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Belonging a Key Driver of Brand Love in Social

I was invited to talk on a panel at Social Media Week London, on 'The psychology of love and brands', hosted by a very intelligent agency, Social Kemistry. It sparked some interesting debate around a psychological approach to social marketing and how to encourage love and loyalty - I'd like to share my thoughts here.

Brand love and loyalty in social can be very profitable

Firstly it's clear that love and loyalty of a vocal brand army in social, can be both very frugal and ultimately very profitable for a brand.

Retaining a customer is 5x cheaper than acquiring a new customer.

78% of consumers trust social peer recommendation. Only 14% trust adverts

Source: Social Media revolution, Erik Qualman, May 2010

The following is a brief train of thought to look at 'belonging' and how it can help to drive brand love in social media.

Social media is a leveler between brand and consumer

Social is the great leveler, providing a single and equal platform for brands and consumers to communicate. It's leveled the playing field for communication and has important ramifications for your brand perception. Your brand perception is not just your broadcast communication, it's an aggregation of the 1,000's of social echos from your customers.

Brands need to understand humans not behave like them

To really make the most of social, brands need to humanize. But being more human should not be quickly interpreted as a 'personality' and a tone of voice. The fad of believing you are social by simply having a colloquial tone of voice is well and truly over. For a brand or business, it's much more important to understand human behavior, rather than trying to make your brand become a 'person'. Understanding what makes people tick and discovering in particular what can help create those sparks of love that lead to loyalty in social.

Belonging is a key driver of love

There have been many psychological models set out to help understand the different levels of people's needs. I wanted to use, what is probably the most familiar and popular. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. Here Maslow sets out the different strata of human needs from the physiological to self realization. These are often presented in a pyramid, with the more idealistic level of needs at the peak and only achievable once the previous more essential human needs have been satisfied. The section I'm interested in is the middle strata. Above the physiological layer and the safety layer. The strata that deals with love and interestingly note that this strata is also about belonging.

So if we are looking to increase brand love, perhaps the right way to approach this is to be thinking about brand belonging.

Creating environments and stimulating 'belonging'

We spend our lives in groups, clubs, teams and circles. The basic need is the belonging and it is a critical driver of love. Knowing you are part of something with others, being able to share that and interact has been amplified by social media. That belonging is also more about the social interplay amongst the people who belong, rather than always between the brand and the consumer.

So it poses an interesting question that we should ask ourselves as we plan our strategy and tactics to gain brand love and loyalty in social. Are we just trying to connect with our customers to broadcast messages to them, or to offer sales incentives and deals? Will this end up achieving the committed love and loyalty we are after? Or should we spend more time humanizing and understanding the needs of people in social and creating environments and tactics for our customers to connect and belong.

I just wanted to conclude with a couple of my favorite examples of that feeling of belonging in social.

DuckTape - Over 5 million Facebook fans! Surprising?

DuckTape is a remarkable example of social brand love, that is all about belonging to a craft led community. Sharing useful, bizarre and amazing things created from Duck Tape. The social community on Facebook is stimulated often with competitions and innovation from the fans. The love of this brand in social finds it's sweet spot right in that middle layer of Maslow's hierarchy. Just take a look at the DuckTape gallery in Facebook.

Ecko - branded for life
Okay, so this is an extreme example. But never the less an extreme stimulant to encourage belonging. American fashion brand Ecko offers 20% off for life to any fan that is prepared to get one of the brand logotypes tattooed on their body. Check out the gallery of fans who have taken the plunge. People really do want to belong.


Belonging is a key driver of brand love in social

Maybe your community won't go as far as the Ecko community. But if you want to build the love and loyalty for your brand, think about what people need in social and that concept of 'belonging'. It can change the way you approach a strategy and lead to a community that builds love and loyalty based on that essential human need... To belong.

Join The Conversation

  • yoavburger's picture
    Oct 16 Posted 4 years ago yoavburger

    Great blog post, Nick.  Belonging is a strong impulse, and I remember in my management classes all about Maslow's Pyramid.. we are all working towards self actualization.  I agree that retaining is easier than acquiring new customers - so you need to 'shower with love' your existing customers - always over deliver and make them happy.  Realize that your competitors may be nipping at your heals and calling on your existing customers as well so make sure your relationship is very strong.  To benefit others, I have included your blog post in ‘Best of the Web' http://bit.ly/j3bestweb, Facebook http://ow.ly/cMCDn, Google+ http://bit.ly/V0Mtov and now Pinterest http://bit.ly/RxRgtG.  Thanks, Nick.



  • Nick Bennett's picture
    Oct 13 Posted 4 years ago Nick Bennett

    Hmm, an interesting opinion. The book looks well worth a read.

    So a few thoughts for the pot...

    Of course there are many ways to skin and re present data and it's feasible that depending on your products and business model, you could run successful operations based on pure single conversions with no regard for loyalty. That said, I doubt there is a business analyst alive that would not recommend a well run model for 'repeat sales' - which is how a CFO will see a loyalty programme.

    But overall.... there is some simple logic that you seem to have missed in the 'value' or gain area in the context of social media, which this article is focussed on.

    • Retaining and curating loyalty in social does not require huge overhead
    • Creating an environment for an interested community means more frequent communication with potential audience. Almost every advertising model the world has ever known is based on frequency/sales.
    • Customer recommendation and peer recommendation in social has no overhead cost to you. Yet it is highly valued, over and above advertising as a motive to purchase.
    • Data value and improvement of relationship and service. You seem to have completely missed the value of intelligent data that retained customers can provide a business. Many businesses improve service, up sell and margins by being able to 'get to know you and what you like'

    Just take your pick... Amazon, Tescos.... etc and to illustrate the point, Boots seem to be doing quite well with a major part of thier strategy based on loyalty and their points and loyalty programme with customers. (UK example below)

    • (2012) Trading profit at Boots UK increased 5.2% to £750m
    • An estimated 70% of sales revenue is linked to their loyalty card, which means that Boots has a very clear understanding of who spends what in its stores

    Source: http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/boots-advantage-card-signs-up-third-parties/3018926.article

    Also I notice that the book you mention was written in 2005. Facebook was launched in 2004! So I think it's fair to assume this book could do with a social media update.

    Good thought provocation, thanks for the comment.

  • Nick Bennett's picture
    Oct 13 Posted 4 years ago Nick Bennett

    Thanks for the comment Lisa. Good luck with your company.

  • BrandloveLLC's picture
    Oct 11 Posted 4 years ago BrandloveLLC

    Great article Nick! I've built my company name and philosophy around this concept.Thank you for sharing. Have a great afternoon! Lisa Dougherty, BrandLove, LLC  http://www.facebook.com/brandlovellc

  • DLadybugn's picture
    Oct 10 Posted 4 years ago DLadybugn

    That one has been debunked:

    Retaining a customer is 5x cheaper than acquiring a new customer.

    The book "Loyalty Myths: Hyped Strategies That Will Put You Out of Business -- and Proven Tactics That Really Work" is a slightly dry read, but the data was surprising. 

    Once I started looking at it, I realised I really DO make just as much profit sustainably, from single purchase buyers, with no gain of the overhead I'd have if I spent resources on trying to make those buyers "loyal". 

  • Nick Bennett's picture
    Oct 10 Posted 4 years ago Nick Bennett

    Thank Marcellini. I read your post (nice one) and I agree - similar ground indeed. Context through your social circles and the interest graph is an important one as you mentioned. The idea of folksonomy and meeting of shared interests is key to that feeling of belonging.

  • Marcellini's picture
    Oct 9 Posted 4 years ago Marcellini

    Awesome post, Nick.

    I actually wrote a post similar to this one, at least in concept, relating to the fact that brand loyalty through social media is what's going to drive brand sales in the coming months, or year. It's what Gary Vaynerchuk calls the Context War, that by creating context for your audience through creating relationships with your audience/current consumers it's going to drive recommendations; and ultimately- sales. Might be worth a peek: http://www.postano.com/blog/winning-the-context-war-with-user-generated-content

  • Nick Bennett's picture
    Oct 9 Posted 4 years ago Nick Bennett

    Thanks for the comment Ted. Couldn't agree more, the need to commit to the relationship is essential and should be part of your core value and not just part of the tactic!.

    That then leads to an interesting link with one of my favourite metrics for convincing businesses to commit to a social strategy. CLV, Customer Life Time Value, ultimately a more fruitful revenue stream, to any business, rather than looking at an immediate return from a 'tactic'. As you so rightly put, when you commit to the value of the relationship, you get the return.

  • tedrubin's picture
    Oct 8 Posted 4 years ago tedrubin

    Great post Nick. Thanks for sharing. 

    Consumers don’t fall in love with your brand and become Brand Advocates by being pushed into sales; they fall in love with your high quality product, excellent customer service, and a consistently enjoyable experience – all natural byproducts of strong relationships.

    Your goal in building Brand Advocates needs to be ongoing engagement.   One-time purchasers are just that – one-time purchasers, with little ongoing sales value.  If, however, you create your marketing strategies with a focus on engaging over time in a variety of ways, you greatly increase your chances of turning your one-time purchasers into long-term consumers who recommend your products/services to others.

    A one-time Tweet, a quick Facebook posting, or an email here and there is an announcement, not engagement.  Real engagement takes time, attention, and overall effort, all of which pay off as your consumers become powerful Brand Advocates.

    When a brand adopts the marketing philosophy that it is all about relationships, they automatically begin paying more attention to the consumer needs and preferences to learn who the consumers really are. Consumers who feel valued by a brand will in turn assign value to the brand by buying the product/service and passing recommendations on to their networks. The sale then becomes a natural part of the Return on Relationship™ instead of a “hard sell” effort.

    Relationships ARE the new currency – honor them, invest in them.

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