Five steps to lasting brand love

How can brands create long-term relationships with their customers? Five marketers have some advice.

A few short-sighted lotharios will settle for a one-night-stand and an ignominious departure early the next day. But savvier brands are looking well past the hook up to happily ever after (and all the courtship in between).

They know lasting love is not a lightning bolt – it’s a slow burn. And real passion is about taking risks – not settling into routine.

They understand respect is a gift that is earned today – and then again tomorrow. And trust is the sum of a million small gestures.

They recognise that loyalty – betrayed or neglected – is easily lost. (Cough.. United Airlines.) And honest communication is at the heart of every healthy relationship.

They believe that the right content, delivered at the right time, to the right person, in the right channel, is the key to effective communication. And they believe in creating long-term emotional connections with customers.

But then, as a creative content agency, we would say that, wouldn’t we?

For a less biased point of view, we recently invited five speakers to Publicis UK HQ, and asked them one simple question, How do you build lasting brand love?

This is what they told us.

1. Be different

Jo Moore, the worldwide executive brand director at Lenovo, is positioning the biggest PC brand in the world against the "less is more" marketing strategies embraced by competitors, and, in doing so, stealing away some of their customer love.

"More is more," argues Moore. "More colour, more attitude, more personality, more life. It’s about daring to be different and not continuing to play among the sea of sameness. Because different really is better."

And sometimes, she adds, it’s reminding your audience of what they fell in love with in the first place, which is why Lenovo is revitalising its recently acquired Motorola brand by bringing back the famous "hellomoto" sonic mnemonic and modernizing its iconic 88-year-old batwing symbol to disrupt the crowded smartphone market.

2. Be brave

When Instagrammer Anna Whitehouse decided to call her parenting blog Mother Pukka, every friend she asked for an opinion was sceptical. "They were scared," she says. "Scared that no advertiser would touch me." But she stuck to her guns. "Because in love you don’t fear things. You bravely continue, regardless of what people say – even when they’re warning you not to be too controversial or political."

Brands, says Whitehouse, shouldn’t be afraid to have a point of view and take a surprising leap. "If it’s done inclusively and in the right tone of voice, people will love you for it.

"You need to follow what you believe is right and just be honest. We don’t delete negative comments, because if people can’t see that you have ups and downs – that’s just life – they’ll stop believing you and you’ll lose them."

3. Be useful

Love comes from helping people to realise their dreams, big and small, says Pinterest’s UK partner manager, Ayumi Nakajima. "They might want to bake a cake, renovate their home, or plan their ideal work wardrobe – it doesn’t matter.

"As long as your content continues to provide them with the inspiration they need to enrich their lives in the future, they’ll stick by you."

As marketers, we need to serve up more than just pretty pictures, she explains, "Yes, your content can and should be beautiful to grab people’s attention. But to keep the relationship alive – to keep them coming back to your site – it has to be helpful and actionable too.

"You need to understand how your product plays into the customer’s lifestyle... and how it makes it better."

4. Be authentic

Wearing your heart on your sleeve can be costly, says Deborah Bee, brand director at Eco-Age – especially when it comes to achieving ethical and sustainable standards. But at a time when greenwashing is rife, cutting the crap and doing the right thing comes with a huge amount of public cachet too – and organisations of all stripes are rapidly wising up to this simple truth.

"I’m amazed at how many brands have come to us, passionate about addressing sustainability issues across their supply chains," she says.

Many of the top Italian luxury houses are on board and genuinely committed to change, she notes. "Right now, customers want honesty, integrity and authenticity. They want you to be respectful of their values and to deliver on your promises."

5. Be inclusive

Ricky Knox, founder of new financial services company Tandem Bank, "wanted to do a little bit of good in the world through tech". So he crowd-funded and launched a purpose-driven start-up that isn’t just built around its customers, but by them too.

"We invited a beta group of customers on board as our co-designers, co-authors, co-partiers, co-founders – an awesome bunch of people giving their free time to scrutinise, challenge and ask the big questions; to break down banking and create something fresh," he says.

The goal, Ricky says, has always been to make a happier life with money possible by putting the customer first. "If you’ve got their best interests at heart, and you’re contributing more to them in terms of value than they’re paying you, you’ve got it sussed."

Sarah Bravo is the editorial director and co-founder of August, Publicis UK's content agency.

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