Five Ways You Know You Have a Brand Loyalist

Filed Under: Best Practices, Market Research, Customer Satisfaction, Grow / Maintaining Strong Brands, Qualitative Research


Robert Relihan

I noted recently that it is important to distinguish brand loyalists from simple brand users, even heavy brand users. Loyalists have a special relationship with your brand and are key to understanding a brand’s identity.

But, how do you identify these loyalists? Here are five behaviors that are worth developing in your customers because they are sheer signs of a heightened bond with your brand. And they are qualities to look for when you want to investigate your brand’s essence with those most in touch with it.

So, you know you have a brand loyalist when…

  • They talk about your brand and recommend it to friends.

This is the classic definition of a loyalist. If you want to talk to a true partisan of your brand, ask if they have recommended it to someone in the past month.

  • They use your brand in unique ways.

I recently read some questions on the web from women complaining they could not find a particular kind of Kraft cheese. They seemed quite upset. The cheese was essential to a number of recipes they made. A true brand loyalist not only loves your brand for what it is; she also loves what she can do with it. Consumers who have these alternate uses for your brand have integrated it much more deeply into their lives and identity.

  • They really “know” your brand.

A brand loyalist really knows your brand. When I have wanted to talk with NBA fans, I made sure they watched a certain number of games every week. But, I also asked them to name the two teams in last year’s finals and four teams in the Eastern Conference. It was always amazing to me how many “fans” who watched a couple of games a week could not answer those questions. True Rice Krispie loyalists would know the names of the three signature characters. True Heinz ketchup loyalists would know in what colors other than red the product has been available.

  • Your brand is part of their family’s rituals and traditions.

Do they set out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve or do they leave a bottle of Coca-Cola with a snack? When a true loyalist describes a family event, they include the brand name in their story.

  • They “own” your brand.

The true NBA fan wears apparel with the logo of his favorite team. But it is possible to “own” many brands. A true Kraft Singles loyalist brings them home from the grocery store and puts them in a blue “Red and Ned” Kraft Singles box in her refrigerator. A true Starbuck’s fan drinks her favorite coffee from a Starbuck’s mug.

To be a loyalist is to take charge of the brand. A true brand loyalist defines the brand and the experience as much as any sophisticated positioning effort. Marketers have always developed “clubs” and the like to encourage an affinity with brands. What is remarkable now is that social media is essential to this effort and makes it so much easier for the consumer to wrest control of the brand from the marketer. It is truly the age of the loyalist.

At C+R, we are continually looking for new definitions of brand loyalty and ways for the marketer to find these true loyalists. Let us find yours.


I have been talking recently about metaphors and how better storytelling can make our insights more compelling. I don’t believe that Kurt Vonnegut was ever in the position of presenting a segmentation analysis, but his advice is worth considering. I think I always want “someone to root for,” whether I am reading a novel or an analysis of a series of ethnographies. Or, at least I should.

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