Tech Artificial Intelligence Brand Strategy

Customer loyalty is no longer enough – creating brand superfans requires new strategies


By Dani Mariano, President

April 24, 2023 | 7 min read

Today’s consumers want access delivered through diverse touchpoints and emerging tech, writes Razorfish’s Dani Mariano. Can brands deliver?

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Almost every adult I know belongs to at least one company’s loyalty program. What earns a customer’s loyalty? Years ago, I’d have said similarities. But the game has changed.

Now, it’s about delivering consistent experiences. Customer loyalty as we’ve known it is no longer enough. Today’s consumers want all aspects of their brand interaction to be a valuable experience – from how their loyalty is gamified to the rewards they can gain. To deliver, organizations need to understand that how they engage with customers should be a collaborative effort, and this is especially true in emerging tech spaces.

Artificial intelligence (AI), for example, can elevate a brand’s ability to produce an individualized experience more accurately and seamlessly. And through web3 channels, users can own portions of a brand via NFTs and influence how they create experiences within a virtual metaverse world.

When consumers have access and a vested interest in a brand’s success, they reach a new level of loyalty – they become brand superfans.

The expectations of brand superfans are high, as they’re part of a consumer base that’s never been more diverse. They can’t be marketed to in a one-size-fits-all approach. Companies must truly get to know these customers and their individual preferences and personas. While the task is lofty, it’s not unattainable.

Here are three ways companies can turn their most loyal customers into brand superfans:

1. Responsible use of first-party data

When brands deliver consistent experiences, they create consumer trust. But that’s easier said than done in an area of deep scrutiny in today’s digitally connected world: data privacy.

As emerging technologies like AI and web3 grow in adoption, brands target consumers directly through their digital footprints and wallets. There’s a clear advantage, as companies can unlock insights into real-time consumer behaviors that allow them to modify experiences to meet evolving needs. However, for this exchange to work, trust must be earned. Brands collecting data need to prove to their superfans that they’ll use that data responsibly and ensure appropriate levels of protection.

This tech evolution could create a ripe opportunity for legacy brands, as research shows nearly 30% of consumers trust sharing their data with brands 50-plus years old, while less than 10% trust sharing it with startups.

2. Personalized campaigns for a diverse audience

Members of Gen Z are getting older, as this group will make up almost one-third of the workforce by 2030. While they have many unique characteristics, brands frequently make the mistake of marketing to this group as if they all think and feel the same.

And while Gen Z still represents the newest group of consumers, members of gen Alpha aren’t far behind. To reach them effectively, companies need to utilize a multi-channel approach of both social media and emerging technology, as each have shaped these younger generations’ views and experiences.

A high level of personalization is essential for an audience whose expectations are even higher given their native comfort with digital platforms. And more than 70% of early web3 adopters who have previously purchased a virtual good said they were just as likely or even more likely to purchase virtual goods than physical ones, proving that creating consistent experiences even within virtual spaces can elevate loyalty.

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3. Authenticity in a world of skepticism

In addition to being the newest and most diverse consumer group, gen Z also prioritizes social and environmental responsibility. To turn loyal customers into brand superfans, organizations need to make their products and experiences accessible for all and safe for the environment. But that effort can’t be all talk – it needs backed up with actions and results.

Today’s consumers are naturally skeptical; they’ve seen it all, and if a brand isn’t genuine, they can sniff it out. However, that makes authenticity even more admirable and noticeable. Setting purpose-driven goals is a great first step, but brands would be wise to follow through if they expect to earn superfans in the process. Trying to purchase customer loyalty isn’t good enough anymore. Today, it’s about authentic loyalty.

In some ways, organizations have found themselves on the back foot over the past few years as the behaviors of their target audiences have twisted and turned. But I’d argue that those who find ways to break through within the current landscape can reap the rewards of a new level of loyalty.

Technology is a powerful force connecting customers and their favorite brands through more touchpoints than ever. It’s not easy, but through responsible data use, personalized experiences, and authenticity, companies can achieve superfan status with their customers.

Dani Mariano is president at Razorfish.

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