Prospective brand loyalists; a paradox?

– Prof S Ramesh Kumar
IIM Bangalore

(Image sourced from istock)

 To think out of the box, it may be appropriate to know what is inside the box.

This is the age of martech, AI, Machine learning, analytics, social media and several other digital initiatives. It may be appropriate to explore the possibility of stretching the conceptual boundaries based on what technologies can do to consumers. Understanding such contextual situations can lead to effectively contribute to how marketers can manage technologies.

Brands and Consumer Emotions

Let us consider the following scenarios :

Scorpio N opened up bookings (after a teaser campaign that promoted itas the Big Daddy of SUVs”) during the last week of July 2022 and hadabout one lakh units being booked in thirty minutes!

During the year 2013 , Rolex the iconic watch brand had launched its website and within six months it had half a million followers. The brand’s Submaraiener launched in 1953 with updated versions over the years has created an aura of exclusivity with some of the recent models requiring a waiting time of six months to about two years .

These are just illustrative scenarios of the trends that have been created by the diffusion of social media. This means that socially conspicuous brands and categories form an important part of the extended personality of consumers. They are dominant indicators that signal status, success and style associated with lifestyles that demonstrates an aura of social appeal that is important to the self-esteem of consumers. This is not about the logic of owning an iconic brand; it is a psychological statement of being “one up” over the others who aspire for it.

The marketing literature even investigates the ‘Jilting effect”, how the anticipation of a desirable
product /brand (could be for instance a limited edition car) can create a feeling of being jilted in a
consumer if he /she is not able to access the product /brand after the anticipation phase . The point is to
illustrate the emotional attachment of consumers to brands and how there are several new directions to
approach the brand-emotion linkages. Brand loyalty is one such linkage.

The conceptual base for Prospective brand loyalty

Brand loyalty can be defines in several ways . Attitudinal strength associated with the brand, emotional
commitment to the brand ( the concept of brand community/ brand tribes is a deeper extension of
brand loyalty) and behavioral action associated with the respective brand (advocacy , repeat purchase ,
and even bonding with the users of the brand as in the case of Harley Davidson) are some of the
actions that may be associated with loyalty to a brand.

The second aspect that conceptually supports the exploration of prospective brand loyalty is the two
kinds of advertisements namely predictive advertising and diagnostic advertising (Deighton).
Predictive advertising is done before consumers experience the brand and diagnostic advertising is
associated with the advertising that consumers connect after experiencing the brand . The executional/
situational aspects of these two advertising formats is not within the purview of the article. And
advertising is a form of communication (the paper is a classic written much before the onset of social
media) that is being adapted through several contemporary forms of communication.

The two aspects discussed contribute to both the formation of attitudinal strength (overtly and
covertly) and to the consumer’s experience with the brand . Both these aspects have an impact on
brand loyalty and can begin even before the consumer buys the desired brand. The diffusion of social
media, impacts the consumer’s mind through a variety of ways . This can be through visuals , word of
mouth , comments , discussions and articulation of expectations. It is not uncommon to observe this
pattern whenever an iconic brand of mobile phones announces its launch.

The Challenge

A marketer finds that there are several fans of the brand who exhibit conspicuous emotional attachment
towards the brand but may not buy the brand immediately – how can the brand passion of these fans be
used with respect to brand loyalty?

The passion can be used to enhance the intent to buy or to diffuse the positive emotion or to review the
brand positively or to strengthen the feeling of being in a brand community.

It should be noted that status centric brands make use of the affordability -aspirational gap to sustain
the aspirations of prospective consumers and the consumer-brand relationship begins when a consumer
starts fantasizing about the brand. Established brands have the advantage of a pedigreed history and
functional performance is less of a perceived risk , thus highlighting the importance of emotional
linkages that a consumer develops.

Niches are important, when exploring the possibility

With the proliferation of diverse preferences and the fragmentation of social media , identifying the
niches of consumers, who exhibit a pattern of emotional attachment towards the brand becomes
important. Niches are associated with consumers and not with markets as per the conventional
definition of niche markets. This step is important because reaching the social media niches is to be
done through narrow casting initiatives given the preferences , lifestyles and values of consumers.

Why are niches important?

Gen Z make up 64% of the 4.7 billion global population. Their psychographics may be varied and
there are contradictions as well with respect to their values and lifestyles ( Bhaktiari ,Forbes, Dec
2019). They may be polarized across several aspects of their values. Self-oriented Vs transcendence
and concerned towards environment, and individuality Vs group conformism to suggest a few aspects
of values. How and why the varied, and diverse groups will express their admiration for brands in
social media is a starting point with respect to the exploration of prospective loyalists. Passive
admiration of a brand and active (the consumers who are active with respect to word of mouth) is
another dimension of niches.

When conceptual paradoxes and mind blowing digital tools converge, consumer insights may emerge.

Source: Economic Times