Ad Age featured an op-ed contributed by Molly Ungs, 50,000feet Director of Business Development and Partnerships, on how brands can build loyalty with customers during uncertain times. From building a stronger community with customers to tying in nostalgia throughout the consumer journey, companies are excelling at improving their customer experiences and strengthening brand affinity.

 

Read the full article below. 

 

Inflation, pandemics, recession, climate change, war, political instability. While trying to stay on top of what is happening in the world, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. I notice my energy level dip and I look for ways to view the brighter side of things.

 

I often make a cup of my favorite tea and take a bit of comfort in the taste and the ritual of preparing it. This gets me thinking about finding comfort and calmness in certain brands and why we go back to them again and again.

 

Brands have an opportunity to ground us during unsettled times, which often results in increased loyalty. There are many ways that brands can do this, and those that invest in these strategies may find many different kinds of returns.

 

Connect with customers in ways that surprise and delight.

We love it when a brand makes us feel appreciated and special, and those feelings intensify when we are pleasantly surprised. Sweaty Betty, a British retailer specializing in women’s activewear, has incorporated handwritten notes in numerous campaigns, including one to thank loyal customers. Another campaign celebrated women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day after the difficult year of 2021. Happy customers shared the handwritten notes on social media, and the brand saw a 15% sales uplift, with 54% of people who received the campaign making a purchase within three weeks.

 

Build community to connect with customers.

Some brands make us feel part of something bigger. Hydrow is an immersive reality rowing machine that takes members to waters around the globe, giving them the chance to row with and learn from elite athletes. Besides having the traditional leader board, Hydrow offers a community that celebrates individual milestones and fosters a belief that the best work is created when there is space for different voices and perspectives. It also invests in causes that matter to the company and its customers, with every row counting toward a donation to Water.org to bring clean, safe water to developing countries. Hydrow, a private company, said its revenue tripled from 2020 to 2021.

 

Give customers fun and rewarding experiences.

Trader Joe’s doesn’t take itself too seriously. When taking your cart for a stroll down the aisle, friendly and creative signs suggest new products, share how to use them and get you picturing friends gathered around the table having a great time. It has a keen understanding of its customer base and consistently delivers on innovation. Its brand story is built on providing customers with value through quality products at everyday prices. With knowledgeable, friendly crew members, Trader Joe’s transforms grocery shopping into a journey of discovery and fun. The Trader Joe’s podcast and Fearless Flyer, its occasional newsletter, are customer favorites and help create an environment that imparts adventure, humor and a warm sense of community. Trader Joe’s has one of the highest sales per square feet in the industry.

 

Nostalgia helps consumers cope with troubled times.

Nostalgia is a common response to distress and serves as an adaptive function to help weather uncertain times.  People feel better when they experience nostalgia. It reminds us of a memory, a person or an experience that brings us pleasure. It is experiencing a resurgence and has a wide range of appeal; millennials and Gen Z have a soft spot for authentic brands that share their values. Nostalgic marketing often uses symbols, products, imagery and music that have a history and create regard for a brand as being consistent and authentic. Harvard Business Review reported on an experiment where nostalgic feelings increased people’s willingness to pay for desired objects, and during the Covid lockdown, nostalgic keywords rose 88%.

 

A brand is not going to wash away anxieties and make the world a bright and cheerful place, but there is an opportunity to provide comfort and build loyalty when we feel like the world is upside down. Brands can provide consistency when we cannot count on the things we used to. And by delivering on their promises, they can provide hope when we feel the world around us is letting us down. They can give us one less thing to worry about, and one less thing left to chance.