Online reviews win the day when “sort by customer rating” is the metric that fuels sales. When consumers have infinite options available, and are primed to leave either snarky or evangelical reviews at the drop of a hat, brand loyalty is both important and elusive.

How can your brand stand out from the crowd, and how do you lift your voice above the white noise? It may be more difficult to get and keep customer attention, especially with those finicky Millennials, 78% of whom say brands have to work harder to earn their loyalty (#sorrynotsorry). Even so, there are some hacks that can keep your base coming back again and again. 

Here, we look at three companies that have nailed the brand loyalty game, and the lessons we can learn from them:

Hitting Consumer Psychology at its Core

Apple

© Apple, Inc. https://www.apple.com/

The high royalty of brand loyalty, Apple is almost as famous for its fanbase as it is for its products. To truly understand how Apple developed its enthusiastic following, you’ve got to go back to the beginning. Let’s set our time machine back to the early 1980s… beep bop beep…

In 1984 (oh so apropos), Apple introduced the Macintosh in the iconic Super Bowl ad “1984.” That ad served two purposes. One, it was basic branding, telling you who Apple was and what they were about: a computer company that wanted to disrupt the status quo. Two, and more important to the marketing long game, it sought to elicit an emotional response from people who thought of themselves as anti-establishment, thinkers, and dreamers. 

The company took that sentiment and hit a grand slam with it in 1997, with the “Think Different” campaign. The print ads featured black and white photos of creative luminaries like John Lennon, Pablo Picasso, and Albert Einstein with the text “Think Different” and the rainbow Apple logo. 

This wildly successful campaign led to Apple reclaiming itself as the preeminent electronics company for those who embrace the counter-culture. It said, “This is the computer for people who like being weird. This is not the computer for people who stopped liking The Beatles after their hair got too long.”

Apple convinced people that only squares use PCs, and it worked. Their customers identified with the brand, feeling that they had shared ideals and values. They weren’t just buying a computer, they were voting with their dollar. 

That year, Apple celebrated its second profitable quarter after two years of losses, and their market share rose to 4.1 percent.

Appleheads (as fans of the brand are never called except right here) love spreading the good news. Every Apple computer comes with a sticker of their logo. They know that Appleheads are going to put that on their skateboard or car as a way of saying “I’m with Different.” That’s how powerful their brand identity is, and Apple’s customer loyalty is what makes their brand work.

The Takeaway: When people feel like they know what your company believes in, there’s an emotional reaction, and emotions drive sales and loyalty like nothing else. Find the emotional core of your business and celebrate whatever that message is, loud and proud. Oh, and people love stickers.

Sales Take Flight When Your Brand Identity is Just Right

Southwest

© Southwest Airlines Co. https://www.southwest.com/

Usually when people talk about airlines, it’s either in the context of stand-up comedy (what’s the DEAL with airplane peanuts?), or it’s coming from a disgruntled, sleep deprived traveler that has really just had it with [enter airline here]. But not Southwest Airlines. No, the buzz around Southwest is happy, content, playful buzz emanating not only from the airlines itself, but the many satisfied customers.

It may seem a little weird for an airline with so few amenities to have a cult following. There are no TVs on Southwest, no meals, and no First Class (the latter of which is either a horrific, unimaginable atrocity, or a true blessing from the angels of equality, depending on who you ask). So why do people pledge such hearty allegiance to Southwest Airlines?

Southwest is based in Texas, and if there’s one state that has nailed their branding, it’s Texas. The land of big hair, big houses, and hard opinions is also stereotyped (rightly or wrongly) as having a warm, welcoming people who value independence. By associating itself with the Lone Star State, the airline implies that they, too, are friendly rebel cowboys and if you like friendly rebel cowboys you should ride Southwest.

They also seem very committed to providing exceptional customer service. If your bag is damaged by the airline, they will let you pick out a brand new suitcase right there. At the terminal. For free. They don’t charge you for your first two checked bags, and you can change your flight anytime for the low, low price of free. 

Those are just the official policies, the internet is rife with stories of amazing favors Southwest employees have done for customers. Southwest spokesperson Brad Hawkins has said, “We hire rock stars, ask them to be themselves, and then support them in everything they do to take care of our customers.” Mic drop.

Southwest turns down the pretension and turns up the good vibes. And for people who want an escape from screen culture, want freedom to change their flights when they feel like it, think bag fees are ridiculous, and are of the opinion that First Class is well, classist, Southwest is a welcome reprieve. 

That’s why they keep coming back and are not shy to sing its praises to anyone who will listen.

The Takeaway: Give your employees enough autonomy that they are happy in their jobs and they will deliver exceptional customer service, generating brand loyalty. Create an environment of positivity. Focus on what makes you different from your competitors and use it to your advantage. 

Dunk Your Sales Goals By Adapting

© 2019 DD IP Holder LLC. https://www.dunkindonuts.com/

How does a coffee company win the same award for brand loyalty 13 years in a row whilst living in a world dominated by the ubiquitous Starbucks? Ask Dunkin’ Donuts. The company has a devoted base among their 12,000 locations, and their DD Perks Rewards program has over 5 million unique members. Dunkin’ has successfully managed to stay relevant in the insanely competitive coffee space with a few strategic methods.

Dunkin’ is based out of the East Coast, so it makes sense that they partnered with the Philadelphia 76ers as the basketball team’s official coffee of choice. On game days, DD Perks members can score a $1 medium coffee. Partnering with a local sports team means there is a built in fanbase; by drinking Dunkin’, the basketball fans are supporting their team. That’s a marketing slam dunk.

On the digital front, in addition to constantly perfecting the DD Perks app, Dunkin’ has been crushing it on social media. While their number of interactions in less than Starbucks, they have an advantage with the quality of engagements

What does this mean in terms of sales? Last year, sales grew 4.6 percent among a slew of important changes to the company (including phasing out foam cups and offering on-the-go ordering through Amazon Alexa). 

The Takeaway: Partner with key influencers, pay attention to changing technologies, and as always, know your demographic.

Brand Loyalty Boosts Sales by Creating Lifelong Fans

Those are three brands that are totally crushing brand loyalty. As a result of their attention to their consistent fanbases, their sales success is no secret. These brands are literally thriving. 

Want help with your own sales and brand loyalty? Storyblaster has you covered. Our powerful, yet affordable, sales template will give you everything you need to be the next It Brand. All you have to think about is what you’re gonna do when you’re officially a very big deal.