Brand loyalty is dead?

Is Brand Loyalty the Marketing Killer?

I’ve been fascinated by the entire concept of mind-numbingly successful brand loyalty for a while now, which caused me to outburst an entire research paper on it. Surprisingly enough, HBR’s recent topic also put finger on this entire topic.

The article, entitled “Marketing is Dead, and Loyalty Killed It” is a dedication to obsolete nature of today’s marketing.

“Your job is obsolete, and unless you turn yourself into a Chief Loyalty Officer, you’re sure to eventually be replaced by one.”

The article speaks out what’s obvious to many, that the customer is the one who should do the talking and promoting, not any hipster CMO. However I stumbled open few obscurities that make the article fall short in explanation of some radical points.

Not every company is the same

Three brands make their way into the article; Apple, Chipotle and J. Crew. The author’s point in cherry picking these three brands specifically is obvious: Because they all are consumer oriented companies that pretty much HAS TO put customer in focus of satisfaction. Brand loyalty in enterprise is pretty much a non-existent utopia.
Exhibit A, the great performing Apple has failed miserably to maintain the same level of success in enterprise market. Only recently did they think of changing their approach and allying with their long-coming enemy IBM to shake things up.

The seasonality perspective

Again, consequently, all three of the brands mentioned are part of industries where purchase cycle is frequent, the consumer market evolved into a point where people need new clothes and phones annually, not to mention fast food.
In a case where only less than 20% of a company’s customers repurchase their products in any given time, it would much rather make sense to shift company’s efforts towards customer acquisition, not customer retention. This point does not negate the absolute necessity in marketing that the company still has to provide the absolute level of customer experience.

Loyalty, the fickle beast to measure

The final point the article fails to explain goes beyond the marketing/loyalty duel, but rather ignores a fundamental aspect of loyalty. Loyalty is certainly beneficial or even essential for many companies, but the lack of proper framework to evaluate a company’s loyalty is a PITA.

There are definitely theories out there that throw an attempt to digitise a customer’s loyalty into numbers. However, these metrics still do not perform as accurate as one would hope, hence bringing the intense pressure of success on the poor, poor CMOs.