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Thought Leadership

Sustainable Marketing Starts With Building Trust and Loyalty

This article originally appeared in Jonathan Hanson’ Adweek column.

Brand equity is a term that sounds like it’s rooted in the world of finance. In some ways it is, because it’s all about creating brand value on the perceived quality it has, regardless of the actual quality of the product or service. The perceived value is what creates big margins for shareholders and is created by the emotional associations with it, often created through great marketing or scarcity. A glaring example are Birkin bags and expensive watches where the value doesn’t align with the cost. To summarize, it’s the intangible assets that make up a brand outside of the products, services among other things. 

Building brand equity isn’t easy. The world’s most successful brands have built value by connecting to consumer’s emotions, which greatly influence those intangible assets.

Brand equity built on trust and loyalty will create a more sustainable marketing program because loyalty pays in the long run: The average repeat buyer typically has a 67% higher AOV than a first-time customer. Retaining this loyalty both costs less in long-term advertising and pays in better revenue, which means your brand can feel confident that this investment is a fiscally sound decision. 

I had a conversation on Conquer the Noise with Christopher Gavigan, co-founder of The Honest Company as well as founder and co-CEO of Prima, a new CBD brand. We dug into how he has been working to build brand equity by winning trust from customers through consistency, clarity and commitment. During our conversation, he described emotions as the connective tissue— the art, not the science. It’s the things consumers can’t put their finger on but just feel good about.

Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. Consumers are looking for an advocate, a brand they can trust, especially in the sustainability space where label claims and marketing aren’t always transparent or clear. This is especially true during big life moments, when people are looking for safe products for their new baby or while addressing personal health.

It’s a brand’s job to express their values that address those concerns and apprehensions through consumer touch points. Leading with empathy over the chest-beating bravado of traditional advertising creates an opportunity to meet customers where they are.  For example, The Honest Company’s first brand campaign launched with “Honest Moments,” a campaign that features those real moments from people’s lives, like childbirth. Tapping into the feelings these big life moments evoke was a natural fit because of the brand’s focus on safe, clean home products that families use like shampoo, diapers and toothpaste.

Brand leaders can create a pathway to build brand equity by connecting with consumers  through their potential emotional state over brand ego. When brands make their messaging about their own superiority in the marketplace, they make it more about them than the customer, losing the opportunity to show empathy or connect with an emotional need. As much as we love to consider ourselves rational, the majority of human decision-making is based in our subconscious with emotions in the driver seat. 

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a campaign that is driven by humor, aspiration or happiness, it needs to connect how your brand’s mission and values can tie into the potential emotional state of your customers. This will help build authentic relationships with them and cultivate brand advocates. Comb through your reviews, check what customers are saying on social and reach out to your customer service team to learn any points of friction. Then eliminate them. Trust is one of the most important emotions a brand can create.