No question about it, brand loyalty is down since the recession. To fight that trend, marketers have been taking the traditional route of using short-term tactics. They've lowered prices, instituted or expanded rewards programs, and spent more on advertising. However, those are expensive, and when everyone is using the same tactics, their effectiveness is minimized.

Something different is needed: a contextual marketing strategy to build brand loyalty.

A contextual marketing strategy harnesses industry and market drivers, as well as external forces of influence ("influencers"). The drivers determine market direction and what it takes to stay competitive; influencers shape the voice of the market.

Here is how those forces break down:

  • Regulatory drivers have long- and medium-term impact. Government regulations are an example. Marketers must understand how the "rules" of their industry are changing and they must stay ahead of policies when developing long- and medium-term strategies.
  • Technology drivers also have long- and medium-term impacts. These drivers are the technological advancements that will influence the way products will be built, distributed, communicated, consumed, or serviced within an industry.
  • Social influencers have medium- and short-term impacts. Social influencers shape consumer shopping dynamics. They include macroeconomic elements, behavioral patterns, and social trends that influence buying decisions.
  • Competitive influencers also have medium and short-term impacts. Competitive influencers are the factors that shape consumer demand. They are a brand's competitors, including both the direct and indirect (substitute) products and services.

Understanding and harnessing those drivers gives you four powerful ways to build brand loyalty. They deliver everything from short-term tactics to long-term strategies.

This article series will outline how you can create...

  • A long-term sustainable alignment for your business
  • Medium-term policy-driven market advantages
  • Medium-term experience-driven competitive advantages
  • A short-term targeted deployment

The first two capitalize on the drivers; that's where we'll begin in the first part of this series. In the second part we'll cover the last two items on that list.

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image of James George

James George is manager of brand strategy and analytics at Toyota Motor Sales, USA. He previously held positions at Toyota in product marketing as well as strategic planning and research for North America.

LinkedIn: James George