YOU CAN SAY WHAT YOU LIKE AND I WILL BUY WHAT I LIKE
I am sure that few people really go into a shop and on seeing a cheaper od better option say about the product they purchased last time – ‘stick your brand’. I suspect that it is not that aggressive or overt.
That said there is an increasing volume of evidence suggesting a decline in brand loyalty and increasingly flighty behaviour by consumers.
This is the second in a series of five articles in this week’s edition of THE REPORT addressing changes in consumer behaviour. Few changes have caused more consternation than the decline in brand loyalty – given the sums many businesses have invested in building it.
I would argue that while real, this problem is not as great as many suggest. Certainly there are a large number of brands that continue to attract high levels of brand loyalty, including:
Brand loyalty is also stronger in some segments than others. Higher levels of brand loyalty are apparent with high involvement products like professional services – where loyalty is largely based on relationships.
Brand loyalty is lower in FMCG and in particular lower involvement products like toilet roll, tooth brushes and t-towels. It is particularly low in areas where there is low brand recognition. What brand of T-towel do you buy?
All of this said the research doe point to lower levels of brand loyalty than we have seen in previous years. Why is this?
I would argue that the reasons fall into two categories – strategic and environmental.
Strategic reasons include:
- A lack of understanding by business of the changing requirements of a brand.
- A lack of understanding in relation to what a brand is.
Building a brand requires knowing what is being sold, knowing the market, defining a brand, LIVING that brand and clearly differentiating on highly relevant criteria.
Branding is all too often seen as a standalone activity rather than an activity that is reflected in everything a business says and does. A brand is an expectation largely created by behaviour.
The environmental reasons include:
- A wider range of options.
- Greater price sensitivity.
- Better informed consumers.
The range of products on offer encourages experimentation particularly when there is a hiccup with an existing brand.
Research suggests that while price sensitivity is damaging brand loyalty, it is not destroying it all together. Many consumers now have a suite pf preferred brands and buy the cheapest in this suite – in much the same way as businesses have panels from which contractors are drawn.
More informed consumers require more tangible substance before they become brand loyal and their level of loyalty will depend in how tangible product advantages are
Most important is of course, how a business responds to diminishing loyalty. This should include:
- Differentiating on the basis of tangible market relevant factors.
- Reflect the brand in every aspect of the product, behaviour and communication.
- Develop relationships. Make it as easy as possible to be loyal.
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