Small businesses reaping the benefits of consistent customer acquisition and continued growth typically have one thing in common: They’ve established brand loyalty.
But to do this, a business first needs an "identity loyalty framework," a concept developed by Samuel Botts and Americus Reed II, Ph.D., co-founders of Persona Partners, an identity loyalty branding firm in Philadelphia that helps companies develop powerful brand identities. In an article published earlier this year on Think With Google, Botts and Reed outlined the framework for building identity loyalty into your social marketing initiatives. “A brand’s identity should be a clear, concise narrative that defines the brand’s values and ideals,” they explained. “It should differentiate the brand, and if the narrative is sufficiently compelling, it can attract a profitable number of devoted consumers.”
Successfully realizing this goal results in “marketing nirvana,” or the point at which “the brand and the target consumer become one.” Your company’s customers, at this stage, are no longer merely consumers of your brand but evangelists who will spread your message, promote and even defend your products and services.
The results of a study published in Management Science Letters in 2012 serve to back up Botts and Reed's claims. The study evaluated the impact of a brand’s social identity on brand loyalty development and found that brand identity indirectly influences customer loyalty through a series of relationships among perception value, customer satisfaction and brand trust. In simpler terms, a powerful brand identity makes your customers feel more connected to your company. They see your products and services as more valuable, and they’ll keep coming back for more.
Key Components of the "Identity Loyalty Framework"
Botts and Reed describe the identity loyalty framework as a compilation of your positioning statement plus four additional elements:
- Your brand’s purpose. This is your “why.” According to YouBrand, “Your why is the purpose behind your actions and your primary motivation for accomplishing your goals or the task at hand.”
- The ideals and values your company represents.
- The psychographic and behavioral attributes of your target customer.
- Your unique value proposition, particularly from the perspective of those who will become your identity loyalists.
The purpose of defining this framework is to ensure the consistency of your brand message. When your marketing initiatives and messaging is filtered through your identity loyalty framework, your messaging reinforces your company’s core values, mission and vision, and solidifies these core traits in the minds of consumers.
When developing your identity loyalty framework, the most important consideration is that it’s authentic to your business. With the many social marketing platforms and, ultimately, voices that will participate in sharing your messages with the world, an identity loyalty framework that lacks authenticity often falls apart at the seams.
Botts and Reed say that businesses with an authentic identity loyalty framework successfully create positive associations with their brand in the minds of consumers. And when these positive associations are authentic and already cemented in the minds of your customers, it'll be more difficult for competitors to cast your company in an unfavorable light.
Let Your Audience Share in the Creation of Your Brand Identity
Because social media makes it possible for brands and their consumers to interact readily and in real-time, consumers can often play a strong role in the formation of a brand’s identity. Rightfully so, as it’s ultimately the consumers’ perception that defines a brand’s success or failure.
So encourage your consumers to share their experiences with your business, and actively engage your audience in discussions about their wants and needs as well as the ways in which your business can reduce their pain, increase their pleasure, entertain or inform. Ask your consumers how you can best serve them, and they'll happily tell you. And remember, satisfied customers breed brand trust and loyalty.
Allowing your target audience to participate in the process of forming your brand identity can be a valuable tactic because it facilitates authenticity from the start. Additionally, it aligns your brand identity with that of your target audience—one of the key components of achieving “marketing nirvana.”
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