Richard Cross and Janet Smith spoke of “identity bonds” between customer and company in their 2003 book Customer Bonding: 5 Steps to Lasting Customer Loyalty. Identity bonds are formed when “customers admire and identify with values or attitudes… they associate with your brand or product.”
Sounds great, but if you’re a rather soulless entity, how can you associate your brand with a cause emotionally important enough to customers so they’ll think twice before abandoning you to shave a few bucks a month?
Cellular Sales, the nation’s largest Verizon Wireless retailer, recently struck up a partnership with Cell Phones for Soldiers. Here’s what they’re associating with now:
“Today, I received the pre-paid calling cards from you. I handed out the cards myself, and they all disappeared in less than a minute! We would ALL like to thank you very much for the cards and the support you provide to those of us in the military. I am currently deployed to Iraq for a year (been here for a month), just got married in June, and it’s so great to be able to call my wife. Thanks again for your support!”
In 2004 Brittany and Robbie Bergquist, two teenagers from Norwell, Massachusetts took $21 and started a program to send old cell phones to ReCellular, which exchanges them for prepaid calling cards. In 2008 alone they sent over 12 million minutes of prepaid call time to soldiers abroad. The Bergquists got the idea when they saw a news report about a soldier who racked up an $8,000 cell phone bill and couldn’t pay it.
Dane Scism, founder and CEO of Cellular Sales, says the company is sponsoring the charity at their Georgia, Florida and South Carolina locations and “may roll it out nationwide.” Scism’s obviously targeting the part of the country where support for the military is traditionally the highest and the association would be viewed more favorably than in, say, the San Francisco Bay area.
So there you go: No matter how dull your emotional appeal, there’s always a creative way to boost it. And getting the U.S. Army to fight for your brand isn’t a bad deal, either.