Is it really the end of brand loyalty?

Many recognizable brands lead back to the same place.

Many recognizable brands lead back to the same place.

Traditional business wisdom elevates the brand to near god-like status, higher up than the brains, technology, and quality behind a product or process. A great brand identity, say the titans of business, is a trusted ship in the often choppy seas of market fluctuations, consumer preferences, and competition. Yet some believe the power of the brand bends and breaks in the face of increased consumer education, that the current information-rich, tech-guided environment is not hospitable to brand loyalty.

The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki recently heralded the end of the era of the brand. Using last year’s rise and fall of workout apparel manufacturer Lululemon as a foreboding example, Surowiecki explains how widespread Internet access, the speed at which word of mouth moves across social networks, and the economic downturn combined to create a new reality in which companies are effectively “only as good as your last product.”

Image source: Getty Images

Lululemon has a rocky road to recovery after complaints of quality spread virally on social media. Image source: Getty Images

Prior to the internet, avenues for consumer education were limited. Today anyone with an internet connection has access to an unprecedented amount of reviews, product tests, details about manufacturing or service quality, all curated and designed with their needs in mind (a big thanks to Google’s ever-changing search algorithm). Potential customers are part of social networks and share information about products and services freely, and often reach out to their network before a purchase. The economic downturn makes price relative to value more important in a purchasing decision than brand loyalty. While many argue about the exact future of brand identity, everyone can agree that it is in flux.

Decreased brand loyalty hurts more established brands and makes room for smaller voices. Small businesses and startups can take advantage of well informed, internet literate consumers by building a marketing plan based around a unified web presence. The best brands succeed through a combination of product quality, effective marketing and consistent customer service. While business owners can no longer rely on brand identity to make up for a lack of quality, the way they showcase a brand through smart online visibility and their commitment to customer service adds up to success.

1) Every customer counts.

Customer experience is everything when it comes to loyalty and retention. One bad review can be enough to turn customers’ eyes toward a competitor. Make sure your social media activity, including customer comments on Facebook or Twitter accurately reflects the quality that your business provides. Because bigger brands are having a hard time relying on the past, now is the time to show your name and service as the quality alternative.

2) Craft a well-targeted message

Quality content doesn’t mean much if the wrong person is reading it. Social media marketing is a must for a modern business, and not all social networks are created equal. While Facebook and Twitter attract almost everyone, others networks cater to a niche market. Knowing where, when, and what your target customer is posting online is key. Maintaining an active presence on a few well chosen networks is smarter, easier, and more effective marketing than posting aimlessly on every network.

3) Be consistent.

I don’t know what is more exhausting; building a web presence from scratch or maintaining an established one. It is not enough to create a business Twitter account, it must be updated regularly and interaction with customers is a necessity. Consistency is key, no matter how fruitless it may seem at first. A steady stream of likes, reviews, retweets, and new followers proves more about your business to a customer than you might think. A consistent web presence connects you to current and potential customers.

4) Have a plan

Social media is fun, that’s the reason it’s such an effective marketing tool. However every great social media user starts with a plan. Jumping in without a plan is a recipe for social media burnout, ineffective posting schedules, and little return on your time investment. A good social media strategy is premeditated, well-researched, and contains information about posting schedules, content creation, and the suitability of various networks. If you’re overwhelmed with the number of different social media platforms you need to be in, you can always call in the Picobarn pros for help. We can tell you which networks are the best for your market, provide winning strategies to gaining influence and even take the work completely out of your hands. Check out our social media promotion service and give us a call, (706) 363-0713, to learn more!

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