Apple won Interbrand’s Best Global Brand ranking for the third year in a row this month. The ranking factors in financial performance, impact on customer choice and ability to command a premium price. Not coincidentally, Apple also leads this year in the laptop, smartphone and tablet categories of Brand Keys’ Consumer Loyalty Engagement Index.
What makes customers like some brands more than others? A closer look at leading brands reveals some qualities that smaller companies can emulate.
Being First and Doing It Better
Apple maintains a 90 percent brand retention rate, research shows. How do they do it? One is Apple’s history of successful firsts. While Apple did not invent the first MP3 player, smartphone, or tablet, it pioneered the release of successful products in each of these markets. Apple also sets out to design and make better products, and won’t enter a market unless it feels it can outdo the competition. Taken together, these qualities have established Apple’s reputation as a leader, and people follow leaders. One lesson for smaller companies is to do what you do best in order to outpace the competition in your customers’ eyes.
Managing Customer Expectations
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson says the key to delivering superior customer service is setting realistic customer expectations and then exceeding them. One company that has excelled at this is Amazon, which won Brand Keys’ Customer Loyalty Engagement Index ranking in the online retailer category. Amazon’s customer service has not only set customer expectations, but now sets the rules for what customers expect.
Amazon has achieved this firstly by paying close attention to customer data and what customers want. This customer awareness starts from the top down, with CEO Jeff Bezos regularly reading customer emails. On a company-wide scale, Amazon gathers large volumes of customer data from transactions and uses analytics tools to process this information.
Amazon then leverages this data by delivering what customers want in such key areas as speed, selection, service and competitive pricing. Companies can emulate Amazon in these areas by paying attention to their performance in these areas. For instance, can your customers order with one click or phone call?
Creating Emotional Engagement
Customer expectations center around emotional engagement, another key to getting customers to like you. The NFL is a brand that has mastered the art of creating emotional excitement, walking away with a victory in Brand Key’s major league sports category.
Brand Keys’ analysis of individual NFL team loyalty rankings, led by the Patriots, Packers and Seahawks, identifies the qualities that go into the NFL’s success recipe. These include history and tradition, fan bonding, entertainment and authentic team performance. The NFL reinforces these qualities and engages fans emotionally by promoting events such as its annual Thanksgiving Day games, which bring tradition, family bonding and entertainment together in an emotionally charged, competitive environment. The NFL sums up these elements in its current ad campaign with the slogan, “Football Is Family.”
Game-day excitement spills over onto fan discussions on sites such as Dish’s The Dig, which in turn fuels fan emotional engagement. Smaller businesses may not be able to whip up the level of excitement generated by a game-winning turnover, but you can still tap into your customers’ feelings by treating them as family in the service you deliver.
Delivering Customer Experience
A quality that ties all the above customer loyalty elements together is how well a brand delivers customer experience. The success of Starbucks, which tied Dunkin’ Donuts in Brand Keys’ out-of-home coffee category this year, illustrates the centrality of customer experience. Sure, Starbucks has a ubiquitous presence and high-quality coffee, but what really sets Starbucks apart is the experience of going to Starbucks. Smaller companies should focus on improving the experience they deliver to boost the likability of your brand.