Loyalty is dead. Actually it never existed. You need fans.

Everyone talks about customer loyalty as though it is a magical quality that some brands just get. That’s silly. Apple didn’t “create” loyalty. They created a collection of products that work together seamlessly. These products look great and are crazy intuitive. I own multiple Apple products, but am I loyal? Yes and No. If Apple stops making great products and someone else gives me better options or opportunities I’ll move. What keeps me “loyal” to Apple is they are still the best and easiest option out there and the inertia of change adds a hurdle for me to switch.

Fans are different. They like you and they have an emotional connection to you. Coke has fans, Spam has hardcore fans, Lady Gaga has fanatical fans. The more different and remarkable your brand is the more attention you will get and the more likely it is that you will create an emotional connection with your audience. That doesn’t mean it will get you the most fans. Lady Gaga is huge until you compare her to Garth Brooks. The further out on the fringe you get the smaller your audience but the more loyal they are. Will they stay with you through thick and thin. No, you have to keep giving them something. Lady gaga is focused on her fans and she consistently speaks to them through media and social media.

But you are not Lady Gaga, you are a catalog, how do you make that work?

You can reward customers to get fans, but it is a short term strategy. 10% off is a reward. Free shipping is a reward. JC Penny had a following of shoppers who like coupons and sales and scratch off’s. They weren’t loyal. When JCP stopped giving out rewards those customers when right over to Kohl’s and Macy’s.

Fans and connection come when you feel that you get something from a company. The Apple Genius Bar is a free service where you can walk into any Apple store and get free help. Once an Apple store opened near me I became a fan of the stores. I am less likely to switch to another computer maker because of that service.

Black Box, an electrical catalog offers free phone help to ANYONE who calls even if they did not buy from Black Box. L.L. Bean has an Outdoor Discovery School that lets people try out archery, wing shooting and fly fishing. They host outdoor concerts and make Boat and Totes out of Red Sox Field covers to promote recycling. But you may not be that big or have those kinds of resources. Don’t let that stop you.

Doing nothing will get you nothing. If you have a website you already own a place to host information and events. If you send out emails you already have a low cost vehicle to share information. If you have catalog you already have a publishing house.

So everyday ask yourself “What can I do for my fans?”

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The Catalog Blog covers opinions and information on all things catalog. Have something to add? Leave a comment below. Catalog University is devoted to helping you get ahead in the fun and fascinating world of catalogs. If you want even more information about cataloging, including FREE Pub Talks, be sure to sign up for the Cat-U mailing list. We will never share your name with 3rd parties.

Sarah Fletcher
President Creative Director Catalog Design Studios Inc.
Co-Founder Catalog University

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