Consumers – you and me – make 35,000 choices a day. One every 2.5 seconds. Depending on category and age cohort, 17% to 30% relate directly to brands. You might think extraordinarily high brand awareness would be enough to win your favor and loyalty. You might. But you’d be mistaken.
See, of those choices, 100% are based on expectations. Like what do you expect from your Ideal (FILL IN THE BLANK)? Or what do you expect from (FILL IN THIS BLANK)? Beyond primacy-of-product, I mean. Success, loyalty, profits, are all about meeting expectations. Awareness? There are lots of brands that have “Universal Awareness.” Come ‘on, is there any brand in any reasonable competitive set in any category of which you’re not aware!?
And then there are brands that are “Loyalty Juggernauts.” Loyalty Juggernauts meet consumers’ expectations so well, they become brands of instantaneous choice. With such overwhelming economic force, they become far more powerful, resonant, and memorable than ones with all that Universal Awareness. I know this for absolutely sure because we just released our 27th annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI) assessments with a brand roster that proves meeting consumers’ expectations transmutes market-share and loyalty (and, yes, even universal awareness) into category and market dominance.
That happens because the loyalty paradigm has changed dramatically. Loyalty – and choice – don’t come down to one-or-the-other options anymore. It comes down to consumers’ deepest expectations (desires), and how they feel a brand measures up (delivery). Behavior and loyalty are now almost entirely governed by expectations, which grow constantly. This year, cross-category expectations increased 34% (54% in the tech category), while brands have only kept up by 8%, leaving a pretty big gap between what customers want and what they feel brands deliver. Loyalty Juggernauts reduce that gap up to 50%, virtually guaranteeing ongoing and consistent customer loyalty.
Because expectations are the most accurate and predictive loyalty indicators available, addressing them more effectively turns everyday brands into “Loyalty Juggernauts.” This year’s Customer Loyalty Engagement Index(to be released January 22nd) proves consumers do not simply settle no matter how aware of a brand they are. There isn’t enough push messaging in the world to accomplish that. And sure, expectations are mostly emotional and move very fast. Which is why identifying and leveraging them makes them so very valuable for brands.
And yet, in the face of all this, folks continue to measure – and attribute success – to Universal Awareness. Even Not-So-Universal Awareness. And sure, there’s historical precedent for that. When I say, “historical,” I’m referring to the AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), a marketing framework created by Elias St. Elmo Lewis to guide consumer behavior. In 1898!
A brief precis of Mr. Lewis’ model: A 4-steps series customers would “follow” when making brand-choice decisions – get the consumer’s attention, garner interest in the product, create desire, and then get them to act(buy the product). And while that was probably an absolutely astounding and nifty notion 126 years ago, by the late 20th century and the entirety of the 21st century its effectiveness and reliability have diminished. Mostly due to the fusion of more educated consumers, technological advancements, and an evolving brandscape!
Consumers learned a lot about brand marketing in the past half century, hot-wired to the Internet via smartphones loaded with social networking apps. They’re more informed, discerning, and conversant about brands than ever. They not only seek authenticity and personalized experiences but expect waaay more, which makes it harder to track on a linear model like AIDA. Building relationships, engagement, and advocacy have become crucial parts of meeting expectations and building desire. Really successful brand strategies emphasize continuous interaction and engagement. Like expectations, those aren’t linear either.
Technology and data analytics have developed exponentially and significantly altered how marketing is conducted. The proliferation of diverse platforms, multiple channels, social media, and influencer marketing have created more “noise,” which requires a more integrated and adaptable approach than what AIDA provides. Personalization, data-driven strategies, and delivery systems requires more nuanced approaches than what a linear AIDA model offers.
Current brand marketing prioritizes seamless and expectation-meeting customer experiences. AIDA doesn’t fully encapsulate the complexities of customer-centric approaches. Also, it turns out as consumers traverse through the AIDA funnel the numbers actually lessen, because of all who first become aware of a brand, relatively few actually do anything – that final A (“Action”) in AIDA. Yeah, kind of the opposite of “loyalty.”
And then there’s the brandscape, which is much messier and multidimensional than it was in 1898. Or even 2008. Competition has increased. Reliance on the influence of top-of-mind cognizance in the purchase process has deceased. There are more brands out there doing more, so relying on a linear model like AIDA isn’t as effectual as required. Loyalty Juggernaut brands are constantly finding innovative and even disruptive methods to better meet expectations. You know, the ones which drive positive consumer behavior.
This year’s CLEI results offers up loyalty insights more concrete than the accumulation of more awareness or the collection of all the “loyalty” points in the world! Loyalty via expectation realization is the super glue that bonds consumers to brands. If you can accurately measure unconstrained-by-reality expectations, and effectively address them, you can guarantee your status as a Loyalty Juggernaut.
And I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed with that.