Brand Loyalty: Vying for the Throne

Editor’s note: This is a spoiler alert for fans of Game of Thrones (GOT). You may not want to continue reading unless, of course, you want an entertaining way of looking at what drives brand allegiance.

Like 8.9 million other people, I sat riveted to my television when the season finale of GOT aired. If you’ve never seen the show or read the novels, here’s a quick, overly-simplistic synopsis: There exists a large kingdom called Westeros. The king of Westeros dies. Many others vie for the throne, each with a considerably decent claim to it. Not surprisingly, few are open to reasonable, sit-down discussions to determine whose claim is best, and thus, things must be decided the old-fashioned way: war.  To win a war, you need an army. And to obtain an army, you need loyal subjects. Thus, one could say the content of five books/six seasons of TV follows each individual’s story as he or she attempts to win over others to his/her side. I’m on Team Dany. Daenerys “Dany” Targaryen’s family ruled Westeros for thousands of years before the now deceased king took over. Although legacy isn’t everything, her lineage gives her a lot of street cred.  If I lived in the seven kingdoms, I would certainly declare for Daenerys as Queen of Westeros—and according to the end of the season finale, several thousand others agree.

But it took a while for Daenerys to achieve this support. How did she go from being a frightened girl with a wish to rule in Season One to a confident woman with an impressive legion of backers in Season Six? What is it about her, her decisions or her journey that inspired such loyalty?

  1. She sets herself apart from the competition. Let’s start with the obvious: The lady has dragons—kind of a big deal in a historically mystical land like Westeros where dragons haven’t been on the scene for generations. Dany’s three impressive dragon “children” certainly give her an unique edge that other claimants sorely lack. And perhaps more importantly, the dragons are synonymous with her name.
  2. She stays true to her vision. Dany’s rise to the top wasn’t easy. Despite everyday obstacles—you know, like the loss of your husband and child to a revengeful maegi and being held captive in a bizarre fun house by warlocks—she remains in tune with the needs of her followers and the changing political climate while never losing sight of her original vision.
  3. She puts her followers first. Dany’s resolve is only matched by her altruism. It’s clear through her actions and choices that she truly wants to do good as a ruler and that means putting her constituents’ needs before her own—at times, to the tune of an uprising or self-sacrifice of personal affections.

“What in the kingdom does this have to do with market research?” I’m glad you asked.

 

Which brands do you “declare” for? Which have inspired true loyalty? And I don’t mean from which brands you buy often, but for which brands you would be willing to pledge your allegiance. I believe brands that cultivate the most long-lasting relationships with consumers are those that:

  • Carve out a unique niche. Whether it’s a particularly impressive product, a customer service strategy or stylish design and packaging —great brands find ways to synonymize that strength with their name.
  • Continue to evolve. I don’t mean just to meet consumer needs but also to the ever-changing marketplace and industry standards, while holding tight to their mission and organizational vision.
  • Keep the customer #1, no matter what. Amidst all the potential business strategies to improve branding, choosing the strategy that prioritizes the customer will always pay off.

Just as no queen should be without a trusted advisor, no brand should be without one either. At Escalent, we understand that a “one and done” study approach won’t cut it. Solid branding is an iterative process that takes careful planning.

To be the best, you need research insights that illuminate and communicate the above to your consumers. After all, a brand might claim to “rule,” but claim means little without others’ support and dedication.

 

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Elizabeth Baiocchi-Wagner, Ph.D.
Director, Health Insurance & Systems

Elizabeth (Liz) is a Director of Research and Consulting in Health Insurance & Systems at Escalent. She brings 15 years of quantitative and qualitative research experience to the table, along with solid industry knowledge in technology and telecommunications (after years of lead analyst work in that space). Liz is a former Communications professor (University of Missouri, University of Portland) teaching everything from Advanced Research Methods, to Gerontology, to Communicating in Romantic Relationships. Originally from Detroit, Liz joined the Escalent team in the summer of 2011 and moved to the Pacific NW. When she’s not working or teaching, she is leading marketing and outreach efforts for the nonprofit organization, GiGi’s Playhouse Portland, biking around her VERY hilly neighborhood, or playing DJ for a family dance party.