Growing your customer base starts by embracing your brand loyalists

Every company wants to engage new customers to sell more products or services, boost sales and put their brand on the map, but this process starts by staying true to your core customers and brand loyalists.

The chance to be bold and stray outside your brand identity is tempting for many, but too often, advertising and marketing campaigns are doomed to fail when they do.

From cocky corporations to hot shot marketing gurus, and even aging rock stars, when the words do not match the brand – and the messaging ignores its brand loyalists – companies and individuals too often get burned.

In the case of Bud Light, the company gambled with a celebrity endorsement and failed. The campaign tabbed Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social media influencer, in an attempt to appear to new customers. In the process, Bud Light neglected its core customers and brand loyalists. And since this short-lived campaign hit the internet, Anheuser-Busch InBev (the brewers of Bud Light) has lost a reported $27 billion in market share.

From a pure financial perspective, the Mulvaney Campaign failed. The brand’s messaging was off-target from what their loyal customers had come to expect from Bud Light. The marketing expert behind the campaign (who’s name is intentionally omitted here) insisted Bud Light didn’t like its current customers and the “fratty” and “out of touch” humor of the brand. The marketing exec defended the company’s position in the days after the campaign launched stating that Bud Light’s brand identity needed a facelift to appeal to a new, younger and more inclusive audience.

On a deeper level, the Mulvaney Campaign was an attempt by the company to inject Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) principles into its Bud Light marketing. DEI policies promote participation and fairness for all, regardless of age, race, ethnicities, abilities, disabilities, gender, religion, culture and sexual orientation. While those principles are admirable for companies to promote within their workforce, that doesn’t mean these objectives are going to fit into a marketing slogan or campaign.

Ultimately, all that matters in marketing is how customers respond. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with the Mulvaney Campaign, Bud Light customers disagreed with it, seemed to feel disrespected by it and beer drinkers have walked away in record numbers. 

In another out-of-tune moment, rock star John Mellencamp, who’s touring and playing low-key gigs in smaller venues, has had a few dust-ups with fans for how they’ve “appreciated” his performances.

At a show in Cleveland, Mellencamp didn’t like the rowdy tone of the audience and he let them know it, reportedly saying from the stage, “Listen, hey, you guys, if these people don’t shut the f*@# up I’m just going to leave, okay. Because I’m not used to this crap. Look, guys, if I wanted to play in this type of drunken environment, I’d play outside or I’d play in an arena.”

I can’t imagine fans paying their hard-earned money to see him in concert appreciated being told how they should act at his shows. The verdict is still out on any brushback that may come from the rocker’s “fan-friendly” approach.

On a personal note, I walked away from Verizon and never looked back because I was told I was not eligible to buy a new phone many moons ago. My phone was broken, so it wasn’t by choice that I was upgrading my phone. But because their customer service team – and corporate policy – disrespected me, I walked away and changed providers. If the company had done right by me and let me buy a new phone, I likely would have remained a loyal customer for what would now be more than 25 years. I’m just one guy and didn’t cripple their business by walking away, but clearly a mass revolt from your core brand loyalists can happen, and can do lots of damage.

Speaking of cable, satellite and mobile phone companies, they always want to give new customers a sweetheart deal to join them. This new customer red carpet treatment is a recipe for disaster. Your new customers will eventually get upset when their introductory rates increase. And your long-term customers will be feeling left out because their reward for their loyalty is higher prices. Until recently, these communications giants completely ignored their core brand loyalists, but it seems the lightbulb finally lit up for them. Now every AT&T commercial touts how new and existing customers get the same deal.

Growing your business – and brand – is the goal of all marketers, but engaging new and diverse audiences needs to be done tactfully. All ad campaigns should stay true to its brand and respect the core brand loyalists, but that doesn’t mean they have to be bland.

Your campaigns should provide a little razzle dazzle to win over new customer segments. With the right approach, you can still stretch your marketing message to reach new customers, but know that your brand loyalists will be watching, too.

If you’re looking to elevate your brand and expand your customer base, Contact SWBR to see how we can position your company for greater success.



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Ernie Thomas



Advertising is in Ernie’s DNA as he’s a third-generation family member to join the business his late grandfather founded. With that pedigree comes an almost six sense of identifying the “it factor” needed to create campaigns that spark customers to action. Ernie (or ET) uses his outgoing personality to connect with clients to build strong collaborative relationships. He digs deep to uncover new opportunities that will make a measurable difference for each client’s business. A graduate of Eastern University and Saint Joseph’s University (MBA), he has the book smarts and experience to elevate brand communications with strategies that challenge the status quo. He’s always guiding Team SWBR toward the correct target audiences, smartest campaign messages, right digital channels and best traditional tactics suited to boost sales.

When he’s not working, Ernie enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s also an avid golfer still searching for his first hole-in-one.