The Key to Building Brand Advocacy: Turning Customers into Superfans with Tony Drockton, Founder of Hammitt
Building a strong brand is essential for long-term success in any industry. According to Tony Drockton, one crucial aspect of brand building is turning ordinary customers into passionate superfans who not only make repeat purchases but also become advocates for your brand - the epitome of customer loyalty.
Tony Drockton is the Founder and Chief Cheerleader of Hammitt, a luxury handbag brand based in Los Angeles, where his main responsibility is driving the brand upward and the company forward. Now an absolute guru in customer experience, Tony actually started his career in construction, having founded Associated Roofers in 1992 and then Branded Mortgages in 2006.
Tony’s inspiration for founding Hammitt came from a need to make something people cherished, building a strong sense of community, belonging, and advocacy for all who purchased it. It took time, but he was able to develop a brand he could be proud of. He recently joined the Building Brand Advocacy podcast to share his journey, discussing the three touchpoints of a consumer, and why connections between customers are vital for success.
Table of contents
- Tony’s Journey to the Hammitt Brand
- Consumer Touchpoints
- Connecting Customers
- Price Integrity and Strategic Discounting
Tony’s Journey to the Hammitt Brand
Hammitt is Tony’s third non-associated industry brand, having begun with construction companies where he utilised the internet for marketing and advertising. These brands did not bring him the fulfilment he needed and so he decided to make a change, finding where his passions lay. For him, architecture, design, marketing, and branding were all important, but he also realised that the majority approach to customer service was to take advantage. Wanting to make his customers feel cherished, he knew this same approach would not work and so he took a transparent approach when building the Hammitt brand. This transparency is what has led them to their success today.
“Be transparent with your customers and your retailing partners. Build something you’re really proud of that will last multiple lifetimes. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat”.
So many people forget about the actual conversion of customers and just how many touchpoints the customer needs to encounter before they make a purchase. While many people tend to focus solely on conversion, it's essential to grasp that the higher the price point of a product, the more touchpoints are involved. For instance, when purchasing school supplies, customers often make quick decisions by walking into a store and making a straightforward purchase. However, luxury purchases, such as a handbag, require significantly more time and consideration. Potential buyers may spend weeks or even months contemplating the purchase before committing. Thus, when it comes to Hammit, there are many touchpoints to consider.
The key to establishing strong brand advocacy lies in effectively engaging your potential customers, especially those who may have limited or no awareness of your brand. By understanding the varying degrees of involvement in the customer journey, businesses can tailor their strategies to meet the specific needs and preferences of their target audience, ultimately fostering loyalty and advocacy for their brand. Tony is focused on driving the same experience no matter where the customer first discovers them; he says it comes down to price, product, and brand integrity. This all comes before they even become a customer.
“So what does that look like? Well, price integrity, it's always the same price. Product integrity, it's exactly the same product, it's not built for the channel. And then you get brand integrity. So that's way before they become a customer because I think everybody deserves that, especially at a luxury or at a higher price point level”.
The ultimate goal of brand building is to turn customers into advocates; to drive customer loyalty. After the initial purchase, Hammitt focuses on providing exceptional after-purchase care and creating remarkable unboxing experiences.
“We have a no-questions-asked repair/replacement warranty. We take care of anyone who’s ever bought a Hammit for the last fifteen years as if they were our next-door neighbour and our best friend. And that really takes us from before they knew us to the advocacy, doesn’t it?”
The aim is for customers to encounter other Hammitt products "in the wild" and feel a sense of confirmation and pride in their choice. The goal is for them to become both fans and advocates, to rave about it to people and feel a connection. In essence, this is what all brands want: they want their customers to feel a connection and a sense of belonging with one another, to unite and come together. When this happens, they go from customer to advocate.
Price Integrity and Strategic Discounting
Hammitt tries not to offer discounts due to their luxury branding. Why? Because discounts are like a sugar rush - stockholders and customers alike get addicted to them and crave them, but once that high wears off, they’re desperate for more again. While discounts may provide immediate revenue gratification, they can negatively impact brand perception and long-term customer loyalty.
"Don’t overload on sugar, right? But it tastes good, doesn’t it? Well, guess what? That additional revenue tastes good for brands - they get a sugar high on selling as much as they can. It looks good to stockholders sometimes - it even looks good to the bottom line. But then that sugar high wears off, and they’ve gotta keep adding more sugar. Your customer is the same way - they love the discounts”.
Instead of designing products for multiple discount levels, Hammitt focuses on accurately gauging the demand for each collection and producing fewer units. This approach minimises the need for excessive discounting and preserves the brand's value. Additionally, Hammitt enforces minimum advertised pricing to protect the brand's reputation and hold partners accountable for maintaining price integrity.
Building a brand that transcends discounts requires trade-offs and a commitment to delivering consistent value. Non-discounting builds trust and creates a stronger connection between the brand and its customers.
What Does This All Mean?
Building brand advocacy requires a multi-faceted approach that spans the entire customer journey. By focusing on touchpoints, connecting customers, and maintaining price integrity, brands can successfully transform ordinary customers into devoted superfans. The journey from customer to advocate occurs one person at a time, with each positive interaction strengthening the brand's reputation and attracting new customers. By prioritising after-purchase care and building strong relationships, like Hammitt, brand builders can create a community displaying the utmost customer loyalty, thus propelling their brand to new heights.
For more insights from Tony, listen to his episode of Building Brand Advocacy via the links below: