The Five Bonds of Loyalty:
The Macro View of Brand Relationships
Written by Craig Wilson
Published — August, 2017
In chemistry a bond describes the unique combining power of an element. In brand relationships, a bond is the unique strength of the connection that creates and sustains long-term relationships. Different types of business models and marketing approaches have different intensities of bonds. Some are weak, and some are strong. The force is very much like gravitational pull, the stronger the pull the closer the orbit. The weaker the bond the easier it is for a customer to simply fall out of orbit, drift away, and be pulled into a competing orbit. The good news is the circumstances that dictate that gravitational pull, or force, enacted on the consumer are strategic choices brand managers can make proactively.
The strength of any loyalty bond ultimately depends on the type of business, brand positioning, merchandising scheme, and values at play within the organization. Assuring a strong ‘Brand Bond’ is a matter of understanding and strategically managing these forces.
Brands, service providers, political parties, educational institutions, and organizations of all shapes and sizes exist because they provide some sort of end perceived benefit to the user. It’s rather simple. We need stuff to live our lives. Some of it is frivolous and some of it is necessary for life. Regardless of where the particular service or product lands on the spectrum, consumers form their bond with the provider based on five simple precepts each with a unique disposition. The Five Bonds of Loyalty helps visualize the intensity of bonds based on this spectrum from utility to belief.
Figure 1. The Five Bonds of Loyalty
Movement is driven by brand loyalty due to products and services being easier to get and use than any other competitor’s. The essence of a CONVENIENCE strategy is to put the product, service, or brand at the consumer’s fingertips. A movement driven by this kind of loyalty is easily encroached on by competitors. e.g. Amazon makes shopping for goods easier than ANY other brand.
Movements driven by PROMOTIONAL strategies are caused by a drowning out of other competitors’ messages via advertising, PR, Social Media presence, or other means of creating greater visibility among target customers than the competition. Red Bull dominates its competitors by paying for visibility. Threat will come when a competitor chooses to outspend Red Bull..
Movements driven by SUPERIORITY are caused by a legitimate distinction in the brand that provides actual value to the consumer. Customers are loyal to superior brands because they constantly provide better and better products and/or services. Mercedes owns its niche for quality engineering and detail, Toyota, most reliable, BMW, the ultimate driving experience. Being the best is legitimized by third party validation and consumer reputation, which requires on-going innovation and improvement.
Brands that successfully build TRIBAL movements are first movers to adopt and lead a cause that individuals can align with, rally around, and follow. These movements cannot be faked. Folk Rebellion is a t-shirt company whose core mission is to disconnect from technology and form relationships with each other and the planet.
An ETHICAL movement is driven when a brand champions a clear set of values. The customers become advocates for the brand because they identify with the brand’s core purpose forming an emotional bond. The movement is driven by more than just product quality and experience. Customers form a relationship because they want to see things done the way they would do them. Membership via the customer/brand relationship helps them be part of something they believe in and can stand behind.
To learn more and get the full context of the Brand Ecosystem Model, read The Compass and the Nail, which tells the story of its origin, shares case studies, and walks through the actual methodology of architecting loyalty in any setting.