02.05.2017

Turning Brand Loyalty on Its Head

“If the customer is really king, then brands are the subjects of the king.”


– Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Mastercard

On April 27th, Simon Cazelais and I attended the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) Global Marketer Conference in Toronto, where hundreds of brand teams from around the world gathered to hear speakers and debate the present and future of marketing. There were many fascinating topics, but one speaker who stood out for me was the CMO of Mastercard, who gave a great talk about how he shifted that brand from being about mass advertising to being about unique experiences—all while keeping to their famous long-term platform of “Priceless.”

“It is not customers who need to be loyal to brands; it is up to brands to be loyal to customers.”

But what really struck me was how, by the end of his talk, he noted how “brand loyalty” is completely backwards in our minds. “It is not customers who need to be loyal to brands; it is up to brands to be loyal to customers.”

Sounds so simple but no one had put it to me that way before.

What does it mean for a brand to be loyal to customers? It means, in the vernacular of BBR, providing genuine utility and entertainment. Something of value and something of delight. Repeatedly. Creatively. Progressively.

It means understanding the evolving needs of human beings and staying ahead of them. It means not expecting a “return” on every transaction, but knowing that down the line, after you’ve earned some credibility with the customer, you will be rewarded handsomely for your service.

It means asking and listening. Not pushing and promoting.

We should work with our clients to examine every step of the customer’s journey to see where we can be of help, and where we can delight their senses and open their imaginations.

And it means applying our creativity and technological prowess (if we have it) toward enhancing the lives of humans, even in small ways. Making life easier, more enjoyable, less stressful or complicated. We should work with our clients to examine every step of the customer’s journey to see where we can be of help, and where we can delight their senses and open their imaginations. That’s what it means to be a brand that is loyal to customers.

Only then do we deserve to have customers who are loyal to the brand.

– W.