Availability over loyalty: Your customers will never love you as much as they love their footy team – and that’s ok

By Elias Psarologos, Head of Sales - ANZ at Blis | Sponsored
Blis' Zac Messih and Elias Psarologos.

I went on a football pilgrimage recently.

After attending a Blis conference in Portugal, our Head of Marketing (and Liverpool tragic) Zac and I descended upon Anfield in Merseyside, England to watch his club take on Tottenham.

Even as a supporter of Liverpool’s rivals Manchester United, I couldn’t help but be swept up by the emotion of a matchday. Anfield proved to be a true Mecca of football: all drama, noise, humour, profanity, hope, anxiety, creativity and passion both on and off the pitch.

And as we moved from the club store, to the stadium, and then the pub – each bursting at the seams with fans – an almost sacrilegious thought crept in my mind: now this is brand loyalty.

From merchandise, tickets to endless subscriptions, supporters have to make expensive, almost irrational purchase decisions all the time just to follow the club.  And yet, regardless of the team’s performance, supporters return week after week, year after year; demand for football is more inelastic than petrol.

It explains why brands willingly pay through the nose to get close. In Australia, the major codes take in over $AUD 450 million in sponsorship money a year. Standard Chartered paid $90 million just to be on Liverpool’s jersey. As a result, Liverpool is valued at $AU8.5 billion, which roughly equates to the market cap of Qantas.

Good luck, however, finding this type of devotion in any member’s departure lounge.

For many brands, this level of loyalty would be like winning the Champions League, which explains why it is such a common marketing objective. If what I witnessed at Anfield is Everest, who can blame them for climbing?

Unfortunately for most brands, this type of loyalty is unattainable.

Why? Well, can people really love a fridge? A DIY retailer? An EV or an airline? The national airline, even? No matter how much “value” promised, discounts offered, features highlighted, not even a front three of Ogilvy, Jobs, and Don Draper could get you close to what we saw in Liverpool.

Yes, some footy supporters do spend every waking hour thinking about their team, but for the rest of us, brands make up an incredibly tiny, insignificant part of our lives. We just don’t think much about brands, even the ones we like and buy.

Loyalty might even be a red herring.

Despite common “marketing sense”, research suggests that loyalty is overrated. According to Professors Byron Sharp and Jenni Romaniuk from South Australia’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, the classic marketing Pareto Principle that “the loyal 20% account for 80% of sales'' is vastly overblown.

Most consumers are actually light buyers: ambivalent, inherently and refreshingly disloyal.  Even your most hardcore ‘loyalist’ is at best a “loyal switcher”. Or in footy parlance: a filthy casual. And it’s your ability to constantly replenish these casuals that best determines how you grow.

Loyalty is overrated. Devotion is unattainable.

And it’s OK.

Instead, just like a quality midfielder, your focus should be on always making yourself available.

Research suggests that the ultimate goal of marketing is to make a brand easy to buy, which requires Physical and Mental Availability. Physical Availability is the ease in which a consumer can access or buy a brand/product, and is generally a matter of distribution.

However, Mental Availability – the likelihood of being front of mind in a buying situation – is where marketers can really shine. This is done by constantly building and refreshing associations and memory structures, so a brand can be easy to recall at critical moments.

Practically, it requires the consistent use of advertising, a brand’s distinctive assets, and broad reaching media directed to hitting CEPs – Category Entry Points – the cues that lead to a category decision being made:

  • Why? g. I’m hungry.
    • “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry” - Snickers
  • When? g. On a lunch break
    • “Have a break, have a Kit Kat” - Kit Kat
  • Where? g. On holiday
    • “Belong anywhere” - AirBnB
  • With whom? g. Friends, family
    • “Made to be shared” Cadbury
  • With what? g. To accompany a meal, journey etc.
    • “For everything else, there’s MasterCard.” MasterCard

The classic Victoria Bitter ads of the 80s and 90s were all about associating the brand with CEPs: “You can get “it” (insert activity)... a hard earned thirst needs a big cold beer…”

VB ad

And in today’s world where nearly every moment and environment is accessible by media, hitting CEPs can be as much about when and where messages land as the content of the message itself.

It partly explains why retail marketing is taking off (hitting grocery buying moments) and why newer digital formats such as Digital Audio and OOH are growing exponentially. These emerging channels give us even broader, more incisive access to the in-between moments of a consumer’s day, opening up more CEP occasions.

At Blis, we’ve certainly noticed an increasing understanding of the importance of CEPs in our client conversations. Almost all our conversations these days are about reaching a unified audience across many channels and moments, and we’ve innovated our offering accordingly.

The results speak for themselves. Research by Analytic Partners reveals that “omnichannel marketing strategies increase ROI by 32% in comparison to those that do not.”

So, people will never truly love your supermarket, your ice cream or even your beer as much as they love their footy team. But as our clients have found, if your brand is always available, you’re never out of the game.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at adnews@yaffa.com.au

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