A word on the word…loyalty

May 27, 2009

chevy tattooI’m amazed to see the word “loyalty” misused so frequently in briefs, books, articles, etc. I believe what most author’s really mean is continuity, or at least I hope so.

My definition of brand loyalty is a consumer’s rigid predesposition to buy a product or service, even if a competitor offers a substantial incentive to switch: e.g. price discounts, gifts, special access, etc.

I have a friend who is a classic example of a brand loyalist. He drinks Miller Lite beer exclusively and drives nothing but Chevys. Persuading him to switch to Bud Light or Ford would be like asking an Ohio State fan to trade his season tickets for half-off Michigan tickets. It ain’t gonna happen.

Advertising, promotions, and PR play an extremely small role in creating consumer loyalty. Some consumers may identify with how a brand is portrayed in their marketing communications, but there is little evidence that branding is an important gateway to true loyalty.

When marketers speak of loyalty or “loyalty programs”, they quite often mean purchase incentives or points programs. Incentives can drive repeat purchases, but rarely will this rote buying behavior result in true loyalty. Unlike addictive drugs, once the incentive is removed, brand preference disappears.

Giving small purchase incentives to a loyalist who isn’t influenced by them makes no sense either.

I do believe certain marketing activities can reinforce loyalty and generate advocacy: for example, exclusive memberships that include insider access and beta/new product review opportunities. These are true loyality programs, not continuity programs.

One comment

  1. I did that tattoo,thanks for using it,Adam W Young

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