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February 10, 2013

How Loyal Are We?

by drewkeneally

Marketing classes have made me aware of the ways companies grab my attention, loyalty, and, ultimately, my money.  We use words like “consumer” as a way to facilitate the discussion around a target, but we are all consumers.  It wouldn’t be too farfetched to think that in a few years some of you might be trying to “encourage” me to buy a product.  This post will consider a couple of products and consumer experiences in my own life.  Am I loyal because of the techniques we have discussed in class, like loyalty cards and catalogs? Or are there others factors that we can consider?

“Dramatically Better Products are Dramatically Better”– This quote, from Rob Daley’s 4moms presentation on Thursday, is, to me, the most important aspect of driving loyalty, (at least for higher end products).  We don’t all buy Apple products simply for the “cool factor.” Sure its nice when tons of girls think my iPhone is awesome, but in reality the reason why the iPhone is great is because I can check email, play games, and browse the web on an easy to use interface.  In the case of 4moms, the superior quality and thoughtfulness that goes into a Mamaroo and the company’s other products is going to attract me and keep me coming back to them when I have a kid.  I will concede that the Apple brand is quite valuable to its marketing strategy, but the brand, and the consumer trust that comes with it, was not built over night.  Thinking deeper, if a product like the new Samsung comes out that has a better interface or more features, (or makes me look super cool), I don’t have any loyalty to the iPhone when my upgrade comes up.  So in this case, people may confuse brand loyalty with the simple reason that a product is better.

Of course, the quality of a product becomes more important as the price of the category increases.  The difference between a MacBook and a Compaq Presario is transparent, but the difference between Kroger chicken and Harris Teeter chicken is not.  In the latter case, I appreciate how grocery stores use loyalty card information to drive market research; however, there is not much I can think of that actually drives my shopping decisions.   I have a loyalty card at Teeter (really it’s my friend’s phone number), while I don’t at Kroger.  Why then, do I shop at Kroger more?  Is it just the idea that it’s cheaper?  Do I like that side of Barracks better?  The ABC store next door catering to college kids?  The list can go on, but I won’t be any closer to explaining why I shop at Kroger—it certainly isn’t because it’s the “cool” place to shop.

I took a look at this recent article from Forbes to determine any other factors that might affect my loyalty: http://www.forbes.com/sites/caroltice/2013/01/07/4-steps-to-cultivate-insane-customer-loyalty/, the author talks about four factors that seem to drive brand loyalty.

  1. Polarity: This is the concept that the Apple vs. PC and Coke vs. Pepsi marketing campaigns fed off of peoples’ inert desire to choose sides in a conflict.  I disagree- already listed the reasons why I like Apple, and liking Justin Long better than the PC guys wasn’t one of them.  That campaign made a lasting impact because of how it approached the functionality of products.  Again, quality trumped actual feeling or loyalty.
  2. Customer Avatars: The “get to know your customer” suggestion.  This approach is crucial to marketing strategy, but I believe that it is more closely correlated with generating a better product and experience than with loyalty directly.
  3. Offer Status:  The Mercedes- Benz, first class seats treatment that people want to feel superior because of the products that they buy.  I believe this is true to some extent, but again reverts back to the quality argument.  Most people buy BMW’s over Toyota’s because they have the means to buy a better car.  There are certainly some people who buy a BMW to show off, but there are also some unflattering words to describe that type of consumer.
  4. Catalyze Connections:  The idea that people want to bond with their fellow consumer, as one would at a Harley Davidson rally, or the eccentric folks that followed the McRib around the country.  I’m actually really interested in how this trend is going to develop in the next few years, and especially over our lifetimes.  Social Media and the capabilities of the internet provide for an exciting amount of possibilities in fostering consumer loyalty—if I interact with people and bond with them over a brand, I feel that would be a tangible way to grow loyalty.

In conclusion, I don’t believe that loyalty is the driving force of purchasing decisions; rather it is a result of purchasing decisions.  Brand value and trust is derived from the superior quality of its products; that quality is what ultimately drives loyalty, but the opportunities presented by social media can definitely change things.

-Drew K.

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