The other day at Engauge we were helping a teammate giving a talk about mobile and brand loyalty brainstorm on a few different key points that he may or may not want to touch on. One of the questions we were tackling as a group included "What creates loyalty?" Some of the answers we came up with were things you would normally come up with like 'great customer service,' 'price,' and the more obvious 'great product/service.' However, one concept that came up stuck out to me more than anything. Consistency.
As a whole, people are generally resistant to change. Change is necessary for everyone and everything at some point or another. The key is knowing how much change to implement at one time. Sometimes shifts are needed for businesses to survive. However, the things that people LOVE about your business are things that you should hold off changing until last.
Learning from Brands' Mistakes
History has always been a great teacher. Coca-Cola is hands down one of the most valuable brands in the world with a ton of loyalists and brand advocates. Living in Atlanta, I'm reminded almost daily how Coke is kind of a big deal. The other day when my wife and I were meeting my grandparents for dinner at OK Cafe, they were talking about how they remembered when Coke tried changing their formula once upon a time. In the same breath, they uttered their disgust for that change along with mentioning how everyone else hated it too.
Did Coke's new formula taste bad? I'm guessing it wasn't terrible. Was it different? Absolutely. One of the things that Coke was famous for - and a feature people were fiercely loyal to - was it's formula. It worked, it was a secret, and it helped drive part of its success as a product. Once they changed that, it caused a disruption in the force.
Other brands that have tried simple things like changing logos (*cough* GAP *cough*) or even changing a rewards program can hurt loyalty with your consumers. When I was in Chicago, I was a super loyal Southwest Airlines flyer. The one thing I loved about it was their Rapid Rewards program. I loved it because of its simplicity and how quickly you could earn a free flight in comparison to other airline programs. Then last year they changed it. Not just a little tweak...they made a major overhaul. A change that made me less eager to fly exclusively with them the rest of my time in Chicago.
How To Change While Maintaining Consistency
Lately I've been reading the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. They talk about how to help people and businesses make changes when change is necessary. One strategy they bring up is looking at the positives of a business. What are they doing right? Look at that positive and focus in on it without trying to overhaul everything at once.
For example, instead of Coke changing their formula, they could have changed something smaller to keep their brand from becoming 'stale.' Look at something simple like a logo change process. GAP gave their logo a huge overhaul at once and the public had a fit. Then Starbucks changed their logo but slowly evolved it over time without making huge changes all at once. They changed one tiny thing at a time until they had what they currently use today. Starbucks probably knew that little consistencies in things, even as simple as logo design, contributed to their overall brand loyalty.
When people come back to a brand, they want a set of guarantees for their expected brand experience. It's where consistency comes in.
My Blog's Loyalty
I've even seen this on my blog. If you've paid attention to it over the last couple of months, you've probably noticed that it's changed design quite a bit. Almost to schizophrenic levels, not really knowing what it wanted to be. Looking at my Google analytics data, my traffic did improve with each design change. However, my return vistor rate dropped like a rock. Did repetitive and major blog design changes hurt my return readership? Maybe not but I have to wonder if it played a part.
So what do you all think? How much of a role does consistency play in brand loyalty?