The need to belong is not something new or unusual, it’s fundamentally human. We all want to feel valued or connected to someone or something and it is no different in the relationships between brands and their customers.

Whether you’re selling a standard pair of trainers or a hand-crafted, diamond encrusted watch, your customers want to feel connected to your brand. They want to belong and be a part of your community. And once they are in your community they gain a sense of loyalty.

The desire to then remain loyal to their community and your brand is now the most powerful thing you will have for business growth. Without it, you can easily lose customers to competitors but, with it, you can make a long-term profit from each person within your community.

For example, I remember vividly when I told my three-year-old daughter she could have a treat. So, with the opportunity to ask for almost anything, she chose the one thing she really wanted and valued over anything else - a Diet Coke. Whilst this is a relatively cheap treat and it came with relief that she didn’t say she wanted something pricier, it demonstrated something relevant. Even at the age of three, we are capable of brand loyalty. And that has a lot of value.

Let me show you how.

If we assume that she will consume three Diet Cokes a week, that amounts to 156 every year. Then, if we say that she will do so until she is 80-years-old, that quickly amounts to 12,012 bottles of coke in her lifetime.

Besides drinking quite a lot of Diet Coke, she has now become a very valuable customer to Coca-Cola. With each bottle costing, let’s say, £0.12 to produce, the total production cost will be £1441.44. But with each bottle selling at £1.49, we will have paid £17,897.88 throughout her lifetime. This results in a profit of £16,456.44 from one individual.

Then there are all the people, friends and family she will influence during her lifetime. Imagine she was to introduce as few as four friends to the brand by the time they are 10 years old and each then remains loyal consumers for life. The maths looks even better.

She might also conceivably have children of her own, who, like her, drink the beverage from a young age, converting friends right through their lifetimes and having children themselves. Not bad from a singular three-year-old who is sold on a product and on an idea but imagine that scaled up across a good proportion of the entire population.

Yes, that hypothesis is full of assumptions but you can extend the logic as far as you like and every new increment just reinforces the power of brand loyalty and brand advocacy. With a loyal customer base, you can continue to grow your business and future-proof it too.

IBM recently conducted a study that highlighted exactly why branding is belonging. Looking at 172 brands across six strategically selected categories, they measured brand belonging by both individual and collective drivers. But despite being named differently, these drivers centred around feelings of connection, trust, community, purpose, life enrichment, empathy and delight.

The study concluded that the brands who managed to tap into these emotions were the top performers. And, as top performers, they grew their revenue over six years at three times the rate of the lower-performing brands. So, yes, belonging matters.

But the question remains - how do you make people feel like they belong?

When you’re trying to connect with thousands or even millions of customers, ensuring they feel valued as a part of your brand can seem somewhat impossible.

To help you and your brand in becoming one of these top performers, I’ve come up with a few ways in which you can create brand belonging.

1. Find a purpose and action it again and again

A purpose should be at the heart of every business. After all, people buy into brands not products. So, find the purpose you serve for your customers and action or reference it at every touchpoint.

2. Build a growing relationship

Like all relationships, customer relationships should grow, deepen and enter new stages over time. Dedicate time and resources into finding ways to develop and strengthen all the different types of customer relationships. Consider personalisation, loyalty schemes and small things that help create a community.

3. Make every moment matter

Leverage data and technology to make moments more meaningful and memorable for your customers. Whether it’s an in-store or online experience, humanise technology to build a connection.

4. Don’t provide, empower

Go beyond providing products and services. Maintain your connection by showing them how to use them or develop new skills. If you empower a community you’ll gain knowledge, skills and grow your business.

5. Show your customers you care

Thank them for choosing you and consuming your products. Then seek to engage them further to create the kind of active, ongoing relationships that strengthen the bond - and therefore loyalty - between your brand and the individual.

With the introduction of VR, XR and personalised ads, doing all of these things is easier than ever before. But, by working with the understanding that branding is belonging, you will soon focus on finding new ways to tap into consumers’ emotions and create life-long, valuable brand loyalty.


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