Marketers Should Focus on Relevance and Stop Thinking About Loyalty.

“Brand relevance or customer loyalty?” you ask. Good question. Loyalty marketing as it has been called is being eclipsed by the new era of Movement Marketing. The old way was based on the idea that people will keep buying the same stuff from a company with incentives. Yet, according to recent consumer research from Kantar Retail, 71% of consumers now claim that loyalty incentive-programs don’t make them loyal at all – a marketing agency hired by a brand needs to be more innovative than that.

Does your customer retention strategy depend on “buying” loyalty with rewards or discounts? Does loyalty cost you a lot? Does it tell people they get something for nothing.

Rather, with the rise of digital interception strategies, people are increasingly buying why a brand is relevant to their lives and their unique needs at the moment they Google you.

Consumer research from Accenture shows that in the U.S. market alone, companies are losing $1 trillion in annual revenues to their competitors because they are not consistently relevant enough. Loyalty remains important, but this finding indicates that the future of marketing — and, in the big picture, many businesses — depends on serving a customer’s most relevant needs in the moment.

So how do you build a business based on being relevant to the consumer?

It starts with a different definition of relevance according to a recent article in HBR. Abraham Maslow’s oft-quoted “hierarchy of needs” — first published in 1943 — provides a good start. Maslow set out our psychological needs and motivations. His framework also offers a model for rethinking the traditional four P’s of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion. Most companies today are guided by the latter but ought to be focused on the needs.

Brands basing their marketing on the four P’s target a static customer archetype (e.g., a high-minded customer for branded hummus or a value-conscious customer for a store brand). The reality is that there is no such customer archetype in reality, according to the HBR article.  Everyone’s needs change and vary depending on time and context. But most of all they are shopping with their phones in hand and googling their needs along the way. Simply creating awareness for your brand is a start, but how relevant is it? And how relevant is it through the customer journey?

Flywheel, my passion point, provides a good example of what this looks like in practice. I am part of a community for indoor spinners and fitness freaks. Flywheel’s purpose aligns with my values of health and a positive environment. But more than a purpose which is very theoretical, Flywheel has a built-in movement happening which I am gladly a part of. Not only that but I am rallying my friends to be part of this as well. This experience is relevant to me, creates a sense of pride and, to be honest, the offering is price insensitive to those who show up early Saturday morning. Flywheel is not a fitness brand, it’s a movement cult. Their words: “We’re challenging. We’re intensely fun. We’re not like anyone else. Our boundary-breaking, performance-focused stadium cycling and precision training have an 8-year track record of results. Get ready to build your most limitless body—in and out of the studio.”

The instructor, in this case Eve who happened to do a Podcast with me recently, helps me and my friends achieve our emotional and physical objectives and inspires each of us to achieve things we never thought possible.  The movement, the experience, the brand content all play role in helping me feel good about myself every time the brand and I meet, which tends to be very early in the morning. Nevertheless, I am thrilled to be there. Compare that to your classic gym experience.

Consider Tribe, the hummus brand owned by food giant Nestle, and Athenos owned by Kraft. Consumers typically associate big food companies with mass-production methods and plastic packaging. Companies like these are more typically accustomed to using traditional 4 P’s approaches such as pricing and promotions to attract and retain customers. But a few years back, Tribe and Athenos found itself contending with an category disruptor brand, Sabra, that decided to forego the 8% of the foodie consumers in the United States and instead devised a brand movement strategy working with our advertising agency in NYC, StrawberryFrog, that emphasized food intervention.

Sabra pivoted toward a focus on customer relevance to 92% of Americans. Sabra found that consumers often take pride in brands that are set on changing the world vs products with a connection to an authentic national tradition — whether Greek home made hummus or Israeli round table eating culture.  Recognizing that hummus was much more appealing as a verb rather than a noun, Sabra turned this insight into a market advantage that propelled them to over 60 market share, making it one of the most successful food brands in the United States.

The company then set out to broaden its portfolio with offerings such as Salsa and other dips and educate consumers on different ways to eat hummus, which brought in new consumers and grew the brand even further.

These targeted initiatives translated into increased sales. Sabra is a noteworthy example of a company purposefully pivoting to an approach that extends beyond its norms of product marketing to be relevant to massive group of customers.

Another movement is for the CVS Pharmacy, the retail pharmacy of CVS Health. CVS Pharmacy  moved beyond a purely transactional retail model where customers fill prescriptions; instead, the company is focusing on helping their customers on their path to overall better health. In this way, customers share the company’s movement, the extension of its purpose. It helps satisfy their desires to feel cared for, and helps build upon the trusted relationship most customers have with their pharmacist.

Extending far outside the traditional retail paradigm, CVS is embracing technologies including predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to send their customers personalized reminders to refill or take their medications, making the entire brand experience better and make the CVS brand more relevant by taking a stand for protecting one’s health and well-being.

To succeed in this era of relevance, marketers and companies must be continuously willing to abandon the old. In the case of Jim Beam, StrawberryFrog devised the movement ‘Make History’ which helped the brand become relevant to an entirely new generation of consumers. The brand took a stand against the patriarchy and for equality, and named Mila Kunis as the face of this movement. Incidentally, the Jim Beam CMO was named CMO of Uber this week.

As customer journeys and expectations shift, companies should strive to enhance their  ability to engage with customers in the most relevant ways. Often, the greatest roadblock is a company’s lack of willingness to transform their mindsets. To overcome that barrier, smart companies have shifted from a product-focused mindset to brand-fueled movement marketing.

SunTrust Bank offers a good example. Instead of thinking of itself merely as a bank, SunTrust purposefully developed the brand fueled movement ‘onUp‘ together with StrawberryFrog. ‘onUp’ is aligned with what is on people’s minds –– financial stress. At last count, 3.7 Million participants have rallied around the stand against financial stress and for financial confidence. SunTrust has increased and broadened the relevance factor and in the process attracted new customers, including a new generation of customers. The site functions as an organic SEO publishing platform which increases the brand’s domain authority to the new truth seeking consumer who more often than not Googles what they’re going to buy before they buy.

advertising agency in nyc

Today’s mobile-enabled consumers are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating their purchasing decisions. Traditional brands are relying on advertising provided by an old-school marketing agency and loyalty programs at a time when movement brands are becoming more relevant and where disruptive brands are intercepting consumers in the customer journey. Today, consumers are choosing the brands most relevant to them. Not only that, they’re pay a premium –– just like me and my Flywheel movement which provides me and my friends with a profound degree of relevance beyond the vigorous fitness.  Doesn’t this sound like the recipe for driving loyalty more than ever?

Advertising in the Age of Movements

We’re living in a time of movements — you just have to pick up a newspaper to know that. Depending on what day it is, you’re apt to find front-page stories of women taking to the streets in Washington, the Red Shirt teachers movement, TimesUp movement, #metoo, Students against assault weapons, and the list goes on. This is the golden era of the activist mindset, and where a top advertising agency like StrawberryFrog can come in.

top advertising agency

As the political season heats up, we are likely to see even more populist movements coming to the street corner of social media page near you.

For those of us in business, it may seem as if all of this is transpiring in a separate realm, well outside the corporate bubble. Unless the protesters are specifically targeting your business, it’s natural to think, “This new era of protest makes for lively news, but has nothing to do with my company or brand.”

But the new social unrest is everybody’s business, including yours and mine.

As a highly innovative top advertising agency, we at StrawberryFrog believe that the most significant marketing programmes often come through social movements, and that despite the differences between private business and society, company leaders, CEOs and CMOs can learn from how these initiators engage and mobilise the masses to institutionalise new societal norms.

Advertising and brand building is not going away anytime soon. But how companies market their brands has pivoted from traditional brand building with an emphasis on paid TV advertising (and building purpose-based brands) to a more effective and action-oriented strategy: Brand-fueled Movement Marketing instigated by only the best advertising agency.

For over twenty years we have proven what every marketer dreams of doing: catching lightning in a bottle. The moment when a brand—the product and the values it represents—catches fire and becomes more than just a product. It ignites a MASS movement, centered around passionate people who form an engaged community, driven by ideals and a purpose, something deeply personal and relevant to their lives.

We as a top advertising agency have applied the principles of societal movements to help company leaders inspire trust, action, creativity inside their companies among employees. This transforms culture inside Fortune 500 corporations more effectively than any mandate from the top could achieve. One leader who understood this well is Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra, one of India’s most powerful companies. He sparked and fueled the RISE movement, engineered by StrawberryFrog, to transform the entire global corporation, changing and focusing its culture, its operating system, and its go-to market approach.

Outside the doors of companies, brand-fueled Movement Marketing has generated scientific breakthroughs and business growth by driving passions as well as product sales.

One iconic company that understood this was Heineken, headquartered in The Netherlands. When the leadership decided to become the main sponsor of the Champion’s League, StrawberryFrog developed a brand-fueled Marketing Movement “Welcome to Champion’s Planet” where hard core football fans and even those loosely connected with the sport were invited to join “Championism.”

Yet another business case is Jim Beam, which was trailing Jack Daniels. A Cultural Movement changed that. We used our skills as a creative branding agency to ignite a movement against the patriarchy and and took a culturally relevant stand for equality, bringing the actress Mila Kunis front and center to symbolize a deep cultural shift in a conservative sector. The business results were extraordinary.

Why are movements hot now? Why does taking a stand in 2018 more often than not lead to growth? Why is this happening now? Why are brands moving away from traditional advertising agencies which some people deem obsolete, and turning towards Cultural Movements as a smarter, better approach to management and brand building?

Something significant has changed in our global culture over the past few of years. Blame it on global economic pressures, general restlessness, or the new hyper-connectivity that enables people to instantly organise around causes and hot topics.

It’s probably some combination of all of these factors, but the net result is that business leaders are now dealing with a populace that is more socially engaged, more aware of what’s going on in the world, and hungrier to get involved and be heard on various issues.

If you sell at these people they will ignore you. If you ignite a movement that they can belong to in the way that we do as the best advertising agency for brand-fueled movement marketing, they will be ignited and participate, and through that relationship they will be more inclined to buy.

We know about the mini-uprisings in recent months against brands like Liberty Mutual and Allstate and others ignited by Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg for their support of a Fox TV show. And we might say, “Well, they made bad decisions.”

But in part, their mistake was not realising that the world had changed around them. In this new world, their “customers” could easily become activists — either for or against them.

So how does a smart business respond in a time of heightened passions and greater activism? Rather than becoming more cautious in hopes of avoiding any kind of backlash, I believe brands must connect with that passion and activism somehow. If you fail to respond to this shift in the culture, you run the risk of being out of step with your customers.

Your company could end up looking like a “status quo” brand in a revolutionary world.

Better to join in the march. If uprisings and movements are happening all around, then your business needs to somehow become involved in movements — or better yet, start one of your own.

We as a top advertising agency have launched movements that tried to bring about change in schools and more responsible consumption. And as I worked on my book about movement marketing, I encountered everything from a pet food company that launched an animal welfare initiative to a shoemaker that began a worldwide movement to put shoes on poor kids’ feet.

In each case, a company rallied people around an idea that mattered, an idea on the rise in culture, enabling customers to become activists. In the process, the company demonstrated that it was engaged in people’s lives and cared about something more than just profits.

This isn’t just a new spin on old CSR programmes. It’s not about giving to a laundry list of charities. To crystallise and spark a brand movement, you must do more than make donations.

The company must become an activist itself on behalf of something it believes in — something that also matters deeply to its customers. Movements start on the inside.

For more information and cases visit StrawberryFrog.