Brand Loyalty and Telling Good Stories

There are some who will arguing that brand loyality is a thing of the past. With such unprecedented access to so many different options, then people simply no longer get hung up on a name. However, the data seems to show that that isn’t the case, and even more today people are clinging to the names that they find familiar, and the reason why is that those brands have simply told better stories.

Advertising is story telling. If you take a look at the Customer Loyalty Cycle here, you’ll see that the first two steps have absolutely nothing to do with directly selling to the customer. Instead, they focus on education and getting the customer to understand who you are as a company.

customer loyalty cycle

The foundation of building a brand loyalty is telling a story that potential customers identify with, then inviting them to be part of a culture.

Horizontal Segmentation

A major part of brand loyalty is giving the customer agency. Howard Moskowitz crystallized this idea while working for Prego when he said that “There is no perfect pasta sauce, only perfect pasta sauces.”

prego sauce
photo credit: Kwang Sing Ngui

By encouraging the company to expand their product line to include a number of different sauces instead of focusing on one, introducing horizontal segmentation, he recognized that there is no monolithic “customer,” and customers that feel that they have an option suited exactly to them are more likely to keep coming back.

Part of Something Bigger

Similarly, allowing a customer the ability to feel as if they are a part of something exclusive helps to keep them returning to your product. It’s one of the reasons why at one point you had one side inviting people to be part of the Pepsi Generation while the other side was imploring you to “Buy the World a Coke“.

pepsi coca-cola
photo credit: Sean Loyless

Both invite the prospective buyer to identify themselves with something larger, either as a whole generation or a member of the human race expressing their kindness with soda.

One of the most impressive stories of brand loyalty comes from the Cadbury Wispa. It arrived on store shelves in 1983 after a campaign that asked only, “Have you heard the Wispa?” and not identifying what it was.

cadbury wispa
photo credit: Leon Brocard

The loyalty to this particular chocolate bar was so strong that even after years out of production, fan demand brought it back in 2007. Many hadn’t had one in years, but the name and the brand stuck.

Collective Coolness

Starbucks is another company that has built a remarkable brand for itself. According to a study from Mintel, Starbucks brand loyalty has kept it from being significantly hurt even by the wider availability of artisan coffees and smaller coffee houses.

photo credit: Lali Masriera

Despite those others potentially being better coffee, the name “Starbucks” keeps the multi-billion dollar business firmly on top.

In all of these cases, it’s the story that has brought people back to the brand.

In the case of the sodas, it was integrating the drink into people’s idea of who they are. For Prego, it was letting people tell their own story about dinner. For the Wispa, it was about being part of that first group of people to find out what it was. With Starbucks, it was an execution of strategic engagement in a storytelling about being hip and independent like everyone else.

The stories that we tell and that we help others tell about themselves inspire brand loyalty. You want people to consider using your product a part of who they are. You want to be their friend and woven into the way they tell their life stories.