Does loyalty start with brand personality?
When researching and selecting products and services, most consumers choose the ones with a brand personality that closely matches their own personality, according to Ki-Joon Back, a professor at the College of Human Ecology, Kansas State University.
Professor Back found that his assertion is especially true in the upper and upscale hotel industry. The department's research showed that people want to project a certain image of themselves, and consequently - with particular reference to hotels - most will choose a brand name that projects the same image. The more closely a hotel's personality matches the personality of a customer, the more likely it is that a customer will become loyal to that hotel brand.
Image differentiation "In this market, everyone wants the same thing: customers," explained Back. "In the upper-upscale industry, you may have two hotels with nearly identical rooms and services. The product is the same, so it's important for the hotel to sell its image if it wants to get customers and have them come back again."
For example, in Las Vegas, the MGM Studios and Hard Rock Café hotels are almost identical in terms of price and the services they offer. But because of the way they sell their images, different types of customers are attracted to each. MGM has developed a movie theme that appeals more to families, whereas Hard Rock's music theme attracts mostly young singles.
Three main attributes According to Back, there are three parts to a brand that influence customers' perception of the brand's personality: service attributes, user imagery and price. Service attributes refer to the services that are offered, while user imagery refers to the set of human characteristics associated with the typical user of a brand (which can be influenced by actual users or advertising). Finally, price is important because customers usually associate higher prices with higher quality or prestige goods and services.
The user's image is perhaps the most emotive reason for choosing a particular brand. Someone who wants to be seen as being modern will often choose a hotel that has a modern image. A business traveller who wants to appear successful and wealthy will often choose a luxurious, expensive hotel. For this reason, it is important for brands to establish and sell a specific image that its customers will identify with - and become loyal to.
"Customers become brand loyal because they have formed an emotional relationship with a brand, much like they do with people," said Back.