One of the key drivers of consumers’ decision making when it comes to buying a product is the aspect of brand loyalty. By and large, it is a concept that is based on a client’s commitment to purchase a product or a service. It is a concept in which a consumer has high preference towards one brand as compared to other brands, based on the fact that particular brand is on the consumer’s mind. This eventually leads to the consumer repurchasing the particular brand. In most cases, a perceived value of a brand is vital when creating loyalty in the mind of a consumer. It becomes important when influencing the consumer to choose a product or a brand.
The value of a brand to a firm is mainly formed by the consumer loyalty that the brand commands. In most cases, a loyal consumer base is of tremendous significance. This is mainly due to that fact that it is assumed to generate the expected flow of sales and eventually, revenue. It is usually vital not to overlook the existing loyal consumers as it is less expensive to retain such consumers and to attract new ones. In many ways, focusing on the segmentation of loyalty is vital when providing strategic as well as tactical insights that will go a long way in helping to establish a strong brand (Raj et al. 2010).
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Brand loyalty is an obvious confirmation of the success of branding not only to the companies, but to the consumers as well. It is mainly because to the consumer, it goes a long way in reducing the search costs, while on the flip side; it is the foundation of lasting productivity as well as competitive leverage for companies (Brady 2008).
Due to the fact that it is under the increasing threat, brand loyalty can be very fragile (Raj et al. 2010). This mainly results from the big number of alternative brands that are available in the market as well as many promotions that competitors come up with to undermine the consumer loyalty. It is for this particular reason that companies have to work extra hard to keep their existing loyal consumers as well as identify their current customers, who may end up switching brands and changing them into heavy users who are loyal to the brand. It is for this particular reason that companies are shifting to the use of public relations to build brand loyalty.
The Nature of Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty is one of the key drivers when a consumer needs to make a decision on which product to purchase. A perceived value of a brand is vital with regard to the formation on loyalty in the mind of a consumer. For instance, consumers perceive brands such as Gucci and Armani as brands of quality and excellence as compared to clothes from places such as Wal-Mart or Primark.
Consequently, in case a consumer goes to a place in which clothes from Armani and Gucci are being sold at prices closer to those from Wal-Mart and Primark, such consumer is likely to purchase clothes from Gucci or Armani. This, basically, means that consumers are more loyal to brands clothes from Gucci or Armani since they hold an image of value.
When it comes to issues related to brand loyalty, the perception of consumers is of utmost importance, due to the fact that consumers base their decisions on the needs, interests, wants, as well as their ability to purchase particular products. They also base their decisions on value as well as the perceived quality of brands (Ghodeswar, 2008).
Therefore, companies ought to focus on the products when developing loyalty among its consumers. In addition, there ought to be the emphasis on particular areas that surround the products such as product upgrades and updates, as well as customer services. By putting a focus on such areas, a company is in a position of maintaining “product goodness”. Eventually, it becomes very easy for a company to maintain product goodness in the minds of consumers, thereby achieving brand loyalty (Schmitt et al. 2009).
Attitudinal Brand Loyalty
For a company to sustain product goodness in the minds of consumers, it has to target the two central brands of loyalty. In as much as these forms of loyalty may be similar, they are, however, different in nature. Attitudinal loyalty is when a consumer’s predisposition towards a particular brand occurs as a function of psychosomatic processes. In most cases, it involves the surrounding areas with regard to attitudinal preferences as well as the consumer’s devotion towards a particular brand.
As a result of the attitudinal preferences and devotion, the loyalty that arises from the consumer’s attitude towards a particular brand can assist companies to build long-term relationships between the company and the consumers (Cornelissen 2004). Components of attitude such as feelings, beliefs, as well as the intentions of the consumer are vital when it comes to issues related to loyalty.
Behavioral loyalty, on the other hand, puts a lot of focus on the previous actions of the consumers, including the way they have behaved previously. People do not necessarily act or behave in accordance with their attitudes. For instance, an individual who likes ice cream may suddenly stop consuming this product due to a tooth ache. In the same way, a consumer may suddenly stop buying particular brands as a result of some obstacles. Different factors make people to behave in certain ways and develop behavioral brand loyalty. These include factors like patriotism, disinterest, switching costs, and relationship strength.
Satisfaction of consumers is one of the main areas that need to be developed when persuading the customers to purchase company products and ultimately develop loyalty through repeated purchasing. In many ways, the concept of customer satisfaction is basically founded on the idea that consumers have requirements and expectations and, consequently, necessitates the companies to perform in line with the particular requirements and expectations (Baker & Hart 2007).
In order to achieve true loyalty, it is vital to do away with any kind of prejudice and aim at the behavioral features of the consumers. Nowadays, consumers are more knowledgeable than ever and in a much more influential negotiating position. They are also used to rapid results as well as individualized consideration. It is worth noting that consumers are not easily satisfied, due to the fact that a well informed individual is likely to look for better alternatives, and is also likely to switch products. It is, therefore, vital to build a relationship with consumers as well as meet their requirements.
In this regard, customer relationship management is vital, since it assists in keeping hold of customers through customer-seller relationship which is vital in building true brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is something that can only be built through a sound customer-seller relationship. By and large, behavioral loyalty and effective commitment are some of the key aspects of establishing true brand loyalty.
The Role of Public Relations
In the earlier period, the application of public relations by companies as a way of marketing their brands has been on the increase. This has been seen to be more effective than the conventional marketing techniques like advertising. In many ways, public relations is vital since it goes a long way in assisting companies, organizations, or individuals to improve their status (Cornelissen 2004).
It basically involves communicating with the media as well as presenting the clients in the most favorable way possible through the media. Additionally, it involves cooperative efforts with other people as well as organizations in creating goodwill within the community and enhancing the representation of a client. The main aim of public relations is to persuade and alter people’s feelings and knowledge regarding a company as well as its products or services. This includes identity and representation (Theaker & Yaxley 2012)
Within a company, the public relations department creates and places newsworthy information in the news media as a way of attracting attention to the product. Additionally, it publicizes specific products as well as maintains relations with the target population including the society at large. One of the most essential tools used by the PR professionals within a company is news (Gower 2006). In this regard, it finds favorable news about the company or its products, for the purpose of attracting attention. In most cases, PR professionals organize different events in order to attract positive attention to the client company.
Over the past couple of years, PR professionals have greatly embraced social media as a way of persuading consumers that the company services and/or products are valuable. The main objective in the use of social media is for a company to establish a strong customer base. Additionally, social media is also used in managing the reputation of a company as well as establishing the thoughts of the consumers with regard to the brands and products sold by a company.
Company PR professionals use social media for creating interesting content as well as discussions with the client base by listening and responding to the consumers (Heath 2006). This approach is vital in building strong brand loyalty. By making use of social media, the public relations department is in a position of promoting the company. They can also raise awareness, track and monitor the users in order to find out the most effective way of increasing the social media network and capturing the market (Theaker 2004).
PR plays a major role in building brand loyalty, since it has a powerful impact on public awareness at a much lower cost. In as much as it only captures a small portion of most company’s budgets, it is actually a powerful brand building tool. The approach is vital in helping the public understand a company as well as its products and/or services. In many ways, PR gives a company an opportunity to tell its story in a real and throughout way (Theaker 2004).
PR works to generate positive media coverage. In most cases, stories in the media are more likely to be trusted by the public than advertisements. By making use of PR, a company does not need to pay for the space or time in the media coverage. Media messages are of greater importance in building brand loyalty than advertising. When it comes to building brand affinity, PR becomes a key player, since it gives a brand a substance by telling its story and information in a way that people will remember and relate to.
Significance of Public Relations to a Company
PR is of extreme importance when comes to making sales as its main goal is building and maintaining the image of a brand and its positive perception by the customers. By making use of specific models as well as pictures of the brand in the right media, a company gains better position of building the desired brand image (Theaker 2004).
Today’s market is so volatile that a company cannot ignore having good public relations. As a matter of fact, consumers are more thoughtful and skeptical of the appearing advertising campaigns. On average, almost every consumer has had a negative experience with illegitimate companies at one point or the other. It is for this reason that public relations focus less on advertising and more on giving valuable data to the community, so as to give a hand in establishing brand loyalty.