Looking for Brand Loyalty? It's Not Going To Happen (Jeff Hankins Publisher's Note)

by Jeff Hankins  on Monday, Jul. 2, 2012 12:00 am  

James Kane, an author and researcher, says we're loyal to people and things that make our lives easier, not brands.

Building brand is the main objective of corporate marketers because the strongest brands yield more revenue and profits. Business executives yearn for so-called brand loyalty to ensure continued sales success.

This was straightforward marketing 101 for me until a behavioral scientist at a national conference recently shared an unsettling conclusion: Customers aren't loyal to a brand.
James Kane, a noted national speaker, researcher, author and television commentator on the relationship business, says humans are loyal to other human beings, who are driven by emotions that are survival mechanisms. We're loyal to people or things that make our lives easier and better, not to brands.

Apple and its late founder and CEO Steve Jobs understood that consumers aren't truly loyal to Apple the company. Apple fans are loyal to the products of the company that make their lives easier. It's the Mac laptop, iTunes music downloads, the iPhone and cloud syncing that I really love, and they just happen to have been created and sold by Apple.

Kane contrasted loyal and satisfied customers using the classic dog and cat analogy. A loyal customer, like an eager-to-please dog, wants to determine what he can do for you. A satisfied customer, like a cat, is focused on what you can do for him. Rewards programs might create a satisfied customer, but not a loyal customer.

He showed a photo of all the varieties of mustard that are available on supermarket shelves and noted that we hate choices overload but love control. We may download 75 applications to our smartphones, but ultimately the ones on the first page that fulfill a daily need receive our loyalty and attention regardless of the brand.

"Quality is Job 1" is the longstanding motto of Ford Motor Co., but Kane sees that as quite disingenuous. After all, he says, does anyone expect anything less from an auto manufacturer? Could it ever be Job No. 4? If you pay $30,000 for a vehicle, you expect quality. He says we shouldn't state or market obvious expectations to customers.

Too many businesses and individuals "are still trying to get credit for being trustworthy," Kane says. But their problem is that everyone expects trustworthiness to begin with. We expect things like a quality television set that will last a few years and a clean hotel room. No customer will ever give a business extra credit for those things.

Our brains are looking for trust, a sense of belonging and purpose, Kane explains. Individuals, companies and organizations that generate those feelings through relationships will discover loyalty. No slogan can make up for that.

Kane says the fundamental premise of loyalty is that "unbreakable relationships are not the result of you trying to change or manipulate someone else's behavior. It is about reshaping your own."

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The Little Rock Technology Park Authority has taken a beating over its site proposals.
A key and appropriate consideration for location is the proximity to the three research institutions - the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Children's Hospital and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The opponents of the sites south of Interstate 630 and in various areas between University Avenue and Cedar Street are the same people who lament all the development and infrastructure in west Little Rock. They would rather see areas of homes that have become eyesores remain intact.

Have you seen the homes the naysayers are trying to rescue? Many are dilapidated and have bars on the windows. I'm still working to collect the crime statistics for the area.

The implications aren't about destroying a safe Little Rock neighborhood with houses of value. It's about investment and revitalization efforts in a part of the city that otherwise would receive nothing, while enabling a small number of homeowners to actually receive some value and relocate to better conditions.

Of course, it's unsettling and inconvenient to those who will have to move, and I understand that. But growing cities sometimes have to make choices for the greater good, and a very small, vocal group shouldn't sway the Technology Park Authority or Little Rock City Board.

(Jeff Hankins can be reached via e-mail at JHankins@ABPG.com, followed on Twitter @JeffHankins and connected with at Facebook.com/Jeff.Hankins and LinkedIn.com/in/JeffHankins.)

 

 

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