by Matt Weik
I was outside getting some work done a little bit ago and I saw a FedEx truck making a delivery to my neighbor’s house. I wondered what all they got so I went and opened the boxes. Just kidding. But, seeing the FedEx truck made me think about brand loyalty. Personally, for me, I’m a UPS guy. Not that I have some great relationship with people there or anything – it comes down to its who I’ve always used, they made deliveries on time, and when I needed to contact their customer service I always got good service.
My thought process of delivery and freight companies quickly transitioned over to the supplement industry. With so many brands out on the market, what creates brand loyalty and how important is it?
You like what you like – period
A few years back when the economy tanked, people were more price conscious when it came to items that weren’t necessarily a necessity – such as supplements. Back then, people would compare prices left and right in order to pinch pennies together. That being said, the economy has rebounded and people aren’t as worried about how much is left in their bank account to feed their family and keep the lights on in their home.
Even when the economy wasn’t good, there were still consumers who stuck with their “go-to” brand(s). Why? Because they are loyal. This can be for many different reasons. Someone could stick with a brand because it’s all they’ve ever used and they don’t know any better. Some people trust certain brands and therefore only purchase what’s in their portfolio of products. Others have attained success using a certain brands’ products and therefore only want to use what they know works. While others have simply had better customer service with a brand and appreciate that they care about their customers.
Regardless of which reason above (or one not mentioned), brand loyalty one way or another comes into play. There are brands out on the market who are selling protein powders for $10-20 more than all of the other competitors, yet people are still purchasing their blended whey product that quite frankly is inferior to other brands on the market. Why? Loyalty. People are more willing to pay more and be vested in a brand if they feel some sort of loyalty. Regardless of what competitors come out with, they will never stray far from the brand and while they might try something different, they always end up coming back.
Does price mean anything anymore?
To an extent, yes. But, I think it (again, this is my opinion and what I’m seeing) comes down to what was mentioned above – people like what they like. People who like Starbucks coffee are more willing to wait in insane drive-thru lines and spend the extra money rather than go to Dunkin Donuts where they can get a cheaper cup of coffee quicker, but not like the coffee itself as much. Then on the flip side, you have people who make their own coffee in the morning because they are loyal to Folgers or Maxwell House coffee. To each his or her own.
All of this being said, price is a great way to guide entry into a market though. If someone is just starting out in the gym and learns about protein powder, what are they more willing to purchase for an initial trial purchase? A protein that costs $50 or a protein that costs $20? The $20, right? And if you look at the brands in the market that are the least expensive, they are generally brands that aren’t the highest quality (not always the case, but for the most part). This consumer is also generally buying their first entry product (again, say protein powder) either at a retailer such as Walmart (since they already shop there), or online somewhere like Amazon (again, because they buy everything else for their household there).
How can a supplement company build brand loyalty?
It’s actually not as difficult as one would think, it just requires implementing a strategy and being consistent. Here are some common ways for a supplement company to build brand loyalty:
1. Create a belonging
Some consumers love feeling like they are a part of something. They want a place where they feel they are accepted and belong. Not everyone wants to be a part of a hardcore brand, yet not everyone wants to be part of a mainstream fluffy brand. Therefore, each brand needs to use their identity and build a community online. There are many brands who are extremely successful in doing this, and therefore they are able to be an e-commerce-only brand and make millions without ever having a product on a retailer’s shelf.
Many of the people who are part of this community engage frequently (as in every week). There are Facebook groups, YouTube channels, online “members only” access to special content, and even live events being held across the nation as a meet-up where everyone can come together with the brand and hang out.
2. Create a better customer experience
This is fairly vague and can cover a lot of ground. Customer experience can be something as simple as providing free 2-day or even next-day shipping. Or fixing an issue by taking care of a customer by giving them some of their money back or even free products/swag for an inconvenience (the swag doubles as free publicity and marketing for a brand – wise choice when giving it away for free). It can also be creating free content like articles or infographics that people can use to help them progress through their health and fitness journey. Or more easily explained, giving the consumer free added value.
3. Create a strong brand
I’m not saying that how many products you have in your portfolio will determine if you create brand loyalty, but the more products a brand has, the easier it is for the consumer to pick up all of their supplements from one place (brand). If a brand only has a protein, that’s great, but if the consumer wants a multivitamin, creatine, BCAAs, and a pre-workout, they are going to need to find another brand that can accommodate their needs. Therefore, it’s advantageous for a brand to have multiple products that are in different (best-selling) categories. I’m not saying you need to go out and have everything under the sun produced, but having products in key categories, in my opinion, is ideal. It also gives a brand more credibility. Having only a single product gives the impression that you are a new brand and potentially just starting up.
4. Create a solid marketing campaign
Does a brand market at all? Do they have advertisements online or in industry print magazines? Are they getting their brand out in front of the eyeballs of their consumer(s)? If not, how do you expect to build a brand and create loyalty if no one has ever heard of you? Spend a little money and put some funds behind the brand to go out and market. Don’t waste money frivolously in areas your consumers wouldn’t be. For instance, don’t put an ad in a magazine that deals with dogs if are promoting a fat burner. You’d want to put the ad in a magazine that deals with health, fitness, food, nutrition, or weight loss. Fish where the fish are. You wouldn’t toss a line with bait in a puddle and expect to catch a bass, right? So, ensure you are putting your money and efforts in the right places.