Brand loyalty. A masterclass in how to disregard it from EE
Brand loyalty is a complex and precious emotion that builds up within all of us when we’re not looking, it can become a fierce and almost irrational devotion.
For brands, it is the pinnacle. When a consumer connects with you on this sub-conscious level, the partnership is secured long-term, if not for life.
We all have certain brands that we lean towards, whilst we reject the others in the sector. I for one would never wear a pair of Reebok trainers, will happily drink water instead of Pepsi, and remember the traumatic day I traded in my trusty Nokia for a Blackberry (and then again some years later when I made the reluctant leap to an iPhone!)
There have been many high-profile rebrands in recent years, each with varying success. The Marathon to Snickers change caused widespread upset, but once consumers realised the core product had not changed they quickly warmed to the new name. A similar example was Jif moving to the European name Cif, and who can forget the catastrophic rebrand when The Post Office changed to ‘Consignia’, following its privatisation. This was rejected so firmly by the public that the name was changed almost immediately to Royal Mail.
Brand loyalty is not won over night, it takes years of ensuring a product delivers against its expectations, along with a healthy dose of clever brand positioning and marketing. Once earnt, it should be cherished and respected by that brand. To have a customer as a brand advocate is incredibly valuable, they will recommend you and sing your praises to anyone that will listen.
Since a teenager, I have been an Orange customer. I initially went with them because of their iconic advertising campaigns, but over the years I grew to love them, with their fantastic customer service, reward schemes, and consistently strong marketing communications. I was very much ‘Orange person’.
I was alarmed when I heard about new kid on the block, EE. As a marketeer I understand the power and value in a rebrand, but what upset me was the complete disregard for the loyal Orange customers like myself throughout the transition. There was a multimillion pound campaignlaunched to promote the brand, but this was only targeted to NEW customers, there was not even a reference to the merged brands of Orange and T-Mobile that would be forgotten with this new birth.
With any rebranding exercise, one of the key factors to consider is how you manage your existing customers, and their brand loyalty. The key mistakes made by the team behind the process were;
Communication. As an Orange customer, I was never informed about the rebrand. This should have warranted a campaign in itself, a gentle teaser and introduction to the new brand, a reason for me to love EE as much as my beloved Orange.
Clean transition. Once the brand transition took place, all evidence of the old Orange brand should have been removed. For 2 years I have been unsure as to who’s customer I am. My phone displays an EE logo, I log on to EE website to access my account, yet I receive text messages and phone calls from the Orange customer service team. Not only had my favoured brand been snatched away with me, but I was left with a case of mixed identify.
Continuation of service. Aside from the reduced quality in signal, the final disappointment for me was the end of Orange Wednesdays. One of the most successful partnership marketing strategies delivered by a consumer brand in recent years. It was clear that whoever was in charge had little concern for the brand and the years of loyalty bestowed by its customers.
It was with a heavy heart last weekend that I entered an O2 shop. It felt uncomfortable. I felt like I didn’t belong, whilst I have always admired the brand from afar, it was never for me, even the blue of the logo didn’t sit well with me.
However I am now and O2 customer, I don’t yet have any loyalty to the company. I chose them as a best of the bunch (I am certainly not a Vodafone kind of girl). However my phone works, and the customer service until now has been faultless.
Meanwhile I received a phone call today from the team at ‘Orange’ to offer me a free upgrade. I politely informed them that I had cancelled my contract over a week ago, but it was the final confirmation that my love affair with Orange was firmly over.
My parting shot was a farewell tweet.
I received an almost immediate welcoming response from O2, and a pretty generic ‘sorry to see you go’ from EE, yet nothing from my old friend Orange.
Which brands do you feel you have an emotional connection with? Tweet us @G&I