Driving Brand Growth: What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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In this guest post from Metrix Consulting executive director, Angela Jennings, she says it’s time marketers stop focusing on building ‘love’ or ‘loyalty’ in driving brand growth, and instead focus on being ‘available’, with actions not always speaking louder than words.

Angela Jennings
Posted by Angela Jennings

I really hate to be ‘that guy’ (or gal): the one that starts an article with a boring reference to a dictionary term in order to prove a point – but I’m going to do it anyway. You see, I’m getting really tired of the term ‘loyalty’ being bandied around as a shopper growth metric, with little regard for its actual meaning.

The Oxford dictionary defines loyalty as “a strong feeling of support or allegiance”, whilst the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language describes it as “a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection”.

Neither of these definitions bring ‘behaviour’ into the mix, yet that is the exactly how shopper marketers often talk about loyalty. In our world, a shopper is deemed loyal if they buy our brand or shop at our store more often than they buy or shop with the competition. In other words, we equate ‘share of wallet’ or ‘repertoire’ with loyalty and use it to model our growth.

My issue with substituting ‘what I do’ with ‘how I feel’ is perhaps best brought to life with an example. Let’s consider the shopping repertoire of an average Australian grocery buyer: we might see seven out of their past 10 grocery shops completed at Woolworths, two at Coles, and one at Aldi. Based on these stats we might conclude that this shopper is loyal to Woolworths.

However, if we look further into this, we might discover that this shopper lives within a two minute drive from a Woolworths store, can always get a park close to the entrance and they can cover off all their grocery needs in the one place. When you speak to this shopper, they might then tell you they see Woolworths and Coles as ‘one and the same’ – and if Coles were closer, they’d probably shop at Coles instead of Woolies.

They might also tell you that they ‘love’ Aldi: the different brands, the unexpected products, the interesting special buys, the quirkiness of the experience and of course, the low prices – and if there were more Aldi stores, or if Aldi had a better range of fresh produce, they would prefer to do more of their grocery shopping there.

And so the difference between ‘behavioural’ (what I do) loyalty and ‘attitudinal’ (how I feel) loyalty emerges. At one extreme, we have shoppers buying a brand or shopping with a particular retailer out of habit, familiarity or because it’s the easy or the only choice – not because of any great feeling of attachment or affinity.

The problem here is that shoppers are not locked in attitudinally and can be quick to jump ship when a perceived ‘better offer’ is presented to them.

At the other extreme, we have shoppers that are locked in at a higher level, but they can’t buy this brand or shop with this retailer because they’re inconvenient to use or get to, out of stock, they can’t find them or they can’t meet their more ‘rational’ needs.

The problem here is our growth can stagnate until our distribution or ‘offering’ develops such that it more closely aligns with market needs – and this can take significant time and investment.

But words can be meaningless too

At this point it’s perhaps worth mentioning that whilst I may have a problem with equating ‘share of wallet’ with loyalty, I don’t believe traditional measures of attitudinal loyalty, when looked at in isolation, are worthwhile either.

I wholeheartedly agree with Byron Sharp’s view that shoppers don’t actually love brands or retailers, nor are they looking to build meaningful relationships with them; the idea of a shopper being truly devoted or attached to ‘our brand’ and going out of their way to buy or shop with us as a result, is nothing more than wishful thinking.

If we go back to our original example, it’s not actually ‘love’ that is driving the success of Aldi – it’s that the brand has single-mindedly and aggressively targeted a core need of Australian MGB’s, which has positioned the brand as the clear choice for shoppers in certain buying moments or missions (what Sharp refers to as ‘mental availability’).

However, it hasn’t always been easy for Australians to shop with Aldi (what Sharp refers to as ‘physical availability’). Aldi still has a significantly smaller footprint than its rivals (400 stores excluding newly opened stores in WA & SA, compared to Coles’ and Woolworths’ national networks that comprise 770+ and 960+ stores respectively), as well as relatively limited opening hours and product ranges, and other quirks such as packing your own bags.

To date, Aldi’s mental availability has superseded its physical availability, which has no doubt impacted upon the speed of the retailers’ growth. But as new stores open and product lines are added, Aldi is now picking up new shoppers and share of shopping trips at an accelerating rate.

So where does that leave us?

The holy-grail is obviously a situation where shoppers think of us first in key buying moments – and they can easily buy our brand or shop with us… and therefore do buy our brand or shop with us, more often than they do the competition. In other words, where we have high share of our shoppers’ wallet (and therefore market share, at an aggregate level), underpinned by strong mental and physical availability.

So, in order to drive brand growth we suggest ditching the idea of ‘loyalty’ or ‘love’ and even (and whilst this will no doubt stir the pot) ‘share of wallet’ when considered in isolation. Instead, we recommend focusing on two key questions in developing growth strategy:

  1. Are we the first brand or retailer that comes to mind in key buying moments?
  2. Do we make it easy for shoppers to access us in these moments?

You can find the original article here.