The world is evolving, and so are we. Today, we’re more acutely aware of the environments we live in, and the impact brands have within them. This awareness has not only made its way into the consumer landscape, but it’s also in the hearts and minds of humans like never before. To be sure, it’s not just about product purchases and experiences anymore—consumer reasons for choice and consideration today are far more complex. Consumers want to engage with brands that have a greater purpose than just increasing shareholder value, and as such, a new equation is emerging as consumers think about brand loyalty and the interplay of values.
So, what is driving this complexity in the consumer landscape today, and how can brands appeal to customers on a more human level? Let’s dive in.
Options, information, and power: Consumers have it all
Consumers have more options today than ever before. On top of that, globalization and ease of entry for new brands make switching between them much easier. If consumers have a bad experience or the brand doesn’t seem to live up to their values, they can substitute another brand with the click of a button and relatively little risk.
Additionally, amid the digital revolution, access to information has never been easier. A simple Google search uncovers vast options and information about brands and the customer experiences they deliver. Up to 93% of consumers will use reviews to make purchase decisions. Social media has also revolutionized the cascading of information, shaping brand narratives. It’s no longer a one-way communication or conversation. Consumers expect a response. In fact, 80% of them expect brands to interact with them on social media.
This transparency has led to consumers having more power in the relationship and has brands chomping to understand how to get it right.
Values-matching is the new price-matching
The stakes are high for brands today, and they’re under pretty extreme pressure to deliver. Brand loyalty is being driven by something more than reliable products and great experiences. Loyalty hinges on how and whether brands are being transparent about their values and how they connect to consumers as it relates to their own corporate goals.
Although, customers also come to the table with their own set of universal goals— things they strive to achieve when they do business with a brand. Yes, reliable products and great experiences are still an important part of the equation—but they’re not the sole driver of choice and loyalty.
If a brand can resonate with consumers’ multidimensional values, offer great products and experiences, and deliver on customer goals, that’s where ultimate success is found.
There’s stickiness in that, and brands able to master this trilogy authentically and consistently will build trust and deep loyalty.
Furthermore, trust requires a mutual understanding and consistent delivery, which further strengthens when customers and brands share values. As the popular saying goes, trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.
You can create loyalty and growth through authentic, consistent connections
As a brand, how you help consumers achieve their functional goals—inspiring them to live better and more sustainably; emotional goals—making them feel good; and social goals—building and living a diverse and inclusive life, can look very different from how another brand is delivering on those same goals. (See diagram A for all 25 customer goals.) Not only is this okay, but it is also necessary to ensure that you deliver on goals in a relevant and authentic way. Your brand values and policies must be in lockstep with how you deliver on those goals.
In the case of Patagonia, our own research showed that this manufacturer/retailer is truly facilitating the goal of “helps me to live more sustainably.” Not only this but delivering on this goal closely aligns with the brand’s mission and values. Not surprisingly, Patagonia has a track record of leading by example in this space.
In 2011, they ran a full-page Black Friday ad that said, ‘don’t buy this jacket.’ The brand was actively countering a consumerism mindset around Black Friday with a message of only buying what you need because every purchase has an environmental impact. In 2018, the brand reset its purpose to suggest its primary business focus was saving our home planet. Finally, in 2022, Patagonia’s founder transferred his ownership to a trust, a nonprofit committed to protecting underdeveloped and undeveloped land and fighting climate change.
Peloton, as our research showed, is another example of a brand building a more inclusive and diverse society through its products and people. Hitting on multiple customer goals, Peloton helps improve people’s physical well-being (a universal goal) and motivates them to beat their own workout goals, resulting in customers who feel good overall (also a universal goal). In building inclusivity, Peloton offers adaptive classes for people who are vision and hearing-impaired and has adaptive trainers and instructors leading those classes. This enables all customers to see themselves reflected in and valued by the brand.
If you take away just one thing from this article, let it be this
Consumers are, in some ways, asking brands to be human, to have human traits, and, most importantly, to be transparent about their values. They feel good when engaging with authentic brands that deliver on their goals, thereby creating a type of value exchange. Zooming out and looking at your business from the consumer goals and values perspective allows you to be more strategic and find the most important alignment between your customers and your brand to build sustainable, long-term growth. Diagram A.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Brink, Senior Director, Client Consulting, Gongos (part of InSites Consulting)
While guiding clients’ customer-centric business decisions, Lisa is responsible for the strategic direction of key accounts, as well as diversifying Gongos’ Strategy and Implementation practice. Her experience is duly balanced among client-side and consulting agency work, focused on leveraging customer insights that shape and operationalize brand, customer experience, and business strategies.
She often partners with C-Suite executives to transform teams to deliver strategies that required paradigm shifts across the organization. Prior to Gongos, Lisa was Senior Director, Customer Strategy/Business Consultant at Elicit Insights, and has also held
key brand strategy and insights roles at Advance Auto Parts and Best Buy.