The Three Cs of Customer Loyalty: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

making your customers happy in a single transaction simply isn’t enough. You need to meet and exceed their needs across the entire customer journey.

If marketing is a discipline, consistency is the ultimate marker for success.

More importantly, if you want to get the edge over your competitors and retain loyal customers, a consistent customer experience is vital.

As you know, making your customers happy in a single transaction simply isn’t enough. You need to meet and exceed their needs across the customer’s entire journey.

There are three key areas of consistency that we’ve found to be critical for cultivating customer loyalty and increasing revenue:

Consistent Emotional Anchoring

What are the primary emotions your best customers experience and associate with your brand? For example, does your brand evoke feelings of joy, love, wonder, energy, hope, optimism, or strength?

Knowing your brand’s target emotions is the first step.

Next, you need to ensure that a critical mass of customers are experiencing these emotions consistently when they interact with your brand.

Consistent Messaging

Consistent messaging has two vital components: highlighting your brand’s promise and demonstrating that you fulfill that promise.

Do your customers know what they expect when they interact with your business? And do they perceive that you meet or exceed that expectation consistently?

Consistent Customer Experience

Every way in which your customers touch your brand must be consistent.

From a first-time purchase to repeat buying, from customer service issues to interactions on social media, every aspect of the customer’s journey must be a continuous, positive experience.

Providing a consistent customer experience across all touchpoints in our multi-channel, multi-touch world is more challenging than ever.

Companies that succeed at this herculean task of consistency throughout the customer’s journey, however, win market share from their less adept competitors and cultivate legions of loyal customers.

The Hidden Power of Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are some of the oldest stories in existence. In one form or another, these stories have been told time and time again—admittedly to entertain, but also to teach.

The details vary from culture to culture—Europe gave us Hansel and Gretel using their wits to get away from a ravenous witch, whereas Brer Rabbit and his tricky antics originate in the antebellum American South—but the underlying messages remain the same: there is no obstacle that can’t be overcome if we’re smart, steadfast, and not above being strategically committed to objective truths.

Why Fairy Tales Are Important

Fairy tales are, at their core, heightened portrayals of human nature that reveal, as the glare of injury and illness does, the underbelly of humanity. Both fairy tales and medical charts chronicle the bizarre, the unfair, the tragic. And, the terrifying things that go bump in the night are what doctors treat at 3 a.m. in emergency rooms. We use cultural stories to help us understand life experiences. We also use these social stories to guide our actions to better navigate what life throws at us.

Brand Lovers and their Cultural Stories

Another way to refer to fairy tales, and other old, eternal narratives, is as cultural stories. In Brand Modeling, we focus on understanding the cultural stories that influence our Brand Lovers.

Although we seldom articulate our connection to cultural stories, cultural stories connect people to their ideal selves. These are symbolic road maps we use to navigate our way through life; they are strategic touchstones to reference as we move forward from where we are to where we want to be.

Cultural stories provide the framework we see ourselves in—as individuals and in relationship to others. This is where cultural stories guide purchasing behavior.

What are the stories that most influence your Brand Lovers?

Metrics Don’t Always Matter

Fixating on metrics often ends up conflating measurement with progress

You can’t manage what you can’t measure.W. Edwards Deming

Businesses have become obsessed with metrics. More metrics are treated as producing greater the results. And, the better the metrics, the better the results.

This metric fixation is the byproduct of an unhealthy obsession with outcomes—the movement of a nonexistent needle—that ends up conflating measurement with progress.

To serve the desired outcome, metrics often become as manipulated as the quote that opened this blog: one of the most widely used quotes in favor of the metric mentality was never written by Deming. In fact, Deming wrote quite the opposite: “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it—a costly myth.”1

It’s not that metrics aren’t important. The problem occurs when businesses obsess about outcomes.

This outcome obsession has resulted in measuring the what and often ignoring the why and how. As Deming writes, “A numerical goal accomplishes nothing….What counts is the method—by what method?…If you can accomplish a goal without a method, then why were you not doing it last year?”2

Outcomes are byproducts of methods operating in complex systems. An improved outcome doesn’t necessarily indicate that the complex system is functioning. By just looking at an outcome, a broken system could appear to be functioning properly.

Without understanding the why and how, disaster can be lurking around the corner or a business may not be actually taking full advantage of its potential capabilities. The systems and methods that produce the outcomes are what really need to be evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively, not just the outcomes.

An evaluation must look at the whole picture rather than an arbitrary outcome—much less a single outcome.

Are you paying too much attention to the outcome and not the systems and methods?


3 Questions Great Leaders Ask

When you care about your staff and their contributions, they will reward you with a genuine effort in making the company vision a reality.

Great leaders know that everyone wants to be a part of creating the vision. Keep your team involved and motivated by asking these three questions.

1. “How are things going?”

[Managers] do not talk to their subordinates about their problems, but they know how to make the subordinates talk about theirs.Peter Drucker1

Drucker’s quote is a great reminder that a leader’s role is to help their staff succeed.

You don’t have to wait for the annual review to check in with your team. Asking “How are things going?” is an excellent way to keep staff engaged and working together. Inquiring about their task at hand, their progress on a project, or about their career path. Frequent in-the-moment feedback will help everyone know their contributions are critical to achieving the vision.

2. “What do you think?”

Your job, as a manager, is to get better outcomes from a group of people working togetherJulie Zhuo2

Help your team dig deeper by asking them what they think. Being a leader is not about having all the right answers. Leadership is about facilitating others to find a solution.

Try to reach out to all your staff, not just outspoken team members. Everyone has an idea of how to achieve the vision. Listen and share those ideas with all your team members. You will be surprised how team members can inspire each other.

3. “How can I help you?”

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”Martin Luther King, Jr.3

King’s famous quote is correct in every aspect of life. Don’t wait for issues to come to you. Ask those around you how you can lend a hand. Then, follow through with action: make sure tasks are done, work side-by-side with your staff, and become their biggest cheerleader—especially when big projects are due.

When you care about your staff and their contributions, they will reward you with a genuine effort in making the company vision a reality.


Two Archetypal Forces that Drive Leadership Success

Apollo provides structure and process.  Dionysius provides value and meaning.

In ancient Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysus are both sons of Zeus.

Apollo is the god of the sun, medicine, protection, and prophecy.

Apollo had a large cult, centered around Delphi, the most famous and frequently visited oracle in the ancient world.

As the god of wine and ecstasy, Dionysus was worshipped at celebrations and secret rituals. As the god of fertility, he was associated with crops, harvests, and the changing seasons.

Dionysus, too, had his own cult, although his was relatively small.

What do these ancient, mythological characters have to do with you and your business?

Surprisingly, quite a bit. These two archetypes express the drives and resources available in each of us.

Two Archetypal Forces in the Human Psyche  

Instead of viewing these Greek gods as fictitious characters, see them as active forces within us.

Great scholars like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell point out that these Greek gods—like all other figures in ancient myths and religions—symbolize functions in the human psyche.

Apollo, for example, represents the masculine principle: reason, rationality, and order. Dionysus is a symbol of the feminine: feelings, irrationality, and chaos.

Apollo is the conscious mind. Dionysus is the unconscious mind.

In the language of neuroscience, Apollo is associated with the prefrontal cortex, the thinking brain. Dionysus is rooted in the limbic system, the emotional brain.

When you’re following directions with your car’s GPS navigator, Apollo is in command. When you get the chills listening to your favorite music, Dionysus is alive within you.

Apollo establishes structure and process. This masculine principle has dominated Western consciousness for thousands of years. Apollo is powerful. He paved the way for science, industrialization, rationalism, enterprise, and technology.

Dionysius provides value and meaning. Giving us a zest for living, he awakens in us our love for the arts, play, creativity, self-expression, and inspiration. Life without Dionysus feels empty and hollow. When we’re cut off from him, we feel disconnected from everyone and everything.

The Interconnected Nature of Opposites

The principles behind Apollo and Dionysus seem to be in opposition: logic and feelings seem to go together like oil and water.

Ancient cultures like the Greeks, however, didn’t see it that way. To them, these gods represented interconnected principles.

Nineteenth-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out that all great tragedy and drama are rooted in the tension produced by the interplay of these interconnected forces.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung observed that the psyche itself is filled with these complementary, but seemingly opposing forces. He discovered that the tension behind these forces served to maintain balance and spur psychological growth.

Outperforming Businesses Hold the Opposites Together

Apollo helps us build and create. Dionysus helps us feel and relate.

Apollo is the default. Anyone in the role of chief executive has Apollo in his corner. The financial markets know only Apollo.

Business leaders dominated by Apollo, however, have a transactional mindset toward their customers. They focus mainly on generating the next sale and on achieving short-term profits.

Although we don’t have many objective ways to measure Dionysian factors, his presence most certainly translates to the bottom line.

Business leaders that integrate Dionysus have a relational mindset toward their customers. They are driven to find meaningful ways to better serve their customers and focus on long-term sustainability.

Organizations that awake Dionysus put an emphasis on aesthetics, corporate culture, core values, collaboration, employee renewal, and the customer experience.

The Opportunity for Today’s Business Leaders

The opportunity for today’s inspired leaders comes by the way of Dionysus.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s research in corporate leadership illuminates that outperforming leaders are more self-aware (less unconscious) and more empathic (more connected to the feelings of others).

That is, these leaders have better integrated Dionysius into their work and into their organization’s culture. They lead with both Apollo and Dionysus on their shoulders.

The lesson of opposites teaches us that, if we’re committed to our own growth and to the continuous development of our businesses, we must honor the feminine side of our humanity too.

The good news is that this is a skill and all skills can be learned.

Leaders who embrace Dionysius are able to build thriving cultures and inspire people with a company vision. They have an easier time managing conflict. They also put an emphasis on building strong customer relationships.

These are the ingredients of outperforming leadership and tomorrow’s winning businesses.

How to Put Archetypes to Work in Your Business

Archetypes are like software programs that come preinstalled in your mind.  They transcend culture and time.
Business archetypes tap into customers’ psyches.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung considered archetypes the fundamental units of the human mind.

Archetypes are like software programs that come preinstalled on your computer (mind). You may not know they exist, but they are always either running in the background or ready to run after a single click.

Archetypes are images of a collective nature. They are universal symbols. Archetypes are personified in the characters and roles of religions, myths, fairy tales, and modern storytelling in the form of films and video games. Every character in a story represents an archetype.

How Archetypes Work

Jung described archetypes as the forms which our instincts take.1 That is, archetypes trigger set patterns of behavior.

No matter what image of the Hero archetype you hold in mind, for example, certain patterns of behavior and characteristics come alive, like bravery, valor, persistence, and action.

It doesn’t matter where in the world you go, the Hero archetype is the same. Archetypes transcend culture and time.

Connect with Your Customer’s Emotional Life

Archetypes, Jung wrote, “are pieces of life itself—images that are integrally connected to the living individual by the bridge of the emotions.”2

Emotion is what brings archetypes to life. An image is dead if it doesn’t evoke true feelings. Without emotion, an archetypal image cannot speak to us.

Although modern culture focuses mainly on the external world of material things, humans also have an inner world. This inner world is the home of our fantasies, imagination, and emotional life.

It is from our inner world that we find personal meaning, value, and life’s richness.

Our outer worlds and our inner worlds are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps you know someone who is financially prosperous (outer) but emotionally poor (inner). You probably also know people who have very little financially, but seem to live rich, joyful lives.

One of the reasons we love watching movies is that they bring certain archetypes to life in our minds. We feel what the characters feel. For the duration of the movie, the archetypes in our psyche get to live out an adventure.

When businesses use archetypes effectively in marketing, these archetypes evoke powerful emotions and related images in the minds of their customers. This effort results in customers instinctively gravitating to these businesses.

Great Brands Capitalize on Archetypes

The first step to using archetypes in your marketing efforts is to identify the archetypes hidden within your business.

This is both an art and a science. There are thousands of archetypes and isolating the most relevant ones is no simple task.

Apple plays to the Creator archetype, associating itself with free-thinking, creativity, self-expression, originality, knowledge, and nonconformity.

Nike plays to the Warrior archetype, associating itself with the goddess of victory, strength, endurance, courage, fearlessness, conviction, and dominance.

The second step is to create associations between your archetypes and your brand in the minds of your customers. This requires creativity and consistency as well as a thoughtful, disciplined approach to marketing and advertising.

Is it worth the effort?

There’s no single better way for big businesses to position themselves in the hearts and mind of their customers.


Why Customers Get Brand Tattoos

Brand tattoos help customers bond with others in the same social group who share special interests and common values.

What drives a person to get a brand tattoo?

Think about what the term “branding” really means and you’ll have a better appreciation for the importance of the psychology behind brand tattoos.

The tattoo is a powerful symbolic image. Symbolic images activate patterns buried in our unconscious. These unconscious images are what Carl Jung referred to as archetypes.

Archetypes, in Jung’s words, “are simply the forms which the instincts assume.”1

Archetypes serve as the foundation for the way the psyche interacts with the world. We associate specific symbolic images with specific feelings, values, and beliefs. We are not generally aware of these associations; they are below our conscious awareness.

Brand Tattoos Fulfill Social Needs

Symbols are tied to our instincts, which feed our human needs. We all have biological needs as well as social needs. Brand tattoo serve our social needs.

How? The mark or image of a brand represents a specific set of ideals, aspirations, beliefs, values, and worldviews. We all have a need for love and belonging. Brand tattoos are badges that symbolize membership into a social group. They makes us feel like we belong.

Brand tattoos help customers bond with others in the same social group who share special interests and common values. Brand tattoos send a message that they belong to a unique, personally meaningful community. You only “get the message” if you’re part of that group.

Brand Tattoos Represent Meaningful Associations

Victor Frankl attributed the success of his bestseller Man’s Search for Meaning to the title of the book. To him, millions of people bought the book because of their own lack of meaning in their lives. And, the need to fill the meaning deficit has only grown through the present day.

Some people have discovered their meaning in the values they project onto brands like Apple, Harley-Davidson, Nintendo, Nike, and Coca-Cola.

The brand tattoo is permanent badge with special meaning. It creates a powerful recall cue for the memories, experiences, emotions, and other positive associations they have with the brand. A single image, as represented by the tattoo, can encapsulate a complex matrix of meaning.

Brand Tattoos Symbolize Ideals

Beyond the social needs of humans, brand tattoos are reminders of the customer’s ideal life.

Brands can become associated with specific ideals, as Apple has become inextricably linked to creativity, beauty, and self-expression. Customers see the brand’s mark as both a reminder of and identification with these ideals, allowing them to draw strength from the image.

For customers to identify with your brand, your brand has to constantly and consistently be associated with a particular archetype. Then, if that image resonates strong enough in your customer’s psyche, they just might want to brand their skin with your image.

Marrying Customers to Your Business

Customers instinctively look for meaning. They naturally look for something to rally around. They crave an emotional payoff from their interaction with the brands they love. Brand tattoos create a permanent physical connection between the customer and the brand.

In a world where most businesses focus exclusively on growth and sales, the opportunity for businesses to serve customers on a deeper level remains open and waiting.

The doorway to the customer’s unconscious mind is open to those brave enough to venture inward. The results can be magical, with extreme loyalty—and growth and sales—following suit. follow suit.


How Do You Serve Your Best Customers?

What problem are you helping your best customers solve? What need are you helping them fill?

No matter how the technological and commercial landscape may change, your goal remains the same: to create customers.

More specifically, your goal is to build relationships with customers that translate to repeat business and positive word of mouth.

This challenging feat is, in large part, accomplished through branding: using a set of practices to get customers to associate specific emotions and images with a company.

When a group of customers associates desired emotions and images to a brand, that brand has “equity” it can leverage in order to grow.

Southwest Airlines, for example, offers warm, friendly service to its passengers in an industry notorious for subpar customer experience.

Their brand has become the “heart of the sky,” symbolized by a heart on the belly of its airplanes.

The Strategy: Focus On Your Best Customers

The secret ingredient to profitability and creating a loyalty-driven enterprise is what we call Brand Lovers: the customers who love you the most.

Brand Lovers emotionally connect with what you do and want to celebrate who you are. Their connection with your brand is so strong that they often don’t consider doing business with anyone else, and if they do: they always consider you first.

Apple’s Brand Lovers, for example, don’t consider purchasing a PC. To them, there is no alternative to Mac.

Your Brand Lovers choose you more often than your competitors. For many companies, the best customers drive most of the business’s profitability. Yet, these businesses often know very little about these customers.

Identify Your Brand Lovers

How do you find your best customers?

Actually, they often find you. They might hang out in your stores, repeatedly comment on your social media, send you e-mails, and call from time to time to tell you how great you’re doing.

Some customers might even blog about your products or services, or create videos and post them on YouTube. These special customers might mention you on their social networks.

On the financial side, if you maintain a customer database, you can sift through and determine who purchases from you with the greatest frequency and for the longest time span.

Know Your Brand Lovers

Your goal is to form a stronger relationship with your best customers. To accomplish this, start by getting to know them better.

Talk to them. Find out why they keep doing business with you. Don’t be afraid to ask. And, listen carefully.

Conducting online surveys can be helpful, but finding ways to directly talk to your customers provides deeper insights than any survey can. Sam Walton would often tell his executives: “If you don’t know what to do, go ask the customer. If it’s not happening in the store, it is not important.”

Look for the intangible clues that make you unique in your customers’ eyes. Uncover the emotional effect you have on them.

General market research doesn’t uncover the true drivers of choice for your best customers. These drivers are always below the surface in the subconscious realms.  

Serve Them Better Than Anyone Else

There are always ways to grow your business by embracing your best customers.

Once you understand why your best customers love doing business with you, you will be better prepared to serve them. The answers don’t have to be complex.

How can you show them that you genuinely care about them?

For World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), offering free meatball subs before their shows increased the love among early participants.

What problem are you helping your best customers solve? What need are you helping them fill?

Skaters were ostracized by most businesses, but Vans listened to its customers and developed products aligned with the skater lifestyle.

What are meaningful ways to celebrate their loyalty?

Are you grateful for your best customers? Do they know it? What are some ways to acknowledge your appreciation for their business?

You don’t necessarily have to give them a gift; sometimes a simple “thank you” will work wonders.

As a leader of your enterprise, your role is to create the future today. This requires you to know what your customers will want tomorrow. The only way to anticipate the future needs of your customers is to understand who they are. Then, you can create the future together.

Top 5 Cult Branding Blogs of 2020

Cult Branding's Top Loyalty and Crisis Blogs of the Year

In a year that’s been filled with a lot of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, we’re especially thankful for your continued readership during this challenging year.

Taking into consideration your opens, shares, and clicks, below are our five most popular blogs of 2020.

We wish you and your family a happy, healthy, and fantastic New Year.

BJ, Salim, and Aaron

5 Strategies for Leading During a Crisis (or any change)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw most crisis articles focus on the importance of resilience. But, that’s only one piece of what’s required to overcome the challenges that come with a crisis.

“5 Strategies for Leading During a Crisis (or any change)” combines the latest in both research and practical experience in managing a crisis. It is a comprehensive guide to understanding the dynamics of a crisis and what you can do to pivot with purpose and overcome the challenging conditions that come with a crisis.

What to Do When You’re Worn Out

Something we consistently heard from both readers and clients was how difficult it was to not feel burnt out this year.

This blog presents four effective strategies for combating burnout.

How to Build Customer Loyalty in The Age of Skeptics

In January, we published this blog on how to turn increasingly skeptical consumers into loyal customers by building trusting relationships. Little did we know how relevant it would be for this year.

The pandemic has highlighted to more businesses how critical it is to maintain a loyal customer base as they have been the difference between success and closure for many businesses.

Beyond Loyalty Programs: 5 Ways to Create Loyal Customers

Loyalty programs are par for the course in many businesses today. Yet, most of them look the same.

This blog contains 5 ways businesses can create loyalty by doing what their customers really value in a way that is unique to the business.

How to Get Customers to Choose You Instead of Your Competitors

Businesses always battle for customers from their competitors. But, this year the value of those individual purchases to the businesses has increased.

In this blog, we explore how focusing on customer needs can make you an unstoppable force against your competition.

7 Questions Leaders of Cult Brands Constantly Ask

Are you on the pulse of your customers? Are you able to take their perspective?

The status of your business today is a direct consequence of the questions company leaders have been asking for the last several years.

Questions direct the future. Better quality questions produce better quality results.

Knowing what questions to ask, and when, is a skill. The more you practice this skill, the more proficient you become.

Leaders of Cult Brands ask different questions than most other business executives. These questions move their enterprise closer to their customers—toward trust, loyalty, differentiation, and the promise of a better tomorrow.

Here are seven questions customer-focused leaders regularly ask:

1) Why do our customers buy from us instead of our competitors?

Harley-Davidson couldn’t help notice that their customers enjoyed coming together to go for rides; this was the genesis of the Harley Owners Group. Lots of people love to ride motorcycles, but HOG members feel like they’re part of a special community (with over one million members). It’s what makes Harley different.

In an industry notorious for focusing on the less redeeming qualities in human nature, Oprah made her talk show a celebration of hope, empowerment, and self-improvement. It’s what made Oprah different.

It’s vital that you clearly understand how your brand differentiates itself from your competitors in a way that’s meaningful to your customers. Only then can you reinforce that differentiation in ways that better serve your customers.

2) How can we break the rules that run our category?

Who would want to buy eyeglass frames online when you need to try on many glasses to find one that fits? Warby Parker solved this problem by offering free shipping and allowing customers to order multiple frames before deciding which ones they want to keep without putting any money down.

Dollar Shave Club took the stale razor-blade category and made it fun and quirky. Their monthly subscription model is convenient and cheaper for customers while building repeat business.

Every market category has rules—standards of how the business operates. List all the rules that run your category and continually look for ways to disrupt the status quo.

3) How can our business help fulfill our customers’ passions and dreams?

IKEA customers are passionate about their home space. IKEA’s affordable furniture and accessories help its customers create aesthetically appealing spaces on a tight budget.

MINI customers are passionate about their vehicles. They want their cars to be an expression of their individuality. MINI helps them do that with their You-ification option that offers unlimited customization to the car’s design.

To answer this question, you first need to uncover the passions and dreams of your customers. What drives them? What tensions are they seeking to resolve? Who do they aspire to become? Then, determine how your business can best help them find fulfillment.

4) What are our customers telling us?

Who wants to pay an additional fee for checking in luggage for a flight you’ve already paid for? Southwest Airlines knew their customers expect more from them. While other airlines are charging up to $120 for passenger luggage, Southwest established their Bags Fly Free policy.’s customers told them they didn’t want to wait to receive their packages or pay for shipping every time they ordered something. Amazon created their Prime program that now has over 112 million members in the US who enjoy free two-day shipping, free movies, and other perks for a moderate annual fee.

Are you on the pulse of your customers? Are you able to take their perspective? Do you know their tensions and what they want? Do you know where you’re excelling and falling short?

5) What else can we do to build a sense of community around our brand?

Hundreds of IKEA customers make family road trips and spend the weekend camping out in front of a new IKEA store. IKEA uses their grand openings to build a community for their customers with music, street performers, and BBQs.

Jimmy Buffet actively supports Parrothead clubs that champion his island-vibes and carefree living message.

What opportunities are you providing for your customers to connect with each other? Milestone events, such as store openings, the launch of a new product line, or holidays can serve as the focus for community building.

6) Who is our business especially for?

The Ritz-Carlton is a hotel chain for ladies and gentlemen served by ladies and gentlemen.

Vans shoes are especially for the skateboarding and snowboarding community.

Your business will attract many types of customers, but only a minority are tailored made for who you are and what you do. We call these special few Brand Lovers. If you know who they are and what drives them, you can create evangelists that will help you grow your business.

7) How is our business helping our customers experience freedom?

Linux, Vans, Google,, IKEA, Star Trek, Harley-Davidson, Apple, Oprah, and MINI all help their customers feel freer. It is one of the defining characteristics of Cult Brands.

Freedom is a powerful human need. As free as your customers may be, there are areas where they feel repressed. Who would they be if they were free to be their best selves? How can you help your customers move past the shackles and constraints placed on them by society and tradition?

The Seven Rules of Cult Brands

These seven questions mirror the Seven Golden Rules of Cult Brands. Asking these questions often and committing to finding better quality answers will put you on the fast track to fostering undying customer loyalty.