Brand Loyalty

Activating Brand Loyalty in Consumers

In our last blog, we made a case for motivational selling strategies over simple persuasion. Motivational strategies take advantage of marketing materials that connect with customers’ values, a compelling connection that establishes an internally-driven desire for the brand, leading to brand advocacy, and creates long-term financial and brand success. Of course, motivational strategies sell also, but not by simply addressing transient need states, appealing to price, benefits or features, or by comparing themselves to competitors.

If the most powerful selling strategy is to motivate purchase by tapping into consumers’ values, Subaru is an excellent example. Subaru ads targets higher income, higher educated consumers who are value-oriented in their automotive purchases. Subaru could appeal to their target with claims about resale value, durability, reliability, or gas mileage, but their competition could easily match those claims. However, said Alan Bethke, Director of Marketing Communications for Subaru of America, “If you ask a Subaru owner what they think of their car, more times than not they’ll tell you they love it.” When consumers “love” a brand it is a sure sign that the brand is touching their values. For about a decade, Subaru has been doing a super job of linking their product benefits to their target’s values, and has built a marketing juggernaut around this approach.  

Perhaps one of the most powerful automotive television ads ever produced links safety to the value of keeping one’s family safe by showing wrecked Subarus with first responders, tow truck drivers, and mechanics all looking at the damage and saying, “They lived.” A simple safety claim is elevated to a much more motivating approach for Subaru. Another series of ads tell the story of parents turning over the Subaru their child grew up in to their teenage drivers, as they leave home for the first time, sending home the longevity and safety messages, but in a far more compelling way.

Another example of the power of motivational selling is U.S. Army Recruiting. Recruiting spikes during times of conflict, including World War II, Vietnam, and after 9/11. But recruiting for the U.S. Army during peacetime is a challenge, without a doubt. And while there are many, many benefits for recruits (employment, educational benefits, health insurance for life), the services have found approaches that touch potential recruits’ values to be much more motivational than benefit-oriented claims. The iconic Army advertisement, featuring Uncle Sam pointing at the audience saying, “I Want YOU!”, appealed to young men to serve their country. According to Staff Sergeant Brian Darling in NCO, “In decades past, the slogan “Be All That You Can Be” resonated with the public as it challenges young people to grow and achieve more – another strong value for young people looking for their path forward. “It’s not just a job; it’s an adventure” continued that appeal to young peoples’ desire to test and prove themselves under extreme conditions. The Army’s current marketing theme, “the Army Team,” is in keeping with the values, ethics, and culture that are integral parts of the Army brand – and the connection of recruits and enlisted people to the Army. And, as cultural values change, it will be important for the Army to continually research these changes to stay on the pulse of their audience’s values over time.

Nike has also successfully used motivation rather than simple persuasion to sell products for decades. Their “Just Do It” campaign was introduced back in 1988 and continues to serve the company today. Graeme Newell explains, “Nike advertising takes the common hero story and turns it on its head. Instead of inspiring customer loyalty by singling out an external enemy, it pulls out the stops and focuses on an internal foe – our laziness. This is how Nike marketing uses motivational marketing to inspire customer loyalty. They know that while some people may identify with an external foe, all people identify with an internal one.” The Nike brand campaign is motivating because we all get to be the hero of our own story.

Motivational appeals work for different kinds of products and services because they connect with consumers at the level of their values – and the more they touch the really core values, the better. It’s not just about solving a problem or buying something you need; it’s about a deep connection with a brand based on shared values. Those connections motivate customers to be loyal to your brand, to tell others about your brand, and to purchase more of your brand.


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