Getting Fickle Consumers to Buy Into Your Brand

While big corporations are struggling to retain customers, startups are seizing the opportunity to steal loyal consumers. Here is how they are doing it.

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By Debra Kaye

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While big corporations are struggling to retain customers, startups are seizing the opportunity to steal loyal consumers. Here is how they are doing it.

Gone are the days when big brands depended on generational loyalty – "my mom bought Dove, so I buy Dove" -- to maintain their bottom line, and the status quo.

While that might make it tougher for major manufacturers, the fact that consumers are less interested in staying loyal to brands is actually good news for up and comers and smaller players. That is, if you know the three secrets for creating loyalty.

Over-deliver on your product's promise every time. The benefits of your product have to be apparent and consistent.

For instance, if you say your yoga pants fit great, ensure high quality and will look like new wash after wash make sure they do. That's the lesson Lululemon's founder Chip Wilson learned after he responded to customer complaints about the once red hot brand's garments pilling and becoming see-through when the wearer got in child pose (or any other bending stance) with the observation that not everyone is fit or thin enough to pull off his company's pants. He neglected to address the other quality issues.

Related: Lululemon Founder Resigns Amid Backlash Over 'Women's Body Type' Remarks

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Fix mistakes promptly. If you screw up on a product promise, fix it. In fact, consider making the fix into part of your brand's narrative.

Don't blame the consumer, which is what Wilson did when he implied some customers were too fat to wear Lululemon's clothes. Even fit women, who tend to look good in nearly transparent yoga pants, got offended and chose another brand. Good quality yoga pants are easy enough to find -- and find them they did.

Instead of following in Wilson's footsteps, recall how the apology plus brand narrative worked for Domino's Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle. If you recall, Domino's Pizza was having a quality issue of their own back in 2010. Doyle participated in a national ad campaign, apologizing to the public after he acknowledged that the company had forgotten how to produce pizza people actually wanted to eat. In the same year, Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz discussed mistakes his company made when it nixed the baristas in favor of crazy drink concoctions and in the process lost its neighborhood coffee house appeal.

Related: Celebrating Failure: How to Make a Hit Out of Misses

3. Don't discriminate, target. Do you really want to be known as a brand who does not want to serve specific groups of people? So far, Lululemon has resisted calls by some women's groups to create larger sizes of yoga pants (it stops at size 12). It doesn't seem to understand that yoga is for fit people, not necessarily thin people. (Remember, fit people come in all shapes and sizes.) Targeting the fitness aspect of a yoga brand -- including the aspiration to fitness -- would be a much smarter strategy than targeting thin people only. And it will get you into less trouble.

Related: 7 Sins of Newbie Entrepreneurs

Debra Kaye

Brand Strategist and Partner at Lucule

Debra Kaye is a brand and culture strategist and partner at Lucule, a New York-based innovation consulting firm. She is author of the book, Red Thread Thinking (McGraw-Hill, 2013).

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