When Khoros launched its “Khoros Engage” annual conferences in Paris and Cologne in 2019, one of the main speakers was Katherine Calvert, the customer engagement platform company’s CMO. Calvert closed both of the one-day conferences talking about the high expectations of today’s customers in which brands are either “loved or left.”

Since then and largely due to the pandemic, those values rank even higher today and it’s important for brands to not only value, but also foster excellent relations with their customers.

Customer trust became even more important during the pandemic. A growing number of consumers also said they were not adverse to switching brands if they didn’t agree with the company’s values. As in close personal relationships, trust, too, is the foundation of success. It’s particularly important today that brands exhibit authenticity, candor, and transparency.

These shared values build a strong and loyal customer base. Brands like Nike, Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia have successfully stuck to their core values for years and built a growing and loyal following. When brands mirror their target audience, they perpetuate the old saying about birds of a feather flocking together to foster an environment of togetherness. The key is getting to know and understand the audience and building a sense of community for both brand and customers.

Strong Examples

Nike is a sterling example. When the brand initially endorsed Colin Kaepernick, many loyal customers were upset and left the shoemaker. After that initial hit, sales picked up strongly from throngs of new customers who embraced Nike’s stand. Not only did sales increase 31% after the first Kaepernick ad, but Nike’s stock price has performed better than its competitors since then.

Speed & Ease

Another step to being loved or left is speed and ease. Today’s consumer won’t wait very long for a website to load or linger on a slow checkout page. Anything that can be done to speed up the process and avoid mental anguish will result in a happy customer. One only has to listen to the stories of frustrated citizens trying to schedule COVID-19 vaccine shots. The difference is that these folks don’t have an alternate means of receiving the vaccine. They do have a choice with brands who don’t deliver.

Similarly, content that’s easily understood and usable is great. It enhances engagement and the intent to purchase. It additionally increases the likelihood that these customers will return again and again. Brands that create perpetually fluid and create environments where interaction is simple and easy will fare much better with today’s consumer.

More Evidence

A 2019 report by the BBC said that gambling produces dopamine, a chemical in the brain that makes people feel good. Brands that can generate the same with appealing rewards and promotions will have customers returning time and time again to uncover new incentives. The trick is conditioning them to expect some surprise or another. Anticipation and uncertainty are the fuel for this fire.

Customers may be used to using Mastercard, VISA, PayPal and the like but a marketer’s real currency to bank on, is trust. Consumer values, demands and expectations are higher than ever and it’s within each marketer’s power for their brand to be loved or lost.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.