A common dilemma faced by the modern marketer is creating the balance between brand building exercises and investments in instant return driven marketing. Building a brand takes a lifetime, and losing it takes one misguided campaign. In the modern day and age, what marketers often fail to realize is that consumers are outsmarting them on a daily basis. When the ecommerce giants started giving discounts to people who left items in their cart and never purchased them, the customers realized it and left items that they didn’t need immediately in their carts and waited for the discount.
The return based marketing effort not only failed there, it also destroyed the confidence of buyers in terms of thinking of the website as a “discounting” brand. Now let’s analyse this situation, from a returns driven perspective, the marketing paid off as they got really good conversions but as a brand building exercise, they didn’t realize that the customer had actually intended to purchase it earlier, but was baiting the companywith his/her honey-trap.
For a company,keeping this brand balance secure is the most important aspect. Let’s take another example as to why branding is important. Think of a billboard with a “Sale” offering, how often does one respond to it? Consumers only respond when they know the brand. If the brand is unknown or if the brand has a reputation of permanently having discounts, no one cares. Consumers value and prefer products or services that are exclusive or relatively difficult to acquire. This makes it imperative for a brand to set themselves apart from others by ensuring that customers covet their brand.
This creates a problem for a brand trying to establish itself as a desirable or preferred choice, while also making sure that their customer acquisition and retention rates are optimized through ROI marketing strategies like offering sales, discounts or freebies. The real problem here is that ROI marketing itself depends on the brand awareness, as customers would only be enticed by discounts from brands they covet. Hence, if ROI marketing is overdone, it fails both ways.
A brand in today’s world has to have an emotion attached to its name. Think of a company like Royal Enfield which has managed to position itself as an aspirational brand. Now, every two years they increase their production capacity significantly and their sales manage to outpace the supply created. Their brand awareness and presence is ensured by the level of customer satisfaction and referral created by word-of-mouth marketing. At Loyalie we had a simple campaign called “#TujheSalaam” where we added the emotion of appreciating loyalty to Loyalie’s name; this was an emotion everyone felt, but no one pondered on, and the campaign was an instant success with over 15 million organic views on social media.
Today, a brand creates the “want” in the customer and ROI based marketing is what converts the want into a sale. For Uber this trigger was the introduction of its Referral system, after which customers had enough reason to download and use the app. Their conversions shot-up drastically after introducing their Referral system, and got everyone actively talking about them. Uber’s decision to put the referral system into action has single-handedly generated very high levels of customer acquisition and retention as well as generated brand awareness. The product was always strong and fulfilled a very strong need of easier urban commute for consumers, but that drive to actually using it, was their referral discount.
The Real Estate and Automobile industries are the two best examples that have the big players in the market who are faced by this problem, where they have significant loyalty to their brands, but often fail to capitalize on that power. Both industries rely on the goodwill of their previous customers as any new customer, consults them before making a purchase. Inputs of these previous customers is much more trusted than any media advertisement or discount scheme.
For a brand to keep its brand awareness intact and undamaged, they must craft a strategy for customer acquisition and retention that does not harm their image of being aspirational. Brand affinity is especially important in these industries as most customers tend to showcase their personality through their houses and cars. By using Referral systems, it becomes very easy for a brand in these industries to boost customer acquisition and retention rates. Think of a referral program, on one hand it’s influencing the decision of the buyer who is interested in buying a similar product, at the same time the loyal customer who’s referring the said person is actually getting rewarded for his loyalty. What’s better is that there is no damage to brand awareness or identity, or revenue generation.