freely about the words and feelings they associate with providers and platforms, there was very little reaction: three quarters of prompts remained blank. Which speaks volumes.
Blank: “unrelieved by decorative or other features; bare, empty, or plain” so says the Oxford dictionary. The point is that empty and plain (though safe) is not particularly attractive.
The responses we did capture remained very functional, relating to cost, product suitability, administrative efficiency et al. All things that are of themselves important but are unlikely to build loyalty… or at least the loyalty that you want, because there are two kinds (and this applies to providers and advisers).
The first kind of loyalty is the loyalty of convenience. This means the product works, the service is fine and there’s no compelling reason for change. This customer will look around, sure, but probably won’t switch. Because switching is risky and time consuming. Switching means a new account manager or new platform and processes which we all instinctively avoid unless we have to. Interestingly, most businesses are getting ever better at building this sort of loyalty.
But then there’s another kind of loyalty. One that transcends price and product features (within reason). This is the loyalty of someone who sees beyond a few basis points here and there because they are as committed to the relationship as the provider. And this is a rare rare thing.
The problem with the loyalty of convenience, though, is that the customer is always tempted to look elsewhere and the vendor is always working to build barriers – barriers that don’t necessarily increase satisfaction, but merely build a wall of hassle around the (now) trapped customer.