Is Brand Loyalty Disappearing?

Brand Blocks

We’ve all heard the term “brand loyalty.”

Oh, how awesome if our clients were so loyal that they stayed with us for years… purchased all of our products or services… and spread the word to all their friends.

Brand loyalty is a tough thing to achieve.

It requires that you offer something worth being loyal to. That means it can’t be something your clients can get anywhere else.

It requires you to know your clients so well you can anticipate what they want even before they know they want it.

It requires you to constantly innovate and come out with new ways to make your clients’ lives better or their businesses more successful.

Clients can be fickle.

New products and services come along everyday. If those new products and services are perceived as better or cheaper or any other “er” that’s important to your customers, chances are they’ll jump ship, unless you’re offering them a compelling reason not to.

A story about brand loyalty lost.

I’m a long distance runner. I’ve been running since high school and I still run several times a week. It’s in my blood.

And so were Saucony running shoes… until about a year ago. I started wearing them back in the 1980s during my marathon training days. I LOVED them. For years I would wear nothing else. Heck, I wouldn’t even try on anything else.

Until about 10 months ago.

I was in a local running superstore and the sales clerk brought out several different brands of running shoes for me to try on. Yes, a pair of Saucony’s were among the bunch, but there were also other brands.

I decided to keep an open mind and try on ALL the shoes. After much debate, I went home with a pair of Saucony’s; after all I had loved the brand for 30 years. But within 30 days I wasn’t happy. They didn’t feel good on my feet. Something had changed. They didn’t fit the way they used to.

I took them back and decided to try a new brand… a brand that fit better and felt better. I fell in love all over again. This time with a pair of pink Asics.

Just last week I headed back to the running superstore. Time to replace my running shoes again. I asked to try on a new pair of Asics—the same model as the pair I purchased 10 months ago. But once again the sales clerk brought me out several other brands to try as well.

Guess what happened?

I found a shoe I liked even better than the Asics. They were Brooks, a brand I haven’t worn since high school. I’ve been running in them for about a week and I’m in love again. (Update June 2013: I’m back to a pair of Asics I bought on sale!)

asics running shoes

The Asics running shoes I wear today

It got me to thinking about brand loyalty.

What is it that makes us so loyal that we won’t even try another brand? And, is that loyalty going away in an age where we have more choices than ever, instant access to information and product research via the Internet, and access to more products via large-scale superstores and big box retailers?

I believe these factors have definitely impacted brand loyalty.

I also believe in an economy where many people are more price-conscious that ever, they’re less likely to be brand loyal. If a lower priced product or service can fill their needs, they’re probably going to choose it.

But one of the biggest factors in the brand loyalty disappearing act is the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to find brands that really stand for something. With a unique positioning, or a product or service that offers something the competitors don’t, it’s easier to attract and keep a loyal following.

Unfortunately, if you look around, most brands are simply copying other brands’ products and services instead of innovating their own. And service professionals are notorious about this. Maybe because we’ve been taught that modeling is the secret to success.

Modeling is just another word for copying.

If that’s the strategy you’re using in your business, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not innovating and being a leader. There’s also a pretty good chance your services are not unique; they’re services that are offered in similar form by many other people. If that’s the case, I think you have to ask yourself what reason you’re giving your customers to be brand loyal.

The worlds’ most innovative brands.

If you take a look at the world’s most innovative brands and how successful these companies are, it should be enough to inspire you to start creating and leading, instead of following. Atop Fast Company’s 2011 list of the most innovative companies, you’ll find brands like Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Groupon, Google and Netflix. Not really a surprise, is it? You can’t get what they have to offer just anywhere. The question to ask yourself is how can you be more like them?

About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. She now teaches marketing and helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

4 comments on “Is Brand Loyalty Disappearing?

  1. Very interesting article. After I finished reading the article, I received a total different perspective to brand loyalty. I really don’t think brand loyalty is dead, it depends on the person or the client.

    I do agree that there may be instances where brand loyalty will go through the door, when it comes to certain things like rates, comfort and health. Just to name a few. However rates may also keep the brand loyalty. If you have a service provider who you have been working with for a long time and they do an excellent job, it will be very hard to change just because of price. This person knows your business, knows how you think, knows your business inside out. The only way I may see this changing is possibly due to health issues, going out of business or possibly a conflict.

    It is really a catch 22, brand loyalty really depends on the individual.

  2. Great article, Debbie! Yes, I am somewhat brand loyal, but definitely not always — I look around and note the innovators and new items and people, and so do my clients, because we all want to get the best service or product for our money (energy), and don’t mind at all trying something altogether new that looks and feels right.

  3. I liked the article and it certainly made me think. I don’t think that brand loyalty is dead but I do think that brand loyalty depends on other factors as well – such as customer experience and satisfaction. I am an Apple person through and through but I only converted in January of this year. Since then the customer experience that I have received has made me a raving fan and I won’t go back to anything else now – unless there is a major change. I think it’s the same with most people. If the experience and quality meets our expectations then we will be loyal to the brand – if those diminish then loyalty also diminishes.

  4. Hi Debbie,
    I really like that you have raised this topic. I have been linked with a crowd who do the branding like you say for over 3 years now. And have done just about every course they offer. And now I am noticing that just about every call is a sales pitch or a survey to find out what they can sell next.
    I am seeing the “selling” now rather than what they are offering their list.
    Its sort of got to the point that it has put a sour taste in my mouth and I now want to stop spending money with me so that I actually have that money for myself.
    And I can see the addiction involved here as well. Its actually hard to leave “their fold” so to say,
    rather than have the option of time and resources to find out “what else is out there” that could serve me just as good or better, and
    then to pool everything that I have learnt together.
    I hope this makes sense and is useful.
    Margaret Saunders
    Energy Harmonising Coach.

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