When I headed brand management and marketing for Hallmark, we invited Larry Light (among others) to talk with us about brand management. One of the concepts he imparted was the difference between brand loyalty and brand entrapment.
Just because someone behaves loyally doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is attitudinally loyal to the brand. Consider that I have a large number of points with a particular airline of which I am not really fond. I have almost enough points for a free round-trip flight to anywhere in the US. I have accumulated these points over several years. One of the reasons I have so many points with this airline is not because I like it so much but because it best serves the routes I most often travel from my home airport.
What will happen when I get to the number of points that provides me with a free round-trip flight? What will happen if I have almost as many points on another airline? Will I then become more behaviorally loyal to them instead until I earn enough points with them to get a free round-trip flight? What happens if a new airline with better service and a better value proposition enters the market?
Real loyalty is based on an emotional connection and a superior value proposition, not the presence of a frequency program that offers discounts and other rewards.
While a frequency program can create some level of behavioral loyalty, that loyalty is fragile if it is not supported by attitudinal loyalty. Certainly, frequency programs can create familiarity, habit and inertia. But they can't necessarily create attitudinal loyalty.
Consider to whom you are loyal. What makes you loyal to them?
The two proven measures of attitudinal loyalty are:
- Would you recommend this brand to a friend/colleague?
- Knowing what you know about the brand now, if you had it to do all over again, would you still purchase this brand?
When you are seeking to build customer loyalty to your brand, you need to focus on both behavioral and attitudinal loyalty.