Letting Go of Our Loyalty to Certain Brands

How brand loyal are you?

In the days of yore, when the internet wasn’t really a thing and access to information was less pervasive, you’d stick with a brand you liked because you knew it guaranteed you a certain amount of quality—ketchup made by Heinz, denim made by Levi’s, a car made by G.M.—and you were less likely to go out and buy a similar item from a new manufacturer. But as James Surowiecki points out in this week’s New Yorker, with access to so much information, if you inform yourself before buying something and read reviews by places like Consumer Reports, or CNET, or the Wirecutter, you’re less likely to stick to one brand, and more likely to buy the thing that sounds the best:

It’s been argued that the welter of information will actually make brands more valuable. As the influential consultancy Interbrand puts it, “In a world where consumers are oftentimes overwhelmed with information, the role a brand plays in people’s lives has become all the more important.” But information overload is largely a myth. “Most consumers learn very quickly how to get a great deal of information efficiently and effectively,” Simonson says. “Most of us figure out how to find what we’re looking for without spending huge amounts of time online.” And this has made customer loyalty pretty much a thing of the past. Only twenty-five per cent of American respondents in a recent Ernst & Young study said that brand loyalty affected how they shopped.

But this is a good thing! Because since brands can no longer rely on just their name, it means that companies have to ensure that what they’re selling is actually really good. And that’s good for everyone.


It also allows for companies to bounce back. Surowiecki uses Lululemon as an example: Customers have turned on the brand for a variety of reasons including pilling fabrics, bleeding dyes, clothes that became transparent when you bent over and a suggestion by the founder that some people were too fat to wear their clothes. It makes it easy for a customer to turn against a brand and go somewhere else. But what if Lululemon had a P.R. makeover and started making the best yoga pants out there? Would it get customers to come back? Maybe, maybe not. Because it’s also not about the product. A lot of us care who is selling us something and what they represent.

Also, there’s nothing better than Heinz ketchup.

Photo: Matt 79


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