The spectrum of loyalty

This blog was posted by Alison Atkinson on June 3, 2015 as part of the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy. You can find out more about the project here.

Loyalty: a strong feeling of support or allegiance; faithfulness to commitments or obligations

Audience loyalty is the focus of my experiment – in particular how we can measure the loyalty of our current audiences and then build on these findings. And like so many things, it turns out to be a whole lot more complicated (and much more interesting) than I thought!

I’ve been hugely lucky to be paired with Mentor Ron Evans, of Group of Minds . He’s a consumer psychologist specializing in arts audiences, their decision making and the impact of technology on the choices people make (and how organisations can influence and channel those decisions).

In my first session we started off by talking through what increasing audience loyalty might look like for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Buying tickets more frequently? Introducing friends to concerts? Taking a risk on an event because they trust us? Acting as an ambassador on social media? We all have our frequent attenders, our ‘loyal audiences’, who may or may not be donors as well, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we sometimes take those individuals, and their commitment, for granted. After all, they book tickets anyway, so we get on with the harder business of filling the hall.

And then Ron pointed me towards a book by Rajat Paharia – Loyalty 3.0 – with the subtitle ‘How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification’, and a much drier article (Whence Consumer Loyalty by Richard L Oliver) laying out the stages of loyalty.

And the results of my week of intense reading?

There are (currently) 4 distinct phases of loyalty. These move from general liking (of price, of features), to a positive attitude towards the brand, to an intention to remain a customer of that brand, through to strong brand attachment (beautifully termed ‘action inertia’).

Most ‘loyalty schemes’ (I’m thinking here of coffee shops and high street brands) are a form of bribe – spend enough and you are ‘rewarded’ with a small return. But we can easily walk away from these brands because we have no deeper relationship with them. The challenge is to enable the move from a purely transactional relationship into the deeper waters of true loyalty.

Motivation is a key factor in building loyalty and if we understand audience motivations, we have a much better chance of succeeding. The obvious motivators are external (extrinsic) – e.g. points-based schemes leading to discounts – but we’re all affected by intrinsic motivators too. Things that make us feel that we’re in control, that we’re improving our skills/knowledge, making a difference, achieving tasks, and connecting with others are all important factors in how we feel, whether about an arts organisation or our jobs!

My next steps are a lot of data crunching, and then to talk to our core audience to tease out their motivations and where they are on the loyalty spectrum. Watch this space…

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