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What my reluctant loyalty to Star Wars has to do with growing a strong brand

Customer loyalty doesn't always come from the heart. Sometimes your customers stick around because they feel stuck. Customers like this are a retention risk, so you need to look beyond just sales numbers to know how healthy your business really is. A solid customer loyalty plan - informed by research and driven by Decision Science strategy - can make sure your customers will to keep coming back, no matter what.

Image by www_slon_pics from Pixabay

I have to see the new Star Wars movie.

Have to. Not want to.

No one’s making me. There is no cajoling or peer pressure, no blackmail, no gun to my head.

And yet there’s no real desire. I just can’t seem to care about Rey, Finn, or Poe. And I am not captivated by Kylo Ren. I’m only marginally curious about whether he and Rey are related, or soulmates, or if they’re going to end up in a tumultuous though passionate romantic relationship that ends in two-way domestic violence and blows up the whole galaxy.

But I still have to see it. Why? Because I am a die-hard original Star Wars fan, and there is nothing that will shake that out of me. Not even a string of disappointing films that make me question the essence of all that mattered in my childhood.

I could tell you my Star Wars stories – how many times I saw it, what action figures I had, etc., etc. This isn’t a competition. Just trust that I was hard-core.

And then, well… you know. The next three films/ first three episodes happened, and a lot of us felt it: the shock, the horror, the grave disappointment. And then the most recent films under J.J. Abrams… to me they’re just science fiction action films. Nothing more special than that.

But I keep going back. Like a sucker. Because, well, the stupid Star Wars franchise has me in its grip, even though it has long lost my heart.

I suspect Star Wars wants my devotion truly, not begrudgingly. I bet Disney wants the same, as do other brands out there. Some brands do have my truly loyal devotion, and I will spend my money on them happily. Other brands, however, get my money, but I don’t feel good about it. My cable company falls into this category.

Your brand doesn’t want to fall into the cable company category. Or the Star Wars category.

Strong brands strive for heart-felt loyalty. It’s how you know that customers will keep coming back once you’ve done the hard work of winning them. It’s how you prevent negative reviews and ratings. It’s how you earn forgiveness after making huge mistakes.

It’s how you grow a healthy business.

Loyalty that isn’t heart-felt can carry a hint of resentment. Resentful loyal customers may keep coming back, but they’re a risk. A new, compelling competitor can pull them away if the switching costs are low enough. Their online comments can encourage others to stay away as well. I mean, I may see this next Star Wars movie, but I didn’t see Solo because the reviews sucked, and I’m on the fence about subscribing to the Disney Channel to watch The Mandalorian, no matter how cute Baby Yoda is – not even for $7 a month.

I probably won’t be having lengthy conversations about Star Wars the way I’ve had lengthy conversations about Joker. I could watch Joker 20 times, and I care zero about the DC franchise.

As a brand, and a business, it’s not enough to know that your customers keep coming back. Sales numbers don’t tell the whole story. You need to know how they’re coming back. And why. Is it because they truly love you, and feel connected and engaged with you? Or is it because they’re stuck in a rut?

Loyalty research of your customers is essential if you want to grow a healthy business with minimal risk and optimal confidence. Fortunately, it’s not that expensive or difficult to do (check out “Earn Fidelity” here). A short survey to customers, sent out on a consistent basis, can serve as a diagnostic tool, identifying areas you need to troubleshoot. Insights from Decision Science can drive effective strategy for nurturing the love in a deep and long-lasting way. In just a few months you can have a program in place to make sure that no one hates loving you ever again.

If all you care about is the bottom line, then all means look only at the bottom line. But if you care about the future of your company, and long-term over short-term success, then you need to know what lies in your customers’ hearts – or start getting comfortable with rejection. And no one likes rejection. Not Jar Jar Binks. And probably not you.


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