Brand Loyalty and the Art of Motorcycles

Brand promise fulfills emotional needs

Big Bend Bucket List Ride

Visceral experiences create emotional connections to brands.

It was the bucket list ride. 2,200 miles in all, beginning with a ride to Big Bend National Park and culminating with the North Texas Norton Owners Association rally in the Texas hill country. That much seat and think time allows for serious contemplation such as brand loyalty -– how to create it and how to keep it.

User experience drives brand loyalty

Four motorcycle brands were represented on the trip — Yamaha, Honda, Triumph, and Harley Davidson. Each of us being expert riders, we had accessorized our machines to complement our riding preferences and styles. Brand loyalty was evident by the fact that many of the machines were upgrades from previous models, leading to the conclusion that riders select their machines based on previous user experience. When reliability is of the utmost importance, riders select the brand that has never failed to deliver the intended results.

Reliance on performance creates emotion connection with the brand

Big Bend National Park encompasses 801,163 acres, making it the 15th largest national park in the United States. With that much distance to cover, dependability of the machine takes on new meaning. Feature and function is highly relative in brand loyalty, and performance criteria is measured by miles per gallon, rider comfort over long distances, handling characteristics in high wind situations, cargo capacity, and overall emotional connection with the motorcycle at the end of the day.

Brand promise fulfills emotional needs

Motorcycles occupy a special place in the category of fulfilling emotional needs. Novice riders like to think of it as rebellion and non-conformity. Veteran riders are fulfilled by the promise of a new vista at every turn. Regardless of the brand or riding experience, motorcycles put you in the picture and expose all of your five senses to the visceral experiences that come from the riding environment. Individuals that want to experience life, not just view it from behind a windshield, are calculated risk takers attracted to this form of travel.

Brand loyalty makes us advocates

Our group of riders hailed for Europe, Australia, and North America. Our affection and excitement for a particular brand, vintage or new, comes from our user experience with the brand. This experience spans decades and encompasses milestones in a riding resume. Our loyalty is demonstrated by repeat purchases, social events, and interest in all things with two wheels, a seat, and a motor. No matter the industry, marketers that study this curious group can learn valuable lessons from those drawn to the open road and the anticipation of exploring new vistas that are just around the next corner.

Click here for more trip pictures

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Differentiating your brand from the competition

Investing in your brand perception

Creating the foundation for brand differentiation

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Differentiating your brand from the competition

The user’s value system is found in their DNA of experiences.

The user’s value system is found in their DNA of experiences.

Brand differentiation comes from the user’s perception

There is not a huge amount of difference between leading brands. Depending on the category, almost all brands offer the same feature, function, and benefit to the user.

What makes a differentiated brand?

First, let’s explore the idea of a brand.

 Brand: noun

1 a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name: a new brand of detergent.

• a brand name: the company will market computer software under its own brand.

• a particular identity or image regarded as an asset: you can still invent your own career, be your own brand | the Michael Jordan brand certainly hasn’t hurt them.

• a particular type or kind of something: his incisive brand of intelligence.

The emphasis is to stand apart and stand for something.

A brand also allows companies to manufacture different models under the same brand name.

For example, Gulfstream Aerospace manufactures the following aircraft: Gulfstream G150, Gulfstream G280, Gulfstream G450, etc.

The intent is for the brand to offer more features and better performance as you move up the price chain.

Which leads us to brand differentiation

The simplest explanation is one of branding cattle. Each cattle ranch burned a unique mark into the hide of the cow or steer it owned. This was done to separate specific animals from the herd in the early days of open range grazing. This basic concept is the foundation for trademarks, which leads to brand differentiation.

Brand differentiation in the digital age

Branding strategy has expanded to include digital platforms and social media networks. The primus of the expansion was for brands to interact with individual users who in turn would become brand advocates, spreading the gospel about how wonderful the product performed and why all their digital friends should try it.

And for a while, this was the thinking behind investing in social media networks and spreading tweets and likes.

The reality

Brand differentiation comes from the user. It is the user’s value system that determines brand preference.

The user’s value system is found in their DNA of experiences. Their value system can change based on aspirational goals, financial conditions, or maturing of values that come with age.

Marketers that strive for brand differentiation must appeal to the user’s emotional needs and fulfill these needs by brand association that serves a higher calling than feature, function, and benefit.

This is not an easy task. It is the job of marketing to uncover what is unique to the brand and communicate in such a way as to create an emotional connection with the user.

It can’t be automated, digitized, or replicated. It has to be unique, authentic, and reach the user on a personal level that melds into a lasting connection. It must be “lived” by those in care of the brand and treated as an ember that will be extinguished if left unattended.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Investing in your brand perception

Connecting decision makers with your brand

Why bother with branding?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Image credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

Social media: Media channel or purchasing influence?

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The ad revenue model is blurring the lines between social media and advertising

In the early days of social media it was hailed as the replacement for advertising. The interruption model of advertising was so twentieth century and the permission model of social media was the darling of the new millennium.

Brands that were early adopters were especially excited because they viewed social media as a non-commercial marketing channel. Instead of renting space in magazines or commercial time on broadcast networks, social media offered the hope of connecting with purchasers on a one-to-one basis for less cost. Brands flocked to Facebook populating their pages with helpful hints, events and special deals for those who “Like” their brand.

As social media platforms matured, it became apparent that in order to sustain their business they needed a monetization model to pay the bills.  Google figured this out early. Ad Words (the purchase of key word search terms) made Google extremely profitable and allowed the search engine to continue to provide a free service.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn had lots of users but struggled with developing a monetization model. The one thing they did have were copious amounts of data about their users. Access to this data was attractive to the advertising community. It held the promise of being able to target advertising to an individual user based on their profile, interest and browsing habits.

Social media channel?

As the social media platforms grew the sheer number of users dictated that brands develop a social media strategy instead of just maintaining a presence.

Social media platforms responded by offering sponsored advertising.  Sponsored advertising solved several problems:

  • Now the social media platforms had a monetization model leveraging their vast proprietary database.
  • Brands could better target their advertising based on the users profile.
  • Digital analytics provided a rear looking ROI measurement.

So what began as a non-commercial peer-to-peer network is transforming into a branded media channel.

Using social media to influence purchasing

The premise of social media is word-of-mouth advertising. Brands understand that a negative comment or a positive review can affect brand perception ultimately influencing the purchasing decision. Many brands have adopted social media as an inbound marketing channel.

For example:

  • Airlines producing their pre-departure safety videos to become branded forms of communication.
  • Firms like GE have dedicated social media pages about locomotive and jet engine engineering and production.
  • Dell computer uses social media to answer customer questions and solve technical problems.

All of these strategies have one thing in a common – to connect, engage and influence the purchasing decision.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Using social media to gain customer insight

Finding the sweet spot for social marketing

Social marketing begins with the correct strategy

 Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Does your brand embrace change?

People-to-people marketing changes the approach to customer relationships.

People-to-people marketing changes the approach to customer relationships.

When working with companies serving the aviation industry that are transitioning to people-to-people marketing, I stress that marketing content should be centered around two things:  1) solving customer problems, and 2) the journey through the purchasing process – because these are the two main elements of creating brand preference. Yet many times after this suggestion is made there is resistance to change and a tendency to circle back and do things the way they are most comfortable with. This usually takes the form of reskinning their current website with the latest product iteration.

The tragedy of this is the missed opportunity to connect with customers, improve their brand experience, and influence future purchasing decisions.

Understanding the value that you give

One aspect of people-to-people marketing is knowing what the customer considers valuable. The path to this enlightened place begins by looking at the areas where the customer interacts with your brand.

  • Interest
  • Purchase
  • Customer Service
  • Payment

Connecting and engaging with the customer as they travel through the four phases gives insight and actionable items to the departments responsible for each of the above areas.

This is a holistic approach that requires each department to share both good and bad experiences. The customer journey is a series of small steps. Good experiences increase brand loyalty, and bad experiences send customers to your competitor.

Developing content that is focused on the customer’s needs, and mechanisms within the marketing channels that invite customer response, shows willingness on the brands part to be open and receptive to change with the goals of providing a better brand experience.

Putting the customer in the middle

Having insight into the customer’s purchasing experience allows you to see your brand through your customer’s eyes. To some the purchase can be influenced by design and functionality of the website.  To others is may be speed of delivery, ease of ordering, or return policy. Taking a hard look at the customer purchasing journey will help you identify performance indicators that cross all departments leading to a more profitable and satisfying customer relationship.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

5 reasons why aviation manufacturers need to embrace people-to-people marketing

 Why aviation brands need emotional engagement

 How to build a connected brand

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Aviation Marketing: Investing in your brand perception

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As your brand in perceived so is your company.

In the aviation industry, brands fall into three categories – innovators, challengers and laggards. Innovative brands take calculated risk; they think big, invest smartly and understand the power of marketing. Challenger brands are smart and agile they rely on new technology and materials to disrupt traditional business models. Laggards, well are laggards. Laggard brands practice “Random Acts of Marketing” a term my colleague Paula Willliams uses to describe marketing tactics without strategy.

Where does your brand stand in the food chain?

At a recent tradeshow I attended all three types of brands were present. The aviation industry for all of its engineering innovation is really a marketing challenged bunch.

This conclusion is drawn from conversation with executive management. When questioned about their biggest marketing challenge the responses went something like this:

“We don’t have any, everybody know us and we know them”

“Were challenged by the state of the industry not by our marketing efforts”

“All of our business comes from the MRO’s we can’t make any headway with the OEM’s.

“There is no definition of quality because all it all has to meet specification”

Statements like this lead me to the conclusion that a lot companies serving the aviation industry treat branding as an after thought. Most will agree that establishing a brand is important. However, evidence points to a lack of understanding of how to keep the brand vibrant and relative in the age of digital inbound marketing strategy and tactics.  Relying on what they are comfortable with the companies plug along doing the same thing and getting the same results while all the time becoming more frustrated with their place in the food chain.

Changing your brand perception

To move up the food chain and command a higher price for products and services rendered requires knowing what the customer considers important. Most aviation components and systems have to meet an engineering specification. Therefore the value-add becomes what does your brand provide that the competition doesn’t?

Identifying the differentiating factors and incorporating them into the brand story defines the brand promise. The brand promise is what helps create the emotional connection to the brand. Customers that select the brand have a sense of familiarity, providing them with peace-of-mind. The emotional connection also extends the reach of the brand. Knowing what the customer’s expectations are provides content for brand engagement through social marketing and owned media channels.

Additional article on this topic you may find of interest.

The difference between positioning and the brand promise

Finding your voice

Defining your brand’s personality

Why aviation marketers struggle with digital marketing integration

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Why ROI measurement for inbound marketing fails

ROI measurement fails to consider the shelf life of inbound marketing content

ROI measurement fails to consider the shelf life of inbound marketing content

Simple ROI measurement for inbound marketing fail to consider the shelf life of content

Here we are in the age of “Big Data” where everything can be tracked and scrutinized. For aviation marketers is means one more hurtle to jump when trying to justify investment of marketing funds for inbound marketing programs.

Traditional RIO measurement seems very simple – take the gain of the investment, subtract the cost of the investment, and divide the total by the cost of the investment.

ROI = (Gains-Cost)/Cost

This simple calculation comes up short in several areas:

  • How can you determine the value of a follower?
  • What’s the value of a blog response?
  • Is the content presented in such a way that it has an evergreen shelf life?

The value of a follower

What is a follower of your inbound marketing worth? Monetizing the value of a follower is subjective because we get into grey areas of determining worth. Does the content present the social face of the corporation? If so what is the value of good will towards the corporation? Does the follower reference the content in their social media network? If so, how do you calculate the value of reach from linked content?

Content shelf life

I like to think of inbound marketing content- blogs, white papers, e-books, videos and infographics as a conduit that provides a way to gain insight into the brand.  Produced correctly the content can influence purchasing behavior and have a very long shelf life.  This also throws a wrench in the traditional ROI measurement because the cost of producing the content needs to be measured over the time that the content remains relevant. For example, a video is produced about a new avionics component. The marketing expense to produce the video was $10,000. The video is placed on the corporate website and syndicated on various video sharing sites.  First year sales for the new component were $100,000 with gross profit of $40,000.

Traditional ROI measurement would look like this.

ROI = ($40,000 – $10,000)/$10,000 = 300% ROI

Now consider year two of the video investment with component gross profit of $30,000 and a marketing expense of $1,500 for website maintenance and syndication cost.

ROI =($30,000 – $1,500)/$1,500 = 1900% ROI

Inbound marketing measurement – ROI or VOI (Value of Investment)

As the examples above show ROI measurement can be can be modified to suit the situation -it all depends on what you include as returns and costs. Granted this a very simplistic view of ROI and there are more robust financial models available. That said, I’d recommend that a more accurate measurement: VOI = (Value-Cost)/Time

Another way to look at value of investment would be not to invest at all

This is another approach to determine the value of content. The internet is a crowed place with brands fighting for the attention of an over caffeinated, 140-character challenged audience. Their purchasing decision is neither entirely rational nor based on the lowest price. It can be influenced by website functionality, peer reviews, blogs, leadership papers and content that helps them select the product that is best suited to their need. If the brand is not active in this environment then it virtually invites the competition to gain the share-of-voice and increased exposure.

Additional Articles on this topic you may find of interest.

Big data and creativity

Big brother and marketing ROI

Why content development will drive the future of aviation marketing

Measuring Digital Display Advertising ROI

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Aviation Marketing: Engaging employees in social media marketing

People-to-people marketing uses social media to build relationships.

People-to-people marketing uses social media to build relationships.

Social media provides insight into the customer’s brand experience

The website technorati.com has lunched a podcast series, “Social Brands & Influencers”. Technorati interviews top thought leaders and decision makers in the social media and marketing world. Liz Brown Bullock formally of Dell Computer and now CEO of the start up SASI provided her perspective on getting employees involved in social media marketing. Below is my interpretation for aviation marketers.

Imagine having an army of subject matter experts trained in social media. Now imagine unleashing your army in the marketplace, engaging with customers and building an emotional connection with your brand. Social media marketing is about listening to customer conversations, identifying what is really important, and reporting back to product development, engineering or marketing on what the customer really cares about. Content in context from your customers, providing deep insights that you would never get from a conversation in a focus group.

People-to-people marketing uses social media to build relationships

Everyday in your company there are hundreds of conversations taking place with customers that influence your brand perception. These conversations can originate from many groups within the company from sales, to marketing, to technical support. Knowing how to turn these conversations into relationships requires training employees in social media skills — listening, engaging, and relationship building.

The business case for social media selling

Taking social media to the next level within your company requires support from executive management. Social media is not the responsibility of any one group, but is most effective when all groups in your company recognize that all can contribute to representing your brand online.

Customers want to engage with subject matter experts. Having your content experts engage with a customer accomplishes several things:

  1. It can build a deeper relationship with the customer by providing the best information possible.
  2. It creates a two-way dialogue that builds brand loyalty through social selling.
  3. Deeper relationships result in brand loyalty providing a path for monetization.

Organize a library of content for customer consumption

Producing quality content is important, and distributing that content is equally important. Developing a content calendar for quick reference can speed up information retrieval, and when needed connect the customer with the content expert to answer their question.

A second approach is to develop an online library of curated content. Curated content can provide the validation of an engineering approach, business strategy or marketing trends from third party experts and influencers.

Additional articles on this topic you may find of interest.

Using social media to gain customer insight

Finding the sweet spot for social marketing

5 reasons why aviation manufacturers need to embrace people-to-people marketing

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

To follow Liz Brown Bullock on twitter click here. To hear the complete podcast click here.

photo credit: Dell’s Official Flickr Page via photopin cc.