Saturday, January 25, 2014

How Brand Loyal Are You?

Brand loyalty has always been a fascinating subject for me. What makes someone make a connection with a brand and become a devoted follower has always been an interesting topic. My degree is in Business Administration with a focus on Marketing so this side of business, relating to the consumer and creating a relationship, is a key part of my job and is integral to the success of any business. 

I'm not quite sure when it happened, but I have been brand loyal to Nike since I was a child. My parents even found an old paper of mine from grade school where I wrote my goal of what I wanted to do when I grew up and I had written "work for Nike." I've often tried to pinpoint the exact moment when Nike became the brand I focused on for my workout gear and shoes, but there are actually quite a few. 

For one, I'm a tall girl and I have larger feet. When I was in grade school I couldn't find any stylish women's running shoes unless they were Nike. Most companies have now expanded their sizes and 11 - 12 are common women's sizes, but I still contribute my stylish grade school kick's years to Nike. They were the first to cater to me and make me feel like I fit in. 

In high school they were the brand that made my basketball shoes. Basketball was who I was and shaped my future goals and opportunities. It wasn't the shoes that defined me, or that very recognizable swoosh, but it was the self esteem, pride and accomplishment I felt when I laced them up. Nike understands athletes and they understood what I wanted. 

In college I continued to wear Nike's for the college team and by then I just wouldn't have any other shoe on the court. I wouldn't say I made a mistake in college, but if I could go back and do it over I would have focused on researching what Nike looked for in an intern and pouring my heart and sole into getting the experience I needed to be hired on after college. I had one internship interview and my lack of experience in a few areas is what I feel like was lacking on my resume. I placed too much faith in the brand I love simply seeing my devotion and wanting to hire a kid excited about the brand. 

I don't blame them. They are a great company because they hire only the best and often that comes with experience. However, what I don't have in experience I make up for in heart. I have been relentless in pursuing different angles at Nike and working with members of their team when I get a chance. 

I was lucky enough to be featured on their Nike Women blog, make it to the top 10 of a Nike Women Field Reporter Competition, become a Nike Women's Marathon Training Ambassador in 2012, participate in the Nike Running Epic Run Competition last year with my #RUNIRISHLUCK run  (I came in third) and now be a Captain of their new online Community Forum. 

My interactions with Nike have all been positive and I know they care about runners, dreamers and athletes everywhere. Sure, they are in it to make a profit, but the bottom line is that making athletes better products and offering them amazing free services such as the Nike Running app and NTC app, is one of their top goals. 

So, I would have to say that my brand loyalty comes from a combination of my Oregon roots, dedication to sports, positive interactions and opportunities within the brand and my burning desire to work for the Swoosh. 

Nike's expansion of their live NTC classes are making more brand enthusiasts like myself around the world. Bottom line: Nike is doing everything right. They are offering free training, product trials and a community to keep you coming back for more. They are giving the consumer an experience - not just selling them a shoe or new running shorts. You want to come back because of the value you place on the experience. 

When I'm not near a Nike store I can do NTC at home with the app and interact with Nike on Twitter and Facebook. They always respond with motivational words and keep me motivated to continue training even at a distance. The community they have built is strong and keeps getting stronger. 

Fitness is a part of my life and Nike just seems to fit in. My car even has a four-foot swoosh sticker on the rear window. It's been there for six years. In essence - I am already branded. It seems to me that brand loyalty is a result of continuous relationships and creating value to a customer. If Nike ever stops creating value for me then my brand loyalty will end. 

I don't have complete exclusivity with Nike, I still enjoy wearing other brands. I have a love for Athleta's girly fitness style and Under Armour Women impresses me with their I WILL campaign and commitment to women in sports. Nike just has my heart. It was my first love and I do not have a negative thing to say about them. I have become brand loyal due to nearly two decades of interaction with them and positive memories and experiences from sporting the Swoosh. 

Nike is just one example of my brand loyalty, just ask my hubby! He's a bit baffled by my commitment to the brands I love. Pocketfuel, Nuun Hydration and Feetures! socks to name a few. But what these companies all have in common is a commitment to quality, interaction with customers no matter who they are and amazing customer service. I stay committed to those companies that create value for me. Companies earn my loyalty. They earn it and maintain it with their actions. 

Am I brand loyal? Absolutely. I am also loyal in every other aspect of my life and that is who I am. If you have my back, I will have yours every time.