The Secret Driver of Loyalty


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When you think about it, why is anyone loyal to any consumer brand? I mean, after all, there are SO MANY of them. Choices galore. Why commit? Why not just go “for the gusto” and be a brand gigolo?

It’s not like you can even tell a lot of them apart any more. Most consumer brands have superficial differences and scant advantages over other alternatives in their categories. With all that commoditization out there, why pay retail? Stack up the Groupons, rise early on Black Friday, or wait ’til the last minute on Christmas Eve, and let ‘er rip!

With a few notable exceptions, hardly any brand innovates anymore to make even a small attempt at differentiating their offerings. Line extensions, minor product variations, flankers…*YAWN*.

We at COLLOQUY often say and deeply believe that the best-conceived, -designed, and -executed loyalty program cannot help a broken brand. And by broken we mean a brand that is losing its distinctiveness and relative advantage by coasting on the historical brand equity built by earlier generations of marketers while failing to build up brand equity today.

So it’s time to start looking at brand loyalty with clear eyes and stout hearts; the secret key to loyalty is…not to suck.

At least that’s how Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder so succinctly puts it: “Make stuff that doesn’t suck.”

Fast Company caught up with Wales after his presentation at The Digital Hollywood show in New York last month. “More than ever, people like to talk about stuff that sucks” through various forms of social media. “There’s nothing to be done about it except make better products.”

That’s IT!

The secret key to loyalty lies in exceptionalism. Distinctiveness. Brilliance. Creativity. Risk. Pushing the envelope. (Where’s that envelope, anyway…?). Make a great product. Who’da thunk that?

How is your company poised these days to follow Jimmy’s advice? Are things loose and light in your culture these days? Who’s excited by the new launch set for early next year? Is your CFO on board? Are you ready to rock your category with something REMARKABLE?

There’s a cool word…”remarkable.” As in, “able to get anyone to remark about it.” Are your new ideas able to get people talking? Sharing? Telling STORIES? Ones with happy endings, of course…right?

We marketers have three choices in descending order of attractiveness: get people telling good stories about us, get people telling bad stories about us, or allow people to completely ignore and forget us. Yes, that’s what I intended to write–a bad story is better than no story at all. At least a complaint has a request underneath it somewhere. No story = oblivion.

Be bold. Be exceptional. Take a risk of ticking someone off.

Or go home.

Send this blog post to your CEO and ask them what Jimmy would say about your brands. Better yet, bring your CEO a one-pager about what your customers are saying, or not, about your brands.


Jim Sullivan
Jim directs the advancement of enterprise loyalty at COLLOQUY, an endeavor guided by his almost 30 years of managing in marketing, strategic planning, business development, innovation, and communications. Jim also assists with COLLOQUY's loyalty workshops, seminars and conferences, and serves as an academic liaison for colleges, universities and thinking institutions performing research on Enterprise Loyalty.


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