When it comes to building brand loyalty, good old-fashioned persuasion doesn’t cut it anymore. But engagement marketing offers a great alternative model. The first step? Stop talking about your brand. Second step? Start talking about people, causes, and interests.
Brand loyalty – just like any kind of loyalty – is built on consistent, trustworthy interactions. Thoughtful content, opportunities for engagement, or even a complementary service says so much more about your brand than a million reasons why you’re better than the next guy.
Here are some ways to decenter your brand and kickstart a dialogue with your audience:
Talk about your people.
Profiling an employee who was recently hired, promoted, or celebrated a work anniversary is a tried and true way to humanize your brand.
But you can take it up a notch by spotlighting a community leader, a single parent who earned a degree, a first-generation American, or another impressive individual who works at your company. Even a quirky, funny spotlight is a powerful storytelling tool.
A polished corporate identity is great. But when it comes to relatability, a real person with a real story is better.
Interact with your audience.
You can apply the same principle to the people who are already loyal to your brand or product.
Someone sent you positive feedback? Ask if they’d be interested in sharing what they like about your product and how they use it. Got tagged in an Instagram post of someone wearing your earrings? Reposting (with permission) is a no-brainer.
GoPro and Calvin Klein are known for user-generated content (UGC) campaigns, but you should feel free to scale this so it makes sense for you.
For example, Food52 created a space on Instagram for followers to share recipes and food they’ve made under the hashtag “52community.” And Barstool Sports regularly reposts UGC that they know their audience will get a laugh out of.
Think about the larger story.
Consider the ties your brand may have to a legacy – whether it be the legacy of the brand itself or the industry.
Two commercials making the rounds recently have leaned into this angle: Patrón Tequila’s “Our Hands” and Levi’s “The Greatest Story Ever Worn” campaign. Patrón’s take on legacy emphasizes Mexican culture and the artistry of hand-made tequila, while Levi’s tells the story of how Kingston, Jamaica made their product its own in the 1970s.
Both brands honored a cultural story while positioning themselves as contributors to those cultures.
Your brand doesn’t have to be old or have national reach to tell a story of connection. Your family, city, and particular industry all have proud histories you can draw from.
Talking about your beliefs is bound to increase brand loyalty. One study from the marketing firm Cone Communications found that 87% of Americans would buy a product because the company advocated for an issue they cared about.
However, public support isn’t a substitute for long-term dedication. So don’t let Earth Day be the first and only day your brand mentions sustainability. If your brand supports gender equity or anti-racism causes, make sure it does so with tangible actions throughout the year.
Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s are often noted for their commitment to national issues – and they’re commended for good reason. But we recommend exploring differences you can make in your own community, including partnerships you can form or strengthen.
Don’t forget the extras.
Give your audience something of value they don’t have to pay for or request. Spotify Wrapped may come to mind as a massively successful example.
But generating extra value for your audience doesn’t have to be high concept (or expensive). You could curate a monthly newsletter with relevant tips, articles, or inspiration. Even putting up aesthetic wallpaper or a clever neon sign is a low-cost way to earn social media attention (sans influencer fees).
The more creative – and more targeted to the needs of your audience – the better. For example, King Arthur Baking Company will help you out of a baking jam with their “Baker’s Hotline.” Tipsy Social notes that the pasta brand Barilla has Spotfiy playlists that are exactly the length it takes to perfectly cook their pasta.
Sounds delightful and fun? That’s the goal.
Tell a story your audience will be interested in.
Cultivating authentic brand loyalty is possible – it just takes intention, strategy, and a little creativity. Taking that time is worth it since actions go much farther than words alone. After all, when’s the last time “just trust me” has worked on you? That’s what we thought.