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Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Loyalty

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Remember when Toto pulled back the curtain and unveiled the wizard, whose existence up until then had been shrouded in mystery?

Well, you may not have been aware of it, but you too have been exposed. Today's business reality is that we are no longer marketing wizards.

Yup… the jig is up! The audience knows how we do all of our tricks.

It certainly has been a heck of a ride, though, hasn't it? We've had our names up in lights as the Wizards of Marketing for the past 50 years!

Think of those artful product ads that we used to pull out of our magic hats. You know the ones, where we used our stunning assistants (actresses and celebrities) to seduce people into buying our magic brand. Or we'd fill our marketing performance with smoke and fire and chest-thumping superlatives, just like the great and powerful OZ!


Remember when we used to send our assistants (salespeople) out into the audience armed with bags full of product? And how they'd use their magical convincing and closing skills to sell them? It used to work and work well, right?

We even used our Svengali-like manipulation on our employees, didn't we? We'd disguise the truth, promise the world, and hypnotize them with our patter.

Well… them was the good ol' days. And those days are gone forever.

We can no longer impress, cajole or delude our audience into remaining loyal. Today, our audience assumes we have great features and benefits and quality. And they assume that we have a positive image, competitive salary and benefits and a positive working environment… and lions and tigers and bears… oh my!

So now what? How do we get our audience to return to our show? How do we foster loyalty in a world full of product and price parity, and full of skeptics, cynics and other “freethinkers”?

Simple! Do what the Wizard of Oz ultimately had to do. Give them what they believe they are missing—the virtues that they desire (but remember that each audience is different, and motives that are appropriately appealed to in one situation may be ineffective in another):

  • A heart. Like the Tin Man, most people want to do what they consider the “right thing.” They want to help others and participate in a worthy cause. Doing so makes them feel good about themselves. Companies like The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry's, and IKEA, to name a few, promote and support causes that their audience's employees and customers' can connect with… with their heart. This altruistic bond enhances loyalty to the feelings that these brands evoke. Want this kind of bond? Give them the feel-good emotions that they desire.

  • A brain. Never underestimate your audience's motivation to “get a deal.” Sure, some of it is motivated by people's desire for financial gain. But I've witnessed the nouveau riches using coupons and racking up frequent flyer miles. Why would Ivanna Trump shop at Wal-Mart? Because getting a deal makes her feel good about her logical, deal-making self. However, to get these “Scarecrows” to remain loyal to you, you must “buy” them for whatever period you want them to remain loyal. Remember… your audience is loyal to the feelings they get from the “deal.” They are not loyal to you!

  • The nerve. Most people are motivated (like the Cowardly Lion) to avoid fear. Fear of the loss of things desired, such as love, attractiveness, health, etc. Fear of rejection, failure, the unknown, the uncertain, the unpredictable. In addition, your audience has a strong desire to eliminate the fear of future suffering. The fear of wasting time. The fear of wasting money. The fear of being wrong. The fear of looking foolish. The fear of flying monkeys. Fear. Fear. Fear. You can appeal to these “Lions” by taking all of the risk out of their decision making and placing it squarely (and strategically) back on your business. How? Assurance… in whatever forms you can think of: money-back and “make it right” guarantees; free shipping, installation and support; no-risk test-drives; audience-appropriate emotional advertising; and so on. But, when all is said and done, if even a hint of doubt remains about your offering, your audience will go somewhere that eliminates that doubt. Because they are not loyal to you. It's the feelings! Remember?

  • A home. People are strongly motivated to belong. To have a place where everybody knows their name (or, at least, how they feel). This feeling of “affiliation” has been mastered by companies such as Harley-Davidson, Oprah, Starbucks and Apple, not to mention many emerging online communities. When I snap up the leather, hop on my Harley, and click my boots three times, I am transformed. I feel like a member of a special tribe. It's not about horsepower and gas mileage; it's about… feelings! A Harley executive was quoted as saying, “What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.” Forget altruism, forget deals, forget fear. This is about identity. There is no stronger bond.

So that's it! We've covered everyone with the exception of poor Toto, who simply wants to be loved and cared for.

Easy, huh? Not at all! If it were easy, everyone would be doing a great job of it. And what exactly is that? Branding, of course. Creating and sustaining strong audience relevance and compelling emotional connections.

Oh, and one other thing. Humans are not fictional film characters. They want everything on the aforementioned list (funny creatures… those humans). So give it too them. Give them the feel good, altruistic cause, along with a deal, assurance and community. And toss in some love and caring. Just make sure to choose and emphasize the one the means the most to them. Good luck.

P. S.: Feelings change, so make sure to change with them.


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Tom Asacker is a professional speaker, management adviser, and author of the new book, The Business of Belief: How the World's Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe.

Twitter: @TomAsacker

LinkedIn: Tom Asacker

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