Would You Stay Married to Your Brand?

Posted by

BrokenHeartIf my wife is reading this, “Don’t worry! I’ve been researching divorce rates for a blog post. Really!”

I came across a list from Accenture of reasons that people break up with brands and it sounded eerily like why marriages end in divorce. So for fun, I looked for the top reasons that people get divorced. Below is a list reasons for breakups. Can you tell which ones are for brand divorces and which are for marriage breakups?

  • Wrong fit
  • Unmet expectations
  • Money
  • Conflict resolution
  • Different priorities or interests
  • Promiscuity
  • Poor communications

It’s pretty interesting that they can apply to both types of relationships. You can see how each one of those issues can negatively affect customer retention. Promiscuity may sound like a marriage only problem, it really isn’t. Both parties can actually get extracurricular on each other – customers can try competing brands and brands can stray from their core audience in an attempt to gain marketshare.

Has anything changed with marriage or brands? While there are conflicting studies on whether marriage is in trouble or not, there’s no doubt things have changed for brands. The transparency created by our new information-sharing society is fundamentally changing how organizations can, or can’t, control their own messages. Today you cannot take any of your audiences for granted, external or internal.

What happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas

In the past what employees felt, said, or did was not broadcast instantly worldwide in the form of photos, videos and reviews. What happened in the kitchen of the restaurant, in the service area of an auto dealer, and on the factory floor was something customer were never privy to. Not that customers want to know all of these things, ultimately this information informs them about brands. Communicating internally about what your brand stands for is pretty important to align everyone, just ask Volkswagen. Like in a marriage, what you do on your own time is eventually going to come out.

Loyalty isn’t everything

Are your customers staying with you just because there’s nothing better out there? That’s a marriage of convenience, and not necessarily in a good way. Apathetic loyalty is not healthy. A study by Werner Reinartz and V. Kumar published in the Harvard Business Review called loyal low-profit customers as “Barnacles.” Reinartz and Kumar characterized four groups based on profitability and loyalty:

  • Strangers: Short-term customers with low profitability
  • Barnacles: Long-term customers with low profitabilty
  • Butterflies: Short-term customers with high profitability
  • True friends: Long-term customers with high profitability

What does this have to do with how you communicate with customers?

The right ones are out there

If you were going to pick one of Reinartz and Kumar’s groups it would probably be the True Friends. But how do you go about finding them? You already have them. And for that matter, your customer base has a mix of all of those groups, Barnacles and all. Chances are you already know who they are. It now comes down to how you want to engage to each one of these groups, and in turn how much energy and attention do you devote to them.

The best thing about your best customers – whether they be donors, members, or purchasers – is that they are most open to a conversation with you. Make it easy for them to share their opinions and thoughts. This provides you with the opportunity to not only deepen your relationship with them, but also to use their feedback to create more accurate understanding of why they choose your organization, as well as improve your offerings.

Two ears and one mouth

Listening to and responding to your best customers becomes a virtuous cycle. I’m going to steal a saying from one of my coaching friends. No, he’s not a marriage coach, he’s a youth basketball coach. He asks the kids, “Why did God give you two ears but only one mouth?” Answer: “So you listen twice as much as you talk.” Pretty good advice in life, marriage and brand communications.