We all have brands that are so integral to our lives they’ve become a part of who we are. Like the guy who’s never seen without a pair of Timberland boots on and the girl seemingly superglued to her Doc Martens. That is brand loyalty in its highest form.
Fashion choices like those hint at the inner workings of the people around us, depending on what associations we’ve learned to ascribe to each.
In Storynomics, by Robert McKee and Thomas Gerace, they describe this as the “phenomenon of badging.” When we choose to wear, drink, eat, etc. a specific brand, it influences the way in which we are perceived by others and, in some cases, the way in which we perceive ourselves.
Our choices become badges, like the Doc Martens-wearing girl. She is so loyal to the brand that her boots are not just boots, they're a brand badge.
When consumers integrate your brand into their personality
Brands can use consumers’ readiness to grow their collection of brand badges to their advantage by showcasing the boxes they check off that fit a specific group of people. It could be as simple as a color. Black for the grungy type. Pink for the girly girls.
The brand badges we don are emblems of our personality.
Take Vineyard Vines for example. If you catch a guy sporting that smiley whale logo, the word “preppy” probably comes to mind, images of yachts and golf courses along with it. While in some circles, Vineyard Vines isn’t the most flattering of brand badges, those interested in upholding a preppy self-image can still rely on it.
If your brand personality can align with a consumer’s personality, they become inextricable from one another. Brand loyalty and sales skyrocket, for what would a Vineyard Vines guy be without his pastel shorts and patterned polo?
It’s a matter of self-expression. As mentioned above, every brand we use, flaunting them or not, signals something to those around us. Beyond personality, it can signal a number of other things, such as status, hobbies, and tastes.
Expensive brands—unless thrifted—signal wealth; outdoorsy brands signal an appreciation for nature and getting active outside; candy brands suggest you have a sweet tooth; and so on.
Brand badges provide a basic roadmap to who a consumer is.
Brand badges signal personal values and increase brand loyalty
One of the signals brand badges send that brands should be especially cognizant of is personal values.
“How can you create a brand that matters so much to people that they make it a part of their self-expression?” (Storynomics, page 136)
Connecting with your audience over shared values is the answer.
Our values are at the core of who we are. They shape how we act and think and interact with the world.
All brands have some form of a mission statement, their values listed for consumer consumption, hoping they resonate enough to connect and convert.
When your brand values match up with a consumer’s values, they will look upon your brand favorably, more likely to extend support (and open their wallets).
One cause near and dear to the hearts of many is protecting the planet. Here's a mock sequence of a consumer acquiring an eco-friendly brand badge:
- A consumer comes across your brand in a sponsored Instagram ad. You’re promoting a line of eco-friendly tote bags.
- The consumer, having a vested interest in going green, visits your website to learn more about your commitment to the cause. Your sustainability page impresses them. They see an alignment of values.
- The consumer purchases a bag and begins to frequently use it in public, their badge on display.
- You get free promotion, while the customer signals to those in-the-know that they care about the environment, potentially turning other environmentalists onto your brand. It's a beautiful, lucrative symbiosis.
The modern consumer wants to share their values with the world. If your brand reflects their values, they'll want to share it with the world, too.
As long as your values and product(s) remain consistent, brand loyalty will continue its steady growth.
Tips for promoting badging among your target audience
To scale your community of brand badge holders and cultivate brand loyalty:
- Know your audience. To state the obvious, you need to know exactly the type of person to target. Who will be receptive to your brand messaging and values? Who will consistently support your brand and choose it over others in the same industry?
- Establish your brand personality. Your brand personality needs to be rock solid in order to appeal to consumers sharing similar traits.
- Be clear about your brand values. Don't leave consumers guessing. Make your brand values easy to identify.
- Show consumers how your brand can improve their self-image. Your brand needs to be desirable. It needs to stand out as a way to enhance the aspects of a consumer's personality they want on display.
Convince loyal consumers to wear your brand badge proudly (and often) until it becomes their whole personality, or at least a good portion of it. They'll soon be brand disciples, spreading the word and getting others to convert without you having to lift another finger.