Brand loyalty is great. It’s what most businesses strive to achieve. You want customers to come back time and time again. After all, you’ve spent money convincing them to buy what you sell so you need to maximise their lifetime value. But is it enough? In short, no. Why? Because people can be loyal for the ‘wrong’ reasons. For example, if you look at my ketchup buying habits, I’m loyal to Heinz. But it’s only because I can’t be bothered to try a new ketchup. I wouldn’t stand up for Heinz if they got into a fight. But if John Lewis got into a fight? That’s another story.

The coffee machine in the office recently ‘broke’ (ahem). So we called up John Lewis, explained that it wasn’t working and 24 hours later a very polite delivery chap arrived with a new machine. No questions were asked, they apologised for it failing and said to call again if we had any more problems. All for a £40 sale.

What does this have to do with loyalty? Well, I haven’t stopped going on about their wonderful service since – I’ve moved from being brand loyal to being a brand advocate. If people ask where to buy something, John Lewis is my answer each and every time. And if we take this one step further, we move on to raving fans. The raving fan concept isn’t exactly new, but it’s when people go beyond making recommendations to proactively telling people to use a product or service (think about Stephen Fry and Apple) for no financial / cross-promotional incentive.

So the next time you’re looking at your sales figures and see lots of repeat customers, ask yourself if they’re advocates for your brand or if apparent loyalty is just a cover for laziness (like me and ketchup). Because if they won’t stand up for you in a fight, they’ll drop you the moment something shiny, new and easy to buy comes along.