I know what you might be thinking: “Another marketing buzzword, like we don’t have enough already!”
As a marketer myself, I’m right there with you. The marketing industry is filled with acronyms and cliche jargon.
While the term brand affinity might appear to be another generic term in the marketing cog, it’s actually fairly important to understand today. And not only is it critical to understand, but it’s also necessary to know how to actually build it within your company.
Here’s our modern playbook to all things brand affinity.
What is Brand Affinity?
Brand affinity is how customers feel about your brand and the connection they have to your mission, values, and goals as a company. There’s an emotional trust built over time, which can’t be improved just by spending more ad dollars or trying to increase conversions.
While your product or services plays an important role in helping brand affinity, it’s not the main driver. It’s the leadership teams, the employees, and the feeling people get when interacting with those folks and your brand in various channels.
Customers become invested in your brand because they’ve established trust in the company. Your product or service might also be top-notch, but brand affinity is built through the emotional connection.
The difference between brand affinity and brand loyalty
But wait, this feels kind of similar to the term brand loyalty. Well, you’re not wrong, as they’re often used to describe the same thing, but there is a difference between them.
Someone can still be loyal to a brand because the product or service delivers results, but they can also not have any affinity toward the company.
Why is building brand affinity important?
When people feel connected to your brand and believe in it, it’s much easier to grab their attention, build word of mouth, and create demand for those wanting to use your product or service. People trust your vision, content, and leadership over time and see your brand as an industry leader.
The Benefits of Brand Affinity
As you see, brand affinity is pretty valuable and contributes to your company’s success. But here’s a list of benefits, just in case you or your colleagues need more encouragement to begin investing in this area.
- It builds stronger relationships with customers, employees, and general audiences that could one day become customers.
- It helps give your company brand an identity and personality. No more stuffy corporate branding — it’s time to develop a stance and voice to your brand.
- Your company trust factor increases among all types of audiences. Treating customers and employees well, having a clear mission and values, and being visible across various digital channels begins to establish trust.
- It drives overall brand awareness. Content and word gets out about products or services much faster when those already supporting it have affinity toward the brand.
- Word of mouth compounds. Today, getting referrals or others talking about your company with friends, family, and colleagues is a huge channel for driving growth. More than 90% of people trust suggestions from family and friends, according to HubSpot.
- Brand affinity can increase sales. When customers feel your business shares their values, it drives confidence in choosing your product or services. And loyal customers will continue to buy from a company they trust and may also make even bigger purchases in the future. Brand affinity increases your customer base, which leads to more revenue. Cha-ching!
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How to Build A Brand Affinity Strategy In Today’s Climate
The way marketing and brand affinity is built today has changed. There’s certainly overlap with past times, but with digital tools, the evolving way buyers conduct research, and social media, the same-old strategies just won’t cut it.
You’ll find there are some consistent things that’ll always matter, regardless of the business space evolving.
But there are also strategies and channels that, if ignored, will make brand affinity much more challenging for you. And this is exactly when your competitors get a head start.
Below are some ways to better build brand affinity today in order to emotionally connect with people and create a trusted brand personality.
1. Talk to customers and audiences.
It might be cliche and eye-rolling to hear it, but talking to your customers and audiences is necessary. It’s hammered home by every business leader and LinkedIn influencer.
Why? Because it’s so true and often people STILL forget this golden rule.
But it also matters for your brand affinity strategy. It’s the best way to understand how customers and audiences feel about your brand, what emotions your brand evokes, how they’d describe your brand, etc. These insights can help you adjust your messaging and strategy or know if you’re on the right track.
Get on calls, have your teams that are customer-facing ask questions, send out surveys, do pulse checks, etc. Whatever it is, start gathering feedback and information from those outside your organization.
2. Refine your brand personality.
Often in B2B or SaaS companies, the brand can be kind of stale and lack a personality. With so many online channels and ways to connect with the audience, your brand needs a personality.
What’s its tone? What’s its style? How do you interact with your audiences? Knowing the answers to these questions won’t only help your company stand out, but it’ll also give people a reason to gravitate toward your brand more.
The challenge is that your brand personality needs to be conveyed through every communication channel and touchpoint through the customer and buyer journey.
3. Engage with people from branded social media accounts.
With your brand personality defined, it’s time to get your messaging out to the world. One of the best ways to do that is through social media and your branded company accounts.
When people want information about your brand or its product, social media is one of the first places they’ll turn to. In fact, 54% of them use social media to research products.
Plus, people want to follow companies on social media, which is why 86% of social media users follow at least one brand.
And how you engage with people online can have a positive impact on brand affinity and your bottom line — even when the person hasn’t purchased your product yet. Research shows that 71% of consumers who’ve had a good experience with a company on social media are likely to recommend the brand.
So keep your branded social accounts updated with fresh, relevant content, and consistently engage with your audience to help build that valuable brand affinity.
4. Activate employee social networks.
As a company, one important go-to market strategy today is elevating your people and brand through your team’s own individual social networks. This is called various terms but common ones are employee advocacy, employee influencers, and employee amplification.
The key here is that the content shared and created by employees is a mix of their expertise, personal interests, and company content. This increases reach and trust among audiences, which become synonymous with the company brand.
When your people’s connections see the company and look into what it does, positive brand affinity develops. These are some of thoughts that start to develop:
- If employees are actively sharing and engaging with their company, it must be a great brand and place to work.
- Clearly, the company encourages and supports their people sharing their voices out to the world, and that’s awesome to see.
- I’ve never heard of “XYZ company” before, but I really enjoy “ABC’s” content. I’m going to see what their employer is all about.
The audiences may not all have a need for your product or service now, but you can bet they’re already building trust and affinity via your people.
So when they may be in the market, who do you think will come to mind first? If someone in their network has a need, who do you think they’ll recommend? That’s the power of employees creating and sharing content!
5. Work on your founder brand.
While not every founder is a great marketer or content creator, it’s still important that they’re highly visible to audiences.
After all, they came up with the business and have the most insights about the value it provides. So who better to tell that story and drive the brand mission forward?
Although it’s amazing when C-Suite leaders post on social media, write articles, speak at events, and appear on podcasts, it’s not always realistic for every leader to do it all at a high frequency.
But this is another valuable way to build brand affinity by humanizing the person(s) leading the company. Even if there’s a team around these leaders, helping schedule and craft their narrative, it’s a mistake to not have the founders be heard in some way.
6. Build customer relationships.
Talking to customers for intel is one thing, but it’s also building that trusted relationship with them. It helps you navigate through the good and bad, as no product or service is going to be perfect.
But the reason so many companies invest in customer support teams (if not, they should!) is to nurture these relationships. When people have good experiences with the people in your organization, that fuels brand affinity.
People trust that your team will get things done for them, that you’ll deliver value, and that your team treats everyone with respect. That fuels word of mouth, because people will talk about the great experiences they have.
Plus, it influences how they’ll continue to purchase your product or services when they move on to new organizations.
How Does Social Media Build Brand Affinity?
While there are many parts to developing a strong brand affinity strategy, social media plays a major role. As you saw above, there are a few separate call outs for social media. But why is it so important?
It comes down to four buckets:
- Social media allows you to humanize your brand easier.
- Social media is the quickest way to directly engage with audiences.
- Social media is the easiest way to gather intel and feedback.
- Social media is the best way to distribute great content and experiences.
While I’m simplifying these buckets, it should help paint the picture of why social media is so crucial to your brand affinity and go-to market strategy.
How to Measure Brand Affinity
With all your company efforts, naturally you’ll want to measure brand affinity. But how can you calculate those efforts?
At first, it will appear not super easy to measure results, since many of the efforts tie to driving connection and emotion to your brand.
But there are a few ways that show your strategy is having an impact. Here’s what to measure and keep track of for brand affinity campaigns:
- Ask customers and audiences. See what they feel about your brand anonymously in surveys and what words they associate with your brand.
- Brand search volume. Look at Google Search Console to see how often your brand is searched and clicked on. You can also look at your company page on LinkedIn, and see the amount of brand searches for your page in the last seven days.
- Social media engagement. Is your company getting more followers to engage or comment on its content? Are you organically getting more positive mentions on social media?
- Time spent with content. If audiences spend more time reading and viewing your content, it’s another indicator they trust your brand. You can find this data in Google Analytics, watch time on videos pending the channel you use, etc.
- Number of subscribers — newsletter, Youtube, or other channels. Not only does it signal that you have interesting content, but it also demonstrates that people see your brand’s value and want to be part of a community around it.
These are some popular ways to measure your brand affinity. But as you think through this, you may have additional ways you’d like to keep track or signals to monitor.
Best of luck on your brand affinity journey!