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Conference Report: Strong Brands and Customer Loyalty are Tightly Linked

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Conference Report: Strong Brands and Customer Loyalty are Tightly Linked
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I was fortunate to participate in the 2013 Chief Marketing Office Leadership Forum this week in New York. The event was organized by the Argyle Executive Forum and was well attended by a diverse set of delegates with titles to match the expectation set by the conference title.

One powerful session that I have to share with you was a discussion of how to build powerful brands and leverage the resulting brand equity. The session was intentionally designed to promote freedom of discussion among the presenters and I’ll respect that objective by not linking specific comments to any particular presenter.

Instead, I’ll share a list of insightful and descriptive comments shared by the group to frame the discussion of building powerful brands. The comments here can be applied to your business, regardless of industry and offers a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of your brand messaging in the market.

1. A core thesis presented was that companies must stop thinking in terms of the products they sell and focus more on why they exist at all. If the brand ceased to exist, would it be missed and why?

2. Think about the “unthinkable” and be absolutely honest in establishing what a consumer thinks about your brand. Get the answer through research and embrace the responses to make you better.

3. Shift your brand messaging from declarative statements (“we are the world’s leading _____”) and frame it in experiences. Take inventory of behavioral measures and differentiate your brand through the experiences it helps create.

4. Prioritize the conversion of your employees into brand advocates. The best case outcome of this process might be to say that your clients and your employees all sound the same – resoundingly in your favor.

5. Inject resilience into your brand by embracing social commentary. Incorporate ratings and reviews from consumers on your own website and make your e-commerce site the source of all needed information for the consumer to make a purchase, rather than abdicating this ownership to a third party site.

One Loyalty related thought that came from this brand conversation was to say that a Loyalty program can be a brand unifier and create a halo effect for a group of sub-brands within a group. While serving as a brand aggregator, the Loyalty program can also be used to deliver personalization to customers and to highlight the subtle differences between sub-brands to drive purchase behavior.

As I learned during the session, building a strong brand is accomplished through listening to customers, engaging employees, and linking the product sold to the experiences customers enjoy with the product or service being promoted. I also received strong endorsement that Loyalty programs achieve their highest and best use as strategic tools to support the agreed upon brand message, and can leverage brand equity to promote incremental value across the enterprise.

Who ever said we were about points and prizes anyway?

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