Are Customers Loyal to Brands or Loyal to Products???

It is not often that I post argumentative content about an article that I post on our website, but in this case I have to.

Although I agree that customers often identify with a specific product within a brands portfolio when asked specifically about their brand loyalty there is so much more to the issue of what makes a consumer loyal to a brand.    The brand story and connection with the consumer is what building a brand is all about, and when that is done right then consumers buy your brands products, services, and build a stronger brand connection with you.

Product is part of the value that they get from engaging in the brand experience of a brand, but there is more.   In today’s markets customers connect with brands in more ways than at any time in history, and brand loyalty is more complex than at any time in the past.   Data collected by Achieve Global states ” 50% of all US respondents were somewhat to very likely to defect to a competitor after a single bad experience with a brand, company, service, or product.”   That is why we need to work hard to assure that we build that Brand Loyal Customer.   Why, because our customers have choice and the values they gain from the brands they buy vary by the person who buy’s it.  Today’s branding is all about aligning the values that a consumer associates themselves with  in the goods, products and services they buy.  That alignment helps to create a strong brand connection.  Brand connections are reflected thru how consumers use these products, are shown in how they interact with the brand, and how the consumers loyalty to the brand is.   Yes, Mr. Klomp is right in one respect but we bring consumers closer to our brands by delivering to those customers an experience that aligns with what they need from the brand itself which varies by product but could be summed up in an example such as Nordstroms: Good Products, Good Service, Easy Exchange policies, Personable Sales People, Leading edge style, High quality, and so on these are all brand attributes that lend to the loyalty that is created in building a brand relationship with your core consumers.   TPG specializes in helping companies align with their customer to achieve a much higher brand connection than the competition.


Shoppers aren’t loyal to Brands or Stores; they’re loyal to Products!    

by Rynder Roy Klomp, author of “Helping Shoppers Shop”

2014 January 01


Loyal – adjective, Steadfast in allegiance. Faithful to an idea, cause, or custom.

I was doing some catch up reading last week, and came across the usual articles where retailers were communicating their loyalty programs or strategies and marketers were discussing brand loyalty. As usual, my first instinctive response was, “Shoppers aren’t loyal to stores or brands; they’re loyal to products.” If you do a Bing or Google search for Loyal Brands what do you find? You find Apple iPhone, not Apple. You find Ford Fusion, not Ford. You find Disneyworld, not Disney. What else do you find? Grey Goose Vodka, Crest Whitestrips, Facebook, Patron Tequila. In these instances shoppers associate the Brand with specific products or services.

Shoppers, first and foremost, are loyal to products. With the exception of fashion items and technology,most shoppers find a product they like and stick with it for as long as they can. This makes complete sense. It takes a good deal of time and mental effort to find a product with which you are happy. Let’s say your favorite shampoo has been discontinued. You must now start deciding on a new one, and so you do a search using your smartphone or go to your favorite store(s) and spend some time choosing one. Regardless of your search method, you may go through two, or three, or four different brands until you find the product you like. The majority of us will then stick with that product until we are forced to change. If we must make a change, we might resent the manufacturer if they stop producing it or change it in some unacceptable way; or, we may resent the store for discontinuing it. Retailers know this very well. They know that if a shopper’s favorite product is out of stock, there is a very good chance the shopper will order it from another store or go to that other store to buy it. It’s why retailers work so hard to reduce out-of-stocks.

If shoppers are loyal to products, does this mean they are loyal to the brand? I would argue, strongly, that shoppers are NOT loyal to brands. If a shopper is loyal to the brand, s/he will be consistently purchasing all of that brand’s products; however, we know this doesn’t happen. The shopper may buy one brand of toothpaste, and a competitor’s brand of mouthwash. The brand is simply the means by which the shopper identifies the product to which they are loyal. So, why do manufacturers stress brand loyalty? It’s because they have a portfolio of products and they want shoppers to buy all of their items. They want the shopper’s loyalty to one product to transfer to their other products, and good for them for trying. And this brand loyalty transference works to a certain degree. If a shopper is loyal to a specific product s/he is more willing to try a new product by that brand’s manufacturer. After that the shopper decides whether s/he prefers it or not. While this works on occasion, the marketing landscape is littered with failed brand transfers warning us it is a risky proposition at best. Probably the most well-known flop is New Coke, resulting in the rebranding of the old Coke as Coke Classic. Close behind in brand infamy is the Ford Edsel. But do you also remember Colgate Kitchen Entrees (frozen dinners)? How about Bic Underwear or Ben Gay aspirin? Harley-Davidson perfume anyone? McDonald’s Arch Deluxe (their attempt at an upscale burger)? Marketers and Manufacturers’ are delusional if they believe shoppers are loyal to a Brand for its own Brand sake. Of course, there is a percentage of customers fanatically loyal to a brand. Some customers will only buy a Ford vehicle; others will only buy an Apple product. Maybelline has a strong loyalty base as does Sam Adams beer. However, unless a brand can show that the market share of each of their products is equal to the market share of their best selling product you don’t have me convinced.

So, can we create a brand that ensures its customers are loyal to all the products within the Brand’s stable? I would argue no. I believe it is possible to deliver on the brand promise with all the products within the brand. However, that doesn’t mean shoppers will prefer all those products over the competition. Ahh, those pesky shoppers, having minds of their own, why do they have to make our life difficult?

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