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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14 Comments / Post A Comment

allreb (#502)

My sister, who has only bought Apple computer products since about 1997, stood on line to get an iPhone when they first came out (switched carriers and everything), etc, just bought an Android — she’d had a ton of problems with her iPhone since upgrading the OS a few months ago and whenever she tried to get them fixed, she found out they were known errors and had been for months, with no particular timeline for bug patches. Her mounting frustration plus access to that last bit of info prompted her to switch.

garli (#4,150)

I am totally brand loyal to jeans that fit my ass. As a girl who plays a lot of “squatting” sports it’s a challenge to find ones that work for your butt and thighs and don’t gap at the top. Luckily there’s outlets near my house so I don’t have to pay 200 bucks every time I kill a pair of jeans.

EmilyAnomaly (#4,238)

@garli far too many jeans these days are too narrow in the thighs! Can I ask what brand you find works for you? I have the same problem

DebtOrAlive (#5,233)

@garli I promise you this is NOT a girls only thing. Waist moat is awful.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@garli This is not intended to be snarky – what kind of sports do you play that you wear jeans while playing?

Stina (#686)

@DebtOrAlive “Waist moat” *snorts* Clown pants is my nickname for pants like that.

@bgprincipessa As a squat enthusiast myself, I think @garli meant more that the sports (performed while wearing normal athletic gear) make your butt & thighs larger in relationship to your waist, leading to the need for jeans to accommodate dat ass on normal jean-wearing occasions.

garli (#4,150)

@EmilyAnomaly Oh yeah, it’s AG. Super comfy but not even a little cheap. If you can find an outlet I recommend that. I’m not cool enough to know if I’m wearing last season’s blue hues anyway.

garli (#4,150)

@cuminafterall Yes! Thank you! Sorry, I should have more coffee, then post. It helps with the clarity.

EmilyAnomaly (#4,238)

Funny that Heinz and GM were used as examples; I am brand loyal to Heinz’s ketchup (anything else doesn’t taste like real ketchup) and I have only owned GM cars (not on purpose, my next car will be a Subaru).

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

I’m extremely brand loyal for certain items (e.g. pants, moisturizer) because they work well for my specifications and price point. Also, things that fit well or work for my skin, to use the pants and moisturizer examples, are hard to find.

Stina (#686)

@CubeRootOfPi Word to that. I do not have a favorite jeans brand but Maidenform bras (bought at Marshalls or on clearance) have been my “go-to” for a while. I always try them on before buying and consistently it’s like they are custom molded to my breastesses. Almay foundations also seem to work for my super pale, medium coverage, combination skin.

I have not a brand but a formulation of moisturizer that I am faithful to. It’s the generic form of Olay sensitive with SPF bought from whichever big box store is offering the best price.

andnowlights (#2,902)

I’m loyal out of sheer laziness of finding another brand (except laundry detergent and dish soap, I’ll buy whatever makes the most sense in price). And also Heinz ketchup because nothing else tastes right. Also, I don’t know if it’s brand loyalty or what, but I do like, 65% of my grocery shopping at Trader Joes and it would be hard to find some of their products elsewhere.

la_di_da (#1,425)

I just read this and was like, I bet the Billfold has something on this!

I think that what this article fails to take into account is that there are other ways of building and differentiating brands these days. Especially if a product is similar to others, I would go for the one that is reported to have good labor practices or sustainable production. That’s another thing the internet is good at disseminating. Given two similar products and an inkling of how they were made, would you pick the one with the sterling labor and environmental reputation or the (perhaps slightly cheaper) non-brand?

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