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Familiarity breeds loyalty

Whoever uttered the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” may have gotten it wrong—at least when it comes to business.

A study published in this month’s “Journal of Consumer Research” found that consumers form a strong emotional bond with a place—be it a restaurant or store—when they enjoy a sense of familiarity. And when customers feel a close bond with a business, they are willing to make a special effort to support it. They may show their love by tipping more, volunteering to help out the business or mentioning it to friends.

While the research was based on interviews with French consumers, the same dynamic is at work stateside. A report this past spring from NPD Group similarly found that 40 percent of consumers are loyal to their favorite restaurants and will go there even without the draw of promotions or deals.

How are restaurants rewarding customers for their loyalty? The most successful ones are tailoring reward programs their customers’ desires and needs and making their programs convenient and easy to use, an article by Loyalty 360 reports.

Of course, many restaurants choose more public ways to salute their most committed customers. Here are some examples:

  • Last week, White Castle announced 12 new inductees to its Cravers Hall of Fame, which now includes 147 fans. This devoted dozen includes a man who has visited the chain every day for a year, including attending on Valentine’s Day with his wife, and another who risked angering his bride on their wedding day with a trip through the drive-thru moments before the processional. Inductees will be honored at an event Oct. 28 at company headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Subway’s promotion of its “Famous Fans” as well as its longtime campaign around biggest fan Jared has helped the chain’s ads resonate with fans. A new report by Technomic finds that Subway’s advertising is the most effective, leading all other restaurant chains measured by Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics. Recently the chain announced soccer legend Pele as the newest member of its “team” of Famous Fans that already includes Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III.
  • Last week, Dunkin’ Donuts began airing new television commercials featuring social media content from real fans. The #mydunkin campaign invites customers to share how Dunkin’ Donuts coffee keeps them running during the day. It’s the next step in the evolution of the chain’s America Runs on Dunkin’ campaign the company says.


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