Brand Loyalty of WordPress Theme Companies

Right now, there’s a lot of talk about themes and their place within the WordPress community. Generally speaking, I think that this is a good thing as it’s finally forcing theme designers and developers to thing more strategically about the products that they’re creating, releasing, and to think more critically about their target audience, marketing efforts, and so on.

There are some who believe the market has been saturated, and though I follow that train of thought, I don’t agree with it. Just because there are more product options, more companies, and so on producing themes does not necessarily negatively detract from the industry.

I think it makes it more competitive which, in turn, can make it more innovative (though it can also create more products that should never be on the market, but that’s the nature of an economy and I’d rather keep the post optimistic).

With that said, I don’t think that there’s any reason to be discouraged from entering the theme development space, creating a new theme company, or anything like that.

In fact, I think on the contrary.

WordPress Theme Companies

Once upon a time, themes were not as advanced as they are now primarily because the foundation on which they are built – that is, WordPress – wasn’t as advanced. This means that the numbers of options were either small, or work baked into the theme using the developers’ own techniques.

Then, when a customer purchased the theme, they’d  be purchasing the design, and whatever options existed (or did not exist).

But now, we’ve got n-number of companies producing y-number of themes. Some themes are extremely creative – they’re focused on a niche, they solve a single problem, and they do so well. Others, on the other hand, are follow the same model of either riding the wave of whatever currently popular or they are just throwing the kitchen sink into the theme options hoping it sticks.

But one thing that I think theme companies are slowly beginning to realize and to adopt is that customers are purchasing themes not only based on the quality of the theme, but the quality of the company as well.

Brand Loyalty

Every one of us – or at least most of us – have companies that we love to love and that we love to hate, and I think that theme companies (or perhaps WordPress companies, in general) are beginning to catch on to this.

Brand LoyaltyBy that, I mean that they are beginning to understand that their brand and personality can help contribute to a potential customer’s purchasing decision. After all, themes are more than just the way your site looks or functions – at least to you, the customer – they are the product, the company, the personality of the company, the quality of support, and more.

And that carries weight whenever anyone is releasing a product, and it’s something that I think that all WordPress theme, plugin, and/or application shops should focus on.

Themes Are Here to Stay

Themes aren’t going away. To some degree, they are part of the backbone of what has made – and what continues to make – WordPress the blogging platform that it is.

Long term, I don’t know how pricing will work, I don’t know how marketing will work, and I don’t know how the theme market is going to shake out, but I do believe that the quality and personality of the company behind themes will begin to make a significantly larger impact than it previously has on a person’s purchasing decision of a theme.

There are already a lot of company’s who are doing it right, and there are a lot of companies who could stand to do a better job.

Regardless, I’m eager to see this aspect increase over the next year or two.

12 Replies to “Brand Loyalty of WordPress Theme Companies”

  1. I’m glad to see someone of your stature speaking on this Tom. There are so many theme shops (and other WP service providers) leaving A TON of brand equity (and money) on the table here with their lack of communication (or flat out introversion) with their user base.

    Having great products, whether they be themes or plugins, is only one variable in the long term success of a theme shop.

    We talk about the theme space becoming saturated/ commod-itized, it’s because everyone either a.) lacks marketing/communication skills or b.) copies other peoples products/models. That’s a deadly combination if you want to survive in that space.

    Instead of trying to ride the next wave (plugins) folks should take a step back and understand the true power of branding. I remember this company once called 8Bit. They shot product release videos, had a thriving community, and sent out hand-written notes and goodies to their users.

    Now that’s how it’s done :-D

    1. I’m glad to see someone of your stature speaking on this Tom. There are so many theme shops (and other WP service providers) leaving A TON of brand equity (and money) on the table here with their lack of communication (or flat out introversion) with their user base.

      Thanks – though I don’t consider myself to have any significant stature, I do absolutely agree that the level of introversion certain companies demonstrate is damaging to their brand.

      I don’t believe that they mean to do that (well, okay, the pessimist in me does think there are a few), but many of them are learning how to do it as they go a long – and that’s great! It’s something we all need to do.

      I remember this company once called 8Bit. They shot product release videos, had a thriving community, and sent out hand-written notes and goodies to their users.

      I really appreciate the kind words. We had a blast doing that and I’m not totally certain Pressware won’t be doing something similar in the future ;).

    1. Themes aren’t going anywhere, but when you can buy themes for pennies on the dollar, it’s a commodities market

      I think a segment of the market is a commodities market. It doesn’t have to be that way (not should it), but I think to say that you can’t buy them for “pennies on the dollar” is simply being dishonest, so I agree with you.

      Branding only goes so far; 8BIT had a great brand and people behind it, yet no longer exist.

      Branding does only go so far – and we had a blast at 8BIT – but branding wasn’t our bread and butter. We just wanted to let our customers know we appreciated them. We certainly weren’t banking on that to make (or break) the business.

      We opted to dissolve anyway, but that’s content for another discussion :).

  2. Awesome article Tom! Like most products out there, to exceed in a space with cheap alternatives, service, support, and a friendly brand go a LONG way to providing value for your customers.

    1. Thanks Dan!

      A previous commenter from another post said that he sells his themes only at $199 and it works out well for him. This is something that you don’t see often, but it’s enough to almost want to experiment with something like that.

      Regardless, as I prepare some of my future work for the self-hosted marketplace, I’m certainly looking at all options and trying to do proper research to maximize what I can based on the value of the theme itself.

  3. I am very new to the WordPress world (18 months). I have been following several blogs and trying to catch up the best I can. I am old, and come from another world called Print Advertising, maybe some of your fathers told you about it. Anyways, for what its worth, reading (not to be confused with understanding) all the blogs the last 18 months it hit me when I read your conversations, that I can count on one hand how many posts I’ve read about marketing and advertising Plugins / Themes.
    It is wonderful how passionate it seems the WordPress community is, it is much different than I’m use to where almost every article in a Trade Publication was pertaining to increased margins and sales.
    This is my first post because I never felt confident enough to interject my thoughts before this. I do believe that the community would be well served by more discussion on old fashioned Branding, Marketing, Advertising , and sales of their products.
    For what it’s worth………

    1. Curt – first, thanks so much for the comment. It’s super-appreciated and I love the perspective you’ve brought to the table.

      I think that many of us often take the migration from print media to what we’re doing with WordPress (and the web in general) for granted and it’s nice to have these reminders.

      It is wonderful how passionate it seems the WordPress community is, it is much different than I’m use to where almost every article in a Trade Publication was pertaining to increased margins and sales.

      Love reading that.

      This is my first post because I never felt confident enough to interject my thoughts before this.

      I hope this isn’t the last. You’ve shared some really good insight and I think your perspective (along with everyone else’s) is very much worth it.

    2. Hey Curt, thanks for chipping in. The WordPress community is built around passionate people who contribute back to the community, which I’m sure you’ve seen in the last 18 months.

      Something often missed however is that the community needs so much more than developers; organizers, planners, writers, and… branding. :)

      If you see a need for branding in the community ( you’re not alone in this ), and you have the skill to help ( it sounds like you do ) then you would be welcomed with open arms.

      It’s a pretty well known fact that WordPress needs some respect at the enterprise level, and it’s all about Branding, Marketing, and Advertising.

      It’s great to see you wading a little deeper into the community. We’re very happy to have you, and look forward to hearing whatever wisdom you have for us.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.