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Phrases such as points program, loyalty rewards, sentimental loyalty, frequent buyer, and loyal customer are often used in similar contexts. The central idea is that a company rewards consumers for making repeated purchases. They will be able to secure consistent business from them over time. While this may be true, real loyalty is seldom involved here.

Some marketers describe incentive programs as extending a ‘thank you’ gesture to keep customers coming back. Experts in business psychology liken the practice to bribery. They point out that repeated purchasing is not the same as true loyalty. Indeed, loyalty does not depend on discounts or giveaways. Bribes can spoil real loyalty. This is what is known as sentimental loyalty.

Types of Loyalty

Product, institutional, and personal loyalty are the three types of loyalty we encounter most frequently.

1- Product Loyalty

We all know someone who has sentimental loyalty to products. For instance, we have a friend whose family has purchased a particular kind of vehicle for generations. Even though the body shapes of such vehicles have evolved, they have found them to be reliable products and have been loyal customers for decades. When Coca-Cola modified its recipe and launched “New Coke” in 1985, it caused a market uproar. Their loyal customers forced the company to reintroduce the original formula under the name “Coca-Cola Classic” (as we know it today). These are drifts away from sentimental loyalty.

People develop rare sentimental loyalty to products they have been using for several years. It may be because the products are highly effective and efficient in meeting their challenges. They are attached to such products so much that even a slight increase in their prices may not be a reason enough for them to shun and abandon the product.

However, suppose other factors like adjustment in features, drastic price changes, or availability of such products creep in. In that case, sentimental loyalty to the product may be broken. The users seek other alternatives or substitutes for the products. A product may not necessarily be the best to command dogmatic sentimental loyalty from customers.

What is required is consistency and the ability to attract the right customers with a great marketing strategy. Any slight mistake from the manufacturers of a product might break customers’ loyalty and make them shift to other available and better products. Microsoft computers are not the only good computers in the PC market, but they have managed to grab and win over the majority of the customers due to strategic marketing plans and top-notch customer satisfaction.      

2- Loyalty To Institutions

SENTIMENTAL LOYALTY

Institutional allegiance can be found in political parties, military arms (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy), countries and cultures, foundations, sports teams, religious groups, and companies. People here wholeheartedly believe in the organization they belong to and proudly show their devotion with lapel pins, bumper stickers, tattoos, blogs, and whatever else they may think of. The majority of people are aware that such institutions are not without flaws.

Despite these challenges, they stand by it in good and bad because they know it is a great and honorable institution. Only if the institution significantly changes course and no longer aligns with their personal interests and values will they deviate from it. People have switched from one political party to another due to differences in policies and desires.

Frequently, loyalty to an agency or an office within it takes precedence over loyalty to the individual who holds the office. Only in the military and government do we witness countless examples of this. Soldiers will follow particular leaders into war because they believe in them. Still, they will also do their job out of a greater feeling of loyalty to the institution.

Sentimental loyalty to government corporations is getting faded because the workers feel such institutions are not catering enough to their welfare and wellbeing. This is a frequent practice among the younger workers, who are more concerned about being rewarded at the end of every month. Their loyalty to the work is ever in doubt. They are acting based on the stories their old colleagues have told them. Also, the old culture of passion for one’s work is fast becoming a thing of the past in our workplaces. These government corporations need to turn a new leaf to command sentimental loyalty from their workers.    

3- Personal Loyalty

Personal Loyalty

Perhaps more frequent than the other two is loyalty to a certain individual. Humans are sociable animals who identify with other people’s interests (the “birds of a feather” phenomenon). With occasional exceptions, we want to trust our leaders when it comes to superior/subordinate relationships. We want them to be concerned about charting the best course of action to focus on our work effort. People are more likely to obey a loyal boss than someone they don’t trust, even under the most terrible of circumstances.

But, understand this, loyalty at this level is a two-way street; not only does a manager require the loyalty of his workers, but the workers also require the manager’s loyalty. This necessitates strong social and communication abilities (people skills). The manager must show that he knows what he’s doing, is on the right track, and is looking out for his subordinates’ best interests.

On the other hand, workers must demonstrate to the manager that they are willing to put in the effort required to complete a project. To put it another way, both parties are reliant on one another, which brings us back to the topic of trust. If confidence is ever lost, peace is disturbed, and the boss and staff tend to work against each other, which is obviously ineffective and unhealthy in the workplace.

Customer satisfaction is a matter of managing business relationships. There is a higher path to real loyalty than point systems and pay-your-bill-to-enter lotteries. It is more lucrative and necessitates a new perspective on business relationships.

Many retailers use club membership cards with giveaways and point programs as buyer incentives. As intended, these generally do secure repeated business and keep customers from leaving for competitors. However, the advantages of this kind of sentimental loyalty come at a significant expense. A close examination shows that the key benefit of card-based loyalty schemes is consumer data from monitoring customer transactions. A good example is a customer who uses their credit card to purchase an online grocery store; online stores now have a way of automatically recording such customer’s data.  

This contributes to consumer statistics involving the information that the customer provided in applying for the card. Thus, the giveaways and discounts associated with shopper’s club cards are a cost that grocery chains sustain to gain consumer information for targeted marketing campaigns and repeated customers.

Though retailers and their suppliers naturally seek more and better consumer statistics to sell more products to more customers and keep them coming back, sentimental loyalty is what ensues from such arrangement. Indeed, loyalty and rewards do not belong together in the context of reasons why customers buy.

The dominant view equates sentimental loyalty with repeated purchasing: “If they continue buying from you, that means they’re loyal.” That makes sense on the surface but lacks a basic understanding of what leads people to feel loyal. Actual loyalty fits with sentiments such as devotion and faithfulness. It has more to do with intrinsic incentives than extrinsic incentives.

For a business to earn the steadfast loyalty of its customers, it must understand that discounts and contests – examples of extrinsic incentives – are superficial. Customers want more – ideally in sync with their personal values, such as being treated sincerely as a valued individual.

For example, the greeter at an optician’s shop remembers every returning customer and always treats them warmly. A rival optician shop close by may not attract such customers with free iPhone incentives or related stuff. Such customers have been treated well in their previous optician shop. That’s a distinct advantage of sentimental loyalty to an organization.

Conclusion

SENTIMENTAL LOYALTY

Generally, retaining customers is much more profitable than attracting new ones. Even so, any company that gives away prizes or provides discounts must recoup the costs of doing so. Inevitably, the cost recovery comes from the pockets of the same customers.

When customers develop real loyalty to a brand, it leads to a greater depth of the business relationship and mutual liking. The development of true brand loyalty comes from active personnel serving customers with sincerity. Active personnel who foster true customer loyalty work for companies that treat them well and operate under well-defined, service-focused values. Such companies can make good profits and dispense with the trinkets.

No “loyalty” program based on extrinsic incentives can foster true loyalty. A company that consistently treats its customers and personnel as liked, trusted, valued individuals creates a successful brand. A successful brand typically also has a meaningful mission statement and a name and motto that express compellingly what makes it distinctly valuable. Such a firm will enjoy unparalleled success with blind and sentimental loyalty.

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