Brand commitment more among regional consumers

Consumers in the Middle East tend to be more committed and prefer the comfort of "emotionally connecting" with their brands, believes Lesley van der Walt, Managing Director of TNS Consumer Equity Company, which owns and operates the Conversion ModelTM on one of the world's well-known branding company from South Africa.

She shared a host of issues pertaining to brand loyalty and commitment and building brand equity during her visit to Dubai. "Measuring behavioural loyalty is not enough. We define loyalty as what people do – it refers to the likelihood of repurchase based on past behaviour. Commitment, on the other hand, is about how people feel – it refers to the likelihood of repurchase based on what's in the consumer's mind. Just because a person is loyal – buying the brand again and again – does not necessarily mean that they are committed. But committed customers are usually loyal. They need less persuading to repurchase the brand, they are more resistant to competitive claims and they are more willing to pay a premium price" says Van der Walt.

There is often higher brand commitment among Middle East consumers than those in the West, she believes. Particularly in the luxury brands category, one sees a high level of brand loyalty.

Brand loyalty is high in certain sectors where the level of involvement is high. For example, Intel changed the market for chips. Earlier few customers cared about the chip in their computer, but Intel changed the rules of the game as they increased people's involvement with the chips in their computers, she says.

"In South Africa, we had a very strong ketchup brand, to which the commitment was very high. Then all of a sudden, there was news of a mayonnaise competitor who wanted to enter the ketchup market. Initially our client was worried, but we advised them to focus on their brand and not react to the competitor's strategy. Ultimately, we were proven right, as the committed consumer base of our client remained with them, despite competing brands entering with tempting offers," she says.

Conversion ModelTM is a psychological model of consumer behaviour that measures the strength of the relationship between consumers and brands. The Conversion ModelTM uses four dimensions to measure commitment. It analyses the needs fit: How satisfied are consumers with the brands they are currently using, and also looks at their attitude to alternatives: How attractive are competitor brands. The other dimensions include Involvement in the category: How important is brand choice in the market/ does it matter? And also Ambivalence: How much are consumers torn between the appeal of different brands?

"We use the Conversion ModelTM to measure and manage brand commitment across the spectrum and have conducted over 10,000 studies across the world across 300 brand categories. We provide consultancy on Brand equity and help our clients understand consumers and provide marketing managers the information to help make sound decisions. The model essentially works to understand the relationship with consumers and puts a frame-work to better manage it" she said.

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