So Beyoncé will be paid US$50 million to endorse Pepsi and appear in the brand’s adverts next year. Wow!! What a lot of change. That has beaten many celebrity endorsement fees to date. It’s as staggering at the 80 million pounds that was paid for Christiano Ronaldo when he joined Real Madrid, except he was not moving to Real Madrid to look pretty, sing and drink a soda and tell us how great Pepsi is.
While the topic of celebrity endorsement covers many shelves in university libraries, (we do not have the time to delve into all the research and findings in this area) suffice to say that marketers in many countries use celebrity endorsers. eg Over 25% of American adverts use celebrity endorsers and 60% in India. Research also suggests that celebrity endorsements are good for business because customers think that celebrities are trustworthy, believable and persuasive. Celebrities are also perceived to cut through the advertising clutter of adverts in building brand credibility. The impact of celebrity endorsements is such that young consumers are more likely to use products endorsed by celebrities because the world over, young people are influenced be entertainers and athletes.
But does using celebrities in adverting a guarantee of brand loyalty?
This question can be answered by highlighting the reaction of brands when celebrity endorsers go bad. We need only mention Lance Armstrong and the drugs story and how quickly he became a black sheep, Rihanna and her overly sexy look and how she lost her contract and well, there is the Tiger issue and how that turned out, to see that celebrity endorsers should be part of a holistic marketing communication and not the end of it all. While the young may be impressionable, the majority of customers are cleverer than that. And marketing companies need to give customers credit for intelligence when trying to persuade them to buy their products and services. Using a celebrity to endorse a bad product will not gain a company any mileage either. One can only fool people once and then the product speaks for itself.
The question of how to enhance customer loyalty and increase repeat purchases of a brand’s products and services is constantly on marketers’ top of mind. For a customer to be considered loyal to a brand , he should have selected the brand , amongst alternatives, and repeatedly purchased it. The customer should also have a positive attitude towards the brand, to the extent that he will speak about the brand and defend it like it were his favourite aunt, in spite of the person who is endorsing it.
One of the ways that brands can create customer loyalty is by developing strong positive relationships with customers. For customers to like your brand, they must easily identify with it. So the question is, if your brand were a person, what characteristics would that person have? Would he be likeable, trustworthy, easy to get along with, introverted, extroverted, ambitious, sporty? You get the drift?
By attaching a brand’s identity to a real live person aka celebrity, company risk creating a situation where the personality of the person becomes so intertwined with the brand that when they mess up as all human beings are likely to do, the brand and its products go down with the celebrity gone bad.
Building a customer following and brand loyalty starts with firstly deciding what values and attributes you want your brand to be perceived to have. These attributes should be built into the very fabric of the company and into the product communication messages , so that customers can see themselves in the product/ brand personality. When customers identify themselves with your brand in this way, they will want to purchase and repurchase your product. There are three key brand attributes that you can build into your brand to build customer loyalty.
Can your brand be trusted?
Trust is a key concept in developing brand loyalty. Without trust, there is no stable and lasting relationship. Trust is a belief that is held by the consumer about your brand . Trust refers to credibility, integrity and benevolence that the consumer ascribes to your brand.
A brand will be viewed as credible if it can do what it says it can do. ie meet the performance expected by the customer. ie Does the fridge actually last for 1o years or was that just the sales pitch? Can I actually come for a free service at 5000 km or will I have to pay for the parts? Your brand will be deemed to have integrity if it can consistently keep its promise regarding its transactional and relational exchange with the customer. In simple English, is your brand perceived to be honest? Ie Do you actually charge that amount or are there extras charges in the fine print? Do you deliver within 24hours or will I have to keep calling you?
The brand will be perceived to be benevolent if customers perceive that the brand and company take customers’ needs and concerns into consideration when making decisions that affect them. ie , Does your store have air conditioning? Does your bank have chairs for the elderly to sit while they queue and do they queue at all? Do your offices have ramps for the disabled? Does your pharmacy have private interview rooms for those who do not want to shout across the counter about sensitive conditions? and so on
How emotionally attached are your customers to your brand?
Attachment refers to the emotional link between your customers and the brand. Attachment is emotional, psychological and reveals an unalterable affectionate relationship. Separation is painful and unsustainable. Your brand is the next best thing to a best friend like a loyal puppy. The brand is introduced to friends, family and children. And if they can get to love and use it the way the customer does, so much the better. In fact, the brand name for the product becomes the generic name for the product. A soda or soft drink as we say in Africa is not a soda its a Coke or Fanta. When I need washing soap I don’t say, washing soap, I say, ” Can I have Surf?” ……even if there is no Surf to be found in the store or it has been renamed by the manufacturer. That is what emotional attachment means!
How committed are your customers to your brand?
Are your customers committed to preserving a relationship with your brand? Brand commitment is how consumers respond to the efforts of competitors to lure them away from your products through promotions, sales, price reductions etc. When a customer believes that in-spite of the competitor activity and seemingly green pastures in the next door shop, it is worthwhile staying with your brand, they are truly loyal.
Brand loyalty is more than the person who is on the front of the advert. It’s about the stuff behind the scenes that should rock your customers.