The New Key to Customer Loyalty: 'Brand Desirability'
Jun 24, 2016 / By Vanessa Horwell
In the world of brand marketing, it can seem like love is the key to loyalty. After all, consumers who love a brand as much as they love its products will engage with that business time and again through return visits, repeat purchases, and more. Right?
Yes... but in business as in romance, there's far more to loyalty than just love. Trust is one additional element, given that individuals prefer to engage with brands (and people) they know have an upstanding reputation. Beyond trust, however, another important element is often vastly underestimated in the eyes of brands: Desire.
According to two leading experts, 'brand desirability' may be the key unlocking stronger loyalty among any consumer base. Why so? Because desire, not love, is what ultimately keeps individuals coming back for more.
Igniting – and Reigniting – a Spark
Esther Perel, a relationship expert popular on the TED talk circuit, and Jonathan Ford, head of branding agency Pearlfisher, are the collective force behind the "brand desirability" movement. (The two debuted their collective insights in a presentation called "The Erotics of Branding: Creating Desire in Relationships" at the recent Cannes Lions Festival for Creativity.)
According to Inc.com, the experts joined forces after meeting and discussing one another's work. Perel and Ford saw clear parallels between the best practices they share with clients regarding their romantic relationships (in Perel's case) and their business-to-consumer ones (in Ford's).
Across both realms, Ford says "love is important, but desire makes connections more exciting" and thus more likely to inspire loyalty – at least for brands. Desirability is the "spark" of any relationship, driven by wanting and reaching for the new, the challenging, and the less known.
To drive desirability, brands need to not only ignite customers' interest at the inception of the brand-consumer relationship, but reignite the spark over time to keep the interest and excitement alive.
Harnessing Desire for a Brand
Brands that harness desire effectively can see vastly improved loyalty on the back of stronger relationships with their customers – even in an age of cost-, experience-, and convenience-driven "brand promiscuity" (as Ford and Perel call it).
Though the two experts have yet to share their complete thoughts on 'the erotics of branding,' several best practices are clearly key to driving brand desirability:
- Cultivating an aura of mystery around a business' products and services;
- Embracing elements of scarcity, exclusivity, and ritual in a brand's value proposition; and
- Associating a brand with a feeling or idea – not just an item or outcome.
You see examples of those three best practices among multiple iconic luxury brands, including:
Apple: Sure, consumers love Apple's products and culture – but they also love the Apple rumor mill. Entire website are devoted to product-release rumors and the company's launch events, announcements, and marketing campaigns are treated as closely guarded secrets by the Apple team. Even with Apple fandom at near-obsessive levels, the company keeps a sense of distance from its consumers that enables it to stay just beyond the realm of the ordinary (and thus slightly "above" the competition).
SoulCycle: Borrowing from Apple's luxury-brand playbook, the boutique fitness chain SoulCycle has inspired a cult-like following for its pricey indoor cycling classes by positioning itself as aspirational: Classes open for registration at the same time every week, and competition for the "best bikes" in the "best classes" can get fierce – compelling customers to act quickly and adhere the brand's rules and rituals in order to get the slots they desire the most. But once you're "in," the sense of exclusivity is replaced by one of community: The brand leans heavily on an emotional-values approach that ties feelings of pleasure and comradery in with fitness, wellness, and self-improvement.
Rolex: When was the last time you saw a commercial or print advertisement Rolex, one of the world's most recognizable watch brands? Rather than build its brand on the back of visibility or awareness, Rolex has succeeded by staying largely inaccessible to most. That keeps the brand name associated with wealth, and with the "feeling" that comes with being able to afford one of its products. What feeling is that? The concept of achievement – of winning. As such, it's no surprise that some of the brand's only long-term marketing and promotional partnerships are associated with the world of high-end competition (in horse racing and professional tennis).
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