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Consumer products: Building and maintaining brand loyalty in times of disruption

Ghislain Melaine
September 17, 2020

For the past several years, brand loyalty within the consumer products industry has been eroding. Today’s health emergency may raise this threat even further as disruption to global supply chains limits product availability, prompting many people to try competing brands out of necessity or convenience.

However, despite this profound level of disruption in today’s market, the fundamentals of brand loyalty remain the same. The consumer’s connection is both rational – a mix of factors related to product, price, place, and promotion – and emotional. Building and maintaining loyalty, even in these uncertain times, requires companies to address both parts of the equation: meeting customers when and where they want and connecting with shoppers on a personal level within their daily lives.

In facing massive disruptions such as today’s health emergency, brands must first focus on the rational aspects of loyalty, starting with the ability to deliver the right product (or close to it) at the right place. Further, a quick response requires operational agility, flexibility across the business, and the ability to address the issue holistically – considering everything from managing the distribution mix across channels, to launching new channels such as direct-to-consumer or introducing new business models such as subscriptions. Brands must also be sure to create a timely and relevant promotion and content strategy. Failure to consider any of these points may open the door to established competitors and new entrants.

But meeting the rational elements of loyalty is only the first step towards creating a deeper emotional connection with the shopper. Consumers also expect brands to step up their contribution to making society a better and safer place. As such, consumer products organizations must consider how to build a meaningful relationship and positively respond to the current crisis.

For example, one of the most in-demand products all over the world is hand sanitizer. Garnier, the mass market cosmetics arm of French cosmetics company L’Oréal, recognized this point and paused production of their best-selling micellar water to produce a brand-new hand gel. The company donated 300,000 bottles to retail staff and made an additional four million units available for purchase by consumers. The company also contributed €1 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is an extension of the brand’s social responsibility platform with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Another example of an organization that was able to unite the entire business quickly to respond to these new challenges can be seen with home furnishings retailer, IKEA. Their new ad, which is modelled after an instruction manual, provides tongue-in-cheek directions for how to properly social distance. This clever campaign reinforces the company brand while also acknowledging the current environment and the responsibility each of us has in keeping our community safe.

As seen in these examples, human nature dictates that safety and security is top of mind in times of crisis. Over time, being able to reinforce this sense of solidarity, support, and community is what will help set the brand apart, forging an identity that is not just built on the product, but its connection within the consumer’s daily life.

Learn more about the Consumer Driven Supply Chain as well as how Brands Innovate for a Recession