The Brand Pyramid
Building Customer Loyalty
Think about the brands you use. Some of them you likely bought because they were cheap or suited a functional need, but others you may well have chosen simply because you love them.
When someone feels a strong positive emotion toward a brand like this, their loyalty toward it increases. Understanding the way customers relate and feel toward brands can be particularly lucrative to marketers and strategists who want to boost customer loyalty.
But how do you know how your customers feel about your brand? And what can you do to encourage them to build stronger emotional ties with it?
In this article, we'll look at a useful tool called the Brand Pyramid, which you can use to identify just how strongly customers feel about your brands. We'll also explore how you can use it to increase your customers' loyalty to your brand, product, or organization.
According to marketing expert Seth Godin, a brand is a "set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another."
Brands can distinguish products, services, and even entire organizations.
What Is the Brand Pyramid?
There are several different versions of the Brand Pyramid, but most are based on the model originally created by Millward Brown, a global marketing research and consulting firm, in the mid-1990s.
The firm spent 30 years tracking brand-health studies from thousands of organizations. It then used this research to create its original model. While Millward Brown is now part of Kantar, and has since updated and simplified its brand equity framework, the original model is still a useful way to think about building customer loyalty.
The Brand Pyramid (shown in figure 1) illustrates five key stages that customers go through as they develop a relationship with a brand, starting with basic awareness and finishing with complete loyalty.
Figure 1 – The Brand Pyramid
Clearly, your goal is to get as many of your customers as possible to the higher levels of the pyramid. After all, the higher people are up the pyramid, the more money they're likely to spend with your brand. (This is why the pyramid is inverted.)
Now, let's look at the five levels of the Brand Pyramid in more detail:
Level 1: Presence
At this level, customers are aware of your brand, but little else. They may have tried your products and services before, but they have little or no emotional attachment to them.
Level 2: Relevance
At this level, customers start to think about whether your brand meets their wants and needs. They begin to compare the cost of your product with the value that it provides.
They might start asking themselves questions like:
- "Does this brand fit my needs?"
- "Is it in the right price bracket for me?"
- "Is it worth it?"
Level 3: Performance
Here, customers begin comparing your brand with others, to see whether it delivers on their requirements and the value they are seeking.
They're also starting to associate your brand with a specific identity and beginning to recognize it more often.
By now, your product or service is on the customer's "short list" of brands to choose from.
Level 4: Advantage
At this level, customers have determined that there is a distinct advantage to using your brand over others. They're also beginning to associate it with their own emotions and identity.
Level 5: Bonding
Customers have established a strong bond with your brand. They've determined that the cost, advantages, and performance of your brand all meet their requirements.
They've also formed a strong emotional attachment to it. Your brand has become an integral part of their self-image, and helps to represent who they are. This, in turn, means they exclude other brands in favor of your one.
Customers at this level are also likely to be vocal advocates of your brand, and proactively praise it their family, social, and professional circles.
It's usually best to assume that customers move through each stage in sequence, from Presence to Bonding.
The Brand Pyramid featured above focuses on the different stages a customer goes through as they develop a relationship with a brand.
It should not to be confused with the Keller's Brand Equity Model (also denoted as a pyramid and sometimes referred to as the Brand Values Pyramid), which refers to the different stages an organization works through when developing a brand.
Benefits of the Brand Pyramid
Evidence shows that customers are willing to pay more for the brands they love.  So improving brand loyalty is essential if you want to increase your customer base and drive profits.
But first you must understand just where your customers sit on the Brand Pyramid. Doing this can help you to identify just how strong the connection is between your brand and your customers, and enable you to think about what more can be done to build on the relationship you have with them. Could you, for example, set up a customer loyalty program or invest in a new marketing strategy that effectively resonates with your target audience?
When you understand the five stages that people go through while they build loyalty to your brand, you can focus your marketing efforts on leading target customers through them.
Remember, however, that there is some crossover between each of the levels, and it may be difficult or impractical to focus on just one stage at a time.
How to Use the Brand Pyramid to Build Customer Loyalty
Here are some strategies that you can use when applying the Brand Pyramid to improve your customer loyalty:
Presence and Relevance (Levels 1 and 2)
During these first two levels, you'll likely be focused on building awareness of your brand among your target audience. Use the Marketing Mix and 4 Ps to develop a marketing strategy that will boost your brand's presence and relevance among the customer base you are hoping to target.
You'll likely be targeting different groups of customers, with different wants and needs and with different potential levels of profitability. So it can help to use market segmentation or the STP model to focus your marketing strategy on delivering offerings targeted at the distinct groups of people most likely to engage with your brand.
Your customers will also want to know how your brand fits with their wants and needs. Price is important here – if the price is too high, customers won't buy your product. But, if the price is too low, they might assume that your product is of low quality. So it's essential you also do some research into your buyer preferences.
Conjoint Analysis is a great tool you can use to do this. This can help you identify what your customers truly want from your products or services. You can then use this information to fine-tune your product design and marketing strategy so that they are meeting customer demands.
Remember, there is still little to no emotional attachment to your brand at this stage. Customers are comparing price and value, so make sure that your marketing strategy addresses these key concerns.
Different customers will be at different levels of the pyramid at different times. The Product Diffusion Curve helps you think about how you can target different customers at different stages of a product's lifecycle.
Performance (Level 3)
To reach this stage, you need to show that your brand is better than your competitors'.
This will require some clever marketing. Ensure you are giving your customers all the information that they need to compare your product with competing ones. Show your customers how much better your brand or product is by focusing on its benefits rather than its features.
If you haven't already done so, conduct a USP Analysis, tp help you identify your brand's uniquely valuable features. And promote these to your customers!
Advantage and Bonding (Levels 4 and 5)
To reach these final stages, you need to communicate the perceived "added benefits" of using your brand
For example, it might be lower in price or superior in quality to your competitors. It may also be environmentally-friendly, have a heritage value associated with it, or use cutting-edge technology that isn't available elsewhere.
"Softer" influences may also be relevant here. Customers might begin to identify your brand with emotions such as fun, excitement, or approval from peers. In your marketing strategy, you need to address and enhance these emotions.
Once your customers have a strong emotional tie with your brand, they're more likely to advocate its benefits to others in their social, family, and professional circles.
By this stage, your brand likely has a culture surrounding it. Just think, for example, about big brands such as Apple, Coca-Cola and Netflix. Work toward building this culture by strengthening your identity through stand-out marketing campaigns and branding.
And keep that brand loyalty high by providing reinforcing rewards and incentives to your most vocal advocates. For example, you could host events that are important to your key customer base, offer special or exclusive benefits, and reach out to your customers, on a personal level.
The Brand Pyramid illustrates the five key stages that customers go through as they develop loyalty toward a particular brand, product, or organization. The five stages are:
The Bonding stage of the Pyramid represents the ultimate goal for a brand. Here, customers are very loyal to your organization and likely have a strong emotional attachment to it. This also means they are more likely to spend more money with your brand and praise its benefits to others.
Understanding the Brand Pyramid can help you to understand more about the relationship you have with your customers and what more you can do to strengthen it.
This information can then be used to develop an effective and targeted marketing strategy and help you to drive up customer loyalty.
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