How to grow a brand: Retain or acquire customers?


How to grow a brand: Retain or acquire customers?, Riebe, Erica; Wright, Malcolm; Stern, Philip; Sharp, Byron, Journal of Business Research. May2014, Vol. 67 Issue 5, p990-997.


While customer acquisition is clearly important for new brands, mature brands are often said to rely on defection management for maintenance and growth. Yet the theory to support this approach has been subject to very little empirical investigation. How do brands actually increase the size of their customer base? Through superior acquisition or by reducing customer defection? Or some mixture of both? Conversely, do brands decline through deficient acquisition or excessive defection? This work analyzes changes in ‘first brand loyal’ customers to answer these questions, using a combination of panel data on the prescribing behavior of doctors and a cross-sectional tracking survey for residential finance. This study is the first research to compare defection and acquisition against stochastic benchmarks for customer churn under stationary conditions. The results are surprising: for both growth and decline, unusual acquisition plays a much stronger role than unusual defection. This finding demonstrates that acquisition has been under-rated in the past, and implies that prospect management is at least as important as defection reduction. A simulation shows that unusual acquisition also accounts for far more improvement in profit than does unusual defection.


BRAND image; CONSUMER behavior; MARKETING research; STOCHASTIC analysis; BENCHMARKING (Management); Marketing Research and Public Opinion Polling; DEFECTION; CROSS-sectional method