Over tea with Alex in the sun a couple of afternoons ago, we got talking about what you can count on in a market, and what you can observe but not necessarily depend on. I’ll leave it to Alex to share the specifics of what she talked about in her own inimitable way, but our conversation did get me thinking about the different kinds of customers that brands have today because in the face for scale, it’s easy to confuse the different levels of interest and loyalty.
Let’s start with what happens when you get waves of visitors. It’s tempting to have your head turned by the massive numbers that can swarm a post, a thought, an idea, a product. Suddenly your metrics are through the roof and your mentions are running like ticker-tape. You are the talk of the world, and the temptation of course is to think you’ve made it. You have their front of mind. But that space is mercurial, and attention – one the Holy Grail of marketers – is now a false prize. That’s because such amazing scale-up comes with an equally astonishing fade, as something literally crosses the collective spheres and then disappears. You may get the attention but that’s no guarantee you’ll hold it. Once the swarm moves on, chances are you’re flocksam; one more thing they leave behind.
However, at the very same time as you are being swamped by a popularity wave, chances are you are also growing a loyalty current.
The two groups have very, very different drivers. But they grow, at different rates, simultaneously. Two distinct behavioural bell curves.
While those in the wave are momentarily inclined to fashion and trends, those in the loyalty current are looking for stability, consistency and reliability. They want to go on a journey with you – and they’ll stay as long as it’s exciting, rewarding, involving. They may well be a smaller group, possibly a quieter group, but they are vital because, critically, they fill the gaps between the waves you generate. They are your residual brand base. They are the ones who will talk about you in a sustained way, buy into your story, give you feedback, will you to succeed. They are the ones who are buying your products between the headlines. Currents generate cashflow.
But that comes with conditions – and one of those conditions is that, as their loyalty increases, they will take more and more interest in what the brand is and what it stands for. They will hold you to account for where they believe your brands needs to go and what they expect to see and experience. And they will want that journey to be what my friend Christine calls “consistently surprising”. Upset them, and the impact will be more than sensational, it will be financial.
Increasingly brands are going to need to be able to sift waves from currents, and to find sophisticated ways to recognise and realise the potential of both. That will require a much more dimensionalised view of the marketing, products and viewpoints needed to capitalise on on-going loyalty (big talk) versus those that gain the attention of, and provoke the buzz for, passing interest (small talk).
Another one of those topics I’m sure we’ll come back to …