When it comes to cultivating lasting (and profitable) real-deal customer loyalty beyond selling a consistently great product or service, brands like Colorado-based whiskey distillery Stranahan’s are creating custom merchandise and private label apparel lines — opening up a new revenue stream and an ongoing opportunity for fans to connect with the ethos of the brand.
Customer loyalty has shifted, pressuring brands to think outside-of-the-box
Long gone are the days of punch cards and point systems. Consumers’ expectations have far surpassed these passive, point-in-time tactics into a focus on building an authentic relationship over time.
Truly loyal customers:
- Choose a singular brand time and again despite others that offer similar products and services even if they are less expensive.
- Tell their friends and families about the brands they love and encourage them to purchase, too.
- Eagerly tag the brand in pictures on social media without being prompted or incentivized.
- Rather than throwing away the free sticker packaged in their purchases, they stick it on a notebook, laptop, luggage, or water bottle for all to see.
- Proudly display their connection with the brand, usually in any way they can and without a second thought.
Truly loyal customers are loyal because they are in love with the brand — the very same kind of love you feel with a family member, spouse, or friend. Experts say this is because brands successfully tap into these areas of our psyche:
- Shared passion(s).
- Personal attachment.
- Positive evaluation of the brand.
- Positive emotions in response to the brand.
- Declaration of love for the brand.
And like in any relationship, there are ups and downs. To curb the downs — otherwise known as low customer engagement — brands are investing in custom merchandise to strengthen their connection with customers and to bring in new customers.
Stranahan’s uses custom merchandise and private label apparel to tangibly represent their intangible brand values
When branded merchandise oozes with the same passion that created your product, like the Stranahan’s merchandise line, your audience will look forward to wearing or using it and keep coming back for the latest and greatest.
Not just because it’s well-made and/or thoughtfully designed, but because when someone pulls an incredibly soft and perfectly fitting t-shirt over their head or zips up a badass technical hoodie fit for literally any kind of weather, they feel connected to the brand even if they recognize it or not.
Those bonafide psychologists say that when a person orders an item online (or in the context of this article, waits for the release of a new piece of merch or limited edition whiskey) the anticipation releases dopamine, a brain chemical that makes us feel good.
And because we are creatures of habit with an insatiable appetite for these dopamine releases, we go back again and again and again, forming an attachment that turns this behavior into loyalty.
Every detail of custom merchandise and private label apparel should promote your brand’s story
While Stranahan’s does make some damn good whiskey, they diversify their customer engagement tactics while also finding new ways to attract first-timers.
“Everything we’ve produced for Stranahan’s has promoted their brand story of high-quality, authenticity, and thoughtfulness,” says Anne Robertson, a senior account manager here at Anthem, who has been working one-on-one with the Colorado distillery since February 2017 when they came to us to expand their offerings.
From limited-releases like their Snowflake whiskey batch, which was available for only one day of the year to partnering with us at Anthem to build a merch line from the ground up, the distillery is constantly seeking ways to keep their brand top-of-mind with their audience.
Every embellishment, no matter how small or seemingly benign, is purpose-driven and only done so at the utmost premium level — echoing the approach they take with their handcrafted small-batch whiskeys.
Customers are attracted to the next new and shiny thing, so be that new and shiny thing or they’ll head to wherever that is
Human beings don’t like to be stagnant. If a brand doesn’t evolve or innovate or do something different, we ditch them and move on. Our Marketing Intern Jordan Eckes demonstrates this in the gif to the right.
The brands that keep nurturing the customer relationship throughout their lifecycle appease customers’ dwindling attention spans and keep them wondering what’s next.
Those are the brands, like Stranahan’s, that relish in the high return of customer loyalty. Market leaders prioritize customer loyalty to combat a highly saturated competitive landscape
The distillery industry is projected to rake in $14 billion in revenue this year alone, touting a 3.5 percent growth rate over the last five years with nearly 2,000 open distilleries, according to a recent industry market research report.
Stranahan’s stays competitive by consistently producing high-quality products and sharpening their competitive edge with custom merchandise and promotional products that, too, embody the craft and thoughtfulness of their distilling process.
Custom merchandise allows for your customers — and employees — to interact with your brand even if they are not using your primary product or service.
Stranahan’s fans can showcase their brand love by wearing a custom t-shirt, hoodie, or hat and not just interact with the brand when pouring one of their whiskeys.
Consumers use brands as status symbols
Consumers use brands to define themselves, build their identity, and express their personality.
Choosing to wear a brand’s apparel or use a brand's gear is a way for fans to transfer their connection with that brand in an outwardly way while internally shaping their personal identity.
That’s pretty powerful when you stop to think about it. Despite what you sell, your brand has the influence to shape a person’s style, attitudes, opinions, and behaviors. Custom merchandise is a critical part of building that connection.
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