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With an influx of new-age brands, it is fair to say that consumers have more brand choices than ever before. While new e-commerce technology and social media platforms have eliminated many barriers to entry, the real question is how these brands will fare five to 10 years down the road.
Success in the retail game isn’t about how many new customers you can hit with direct response ads. It comes down to how many customers you can turn into repeat buyers and, eventually, brand advocates. No one does this better than Nike.
Since the company was born in 1964, Nike has achieved unrivaled success in the fashion space. Its ability to dominate a market that is constantly evolving is a direct result of its ability to create brand loyalty among its followers. In the simplest terms, their success can be attributed to their knack for understanding their customer. Nike keeps its finger on the pulse, understands what is most important to customers and connects with them through a unique concept of aspirational marketing.
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest isn’t the only thing we share with Nike. As co-founders of Vincero Watches, myself and my two partners have built our brand on the same foundation as Nike. Our main goal with every customer interaction is to build loyalists who will go out and fight for our brand. We accomplish this by listening more often than speaking. In order for a customer to have loyalty to a brand, the brand needs to understand them just as much as they understand the brand.
Many brands are missing out on this by focusing exclusively on scaling and not placing value on loyalty. Take social media as an example: Brands will spend hundreds upon thousands of dollars to amass a following that rivals celebrities. What does that really mean? Little to nothing. One million followers with no affinity for your brand aren’t comparable to a hundred thousand die-hard followers who believe in what your brand is selling and will defend it to others.
Here’s how new brands can avoid this common trap and build brand loyalty among their followers.
Develop a deep and thorough understanding of your customer.
To achieve Nike-level success, brands must understand their customers better than their competitors. Staying relevant requires more than merely modeling other big players in your industry. Marketing teams must get down to the nitty-gritty on the ground level and understand the actions and motivations of their customer. What are they saying and doing?
In today’s digital world, there are countless tools for brands to connect with consumers. Social media, surveys, even data and analytics platforms: They’re all incredible tools for brands to get to know their customers better. Customers aren’t often shy about what’s important to them, and it’s your brands’s job to listen when they speak.
Engaging with your customers is an important next step. Maybe fans are raving about your product on Instagram. Find out where the action is and join the conversation. Reply to mentions, questions, customer service inquiries and conversations that include your brand and industry.
Nike does a superb job of this. A tweet from a loyal Nike advocate expressed excitement for a new personal best during his workout, and Nike responded on Twitter with an encouraging message: “Crushing streaks like it’s nothing.” This sort of attentiveness shows your commitment to fans and supporters.
Reinforce the brand.
Direct-to-consumer companies must market in a way that evolves with their industry. How can an organization built on social initiatives, such as environmental sustainability, survive over time?
A robust brand strategy might include a focus on current hot-button issues. For example, if your company is passionate about reducing waste, find a way to reduce trash through ethical business practices. Organizations can be proactive by starting a compost pile, reducing use of packaging materials, eliminating bottled water, going paperless and more. In today’s social economy, it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do.
Another way to give your brand personality and power is by engaging with unexpected content. Using your influence as an opportunity to support or participate in topics that your brand and your consumers believe in will build brand affinity. Nike’s recent campaign with Colin Kaepernick is an excellent example of capitalizing on relevant news and taking a stance on a national trending topic.
Don’t lose focus on your core customer.
Nike found success by connecting with a specific customer group. It is a brand for athletes. Its advertisements don’t focus on winning championships or medals. They show the grind, hustle and preparation it takes to be the best. It’s about the journey and the passion for putting in the work.
Nike’s aspirational marketing is what truly sets it apart from other sport apparel brands. What emotions does your customer connect with and aspire to? Make the customer feel what they want to feel and you’ll recruit brand loyalists.
This is obviously easier said than done. Begin by developing a customer persona. This is your ideal customer who fits the description of your target market. Consider the following: Who are they? What do they value? What do they believe in? What are their priorities? What problems do they face? The more of those questions you can be the answer to, the more your customers will have an affinity for your brand.
Don’t just guess. Survey your customers and engage with them on social media — find a way to ask them what you want to know. Show them that, at your company’s core, you value their opinions and the things they value.
Nike has stayed loyal to this strategy, which has made the brand successful from day one and helped it build a loyal army of advocates for over 50 years. Direct-to-consumer companies that hope to achieve similar success must keep a finger on the pulse of their industries, continuously reinforce brand values and solve problems for their customers for decades to come.
December 17, 2018 at 08:25AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs