OPINION22 March 2011

‘Treat your customers like lovers’

There were lessons in love at Research 2011 today as speakers discussed how to build brand loyalty and advocacy.

GfK Media’s Nick North said: “A brand can improve its chances of winning our love and loyalty by treating us like a lover.”

Catherine Russell of phone and broadband provider TalkTalk shared how the company worked with Spring Research to understand customer advocacy, and the changes it made to its media strategy to better encourage positive word of mouth. Anna Wills of Spring pointed out that people don’t really talk about brands, they talk about themselves and their lives, which happen to have brands in them sometimes.

Rachel Lawes spoke about her company’s work on the rebranding of toilet paper brand Charmin after it was bought from Procter & Gamble by SCA — a tricky exercise because P&G sold the brand on the condition that the Charmin name and its well-known bear mascot would be discontinued within a few years of the sale. The challenge, said Lawes, was to “lose everything that made the brand distinct while appearing to change nothing”.

By changing its name to Cushelle and introducing a new koala mascot (carefully selected as the animal that conveyed the correct signals), the brand managed to beat expectations of a significant deterioration in brand metrics after the change, and actually managed to improve them.

Even when you’re selling toilet roll, it seems, it’s possible to win consumers’ love.