When I bought my first car in my twenties, I knew exactly what I wanted: a used hybrid. But not just any hybrid. I wanted a new-to-me (used) Sonata. It was bigger and more luxurious than the Elantra I’d been driving but also more fuel efficient.
A few other factors went into the decision, but the biggest one was my loyalty to the brand. Hyundai was the brand my brother worked with, the brand my Dad bought, and it was the first car brand I drove throughout my young adulthood, racking up more than 150,000 miles with me at the wheel.
Want to hear the most irrational part of all of this? When I was car shopping, I wasn’t willing to consider similar makes or models. I wanted a Hyundai, and that was that.
Even as I reflect on the second-largest purchase of my life (house hunting came in first), I am still a little hesitant to reflect on how much my bias may have cost me.
As any car salesman will tell you, getting customers to switch brands is very difficult. Many people will stick with the brand they know and trust even when presented with a better deal or a more appealing car.
But why is this?
Why are we so loyal to the car brands we’ve chosen in the past?
There have been a few studies on this topic, and they all point to some interesting conclusions.
A University of Michigan study found that people are more likely to stick with a car brand if they’ve had a good experience in the past. That makes sense – we’re more likely to give someone a second chance if they’ve made us happy. That’s what happened to me. For the ten years I drove my Elantra, any time I had engine trouble, my Hyundai warranty covered it. This created a positive customer experience for me.
Another study from Texas A&M University found that people are more likely to be loyal to a car brand if it’s the one their parents used. This makes sense, too – we often trust the brands our parents recommend.
Finally, a third study from Vanderbilt University found that people are more likely to be loyal to a car brand if it’s the one they grew up around. So if you grew up in a family of Ford fans, you’re likelier to be a Ford fan.
But this doesn’t just hit us with the major life purchases.
Brand loyalty also costs us in small ways.
I previously wrote about how our household tries to save on groceries. I mentioned some of my husband’s preferences and how I’d casually “forget” the expensive stuff. What I didn’t talk about was the Kerrygold butter incident.
For over a year, Kerrygold was the only butter we bought in my household. It became a routine to look for the gold packaging and “bake with the best.” It’s also more than 11 cents more expensive per ounce than alternatives, but we perceived it was worth the value. One day I challenged our bias. I buttered toast with Land O’Lakes butter. My husband couldn’t tell the difference.
Over the course of a year, we spent $35 more on buying Kerrygold butter bi-weekly than we would have if we’d purchased Aldi’s Irish butter spread.
Brand loyalty is irrational
It’s no secret that people are often irrational regarding their products and services. We’re all guilty of it to some degree – we’ve all stayed with a company or brand even though there were cheaper, better options available.
Why do we do this?
Humans are creatures of habit. We often stick to what we know and are comfortable with, even if better options exist. This phenomenon is called the “status quo bias” or “status quo effect.”
The status quo bias manifests itself in many ways, but one of the most common is brand loyalty. We often continue to purchase the same brands of products even if other options might be better suited to our needs or budget.
There are a few reasons why we might be reluctant to switch brands. For one, we may not be aware of other available options. We may also believe that the brand we’re loyal to is the best, even if it’s not. Or we may simply be creatures of habit and don’t want to change our routine.
Brand loyalty is costing us
Brand loyalty is costing us more money than we realize. After all, most stores offer generic, so why aren’t more customers stocking their pantries with it?
Moreover, why do we pay more for a certain brand?
We’re paying for the company’s marketing and advertising costs by buying name-brand products, which they pass on to the consumer. But when you buy generic brands, you only pay for the product itself.
There’s no reason to pay more for a name-brand product when you can get the same quality for less with a generic. In fact, the same manufacturers as name brands also make generic brands. So why not save yourself some money and buy generic?
Whether it’s the coffee we drink every morning, the car we drive, or the clothes we wear, we’re constantly surrounded by brands we love and support. But what exactly is brand loyalty? And how do brands go about curating it?
Brand loyalty results from a positive emotional connection between a consumer and a brand. It keeps customers returning to a product or service, despite the presence of cheaper or more convenient alternatives.
So how do brands create this emotional connection? There are a few key strategies:
1. They tell stories that resonate with their target audience.
There are plenty of examples of stories that resonate with target audiences. Take, for example, the story of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign. This resonated with athletes and non-athletes alike because it was a simple yet motivating message. Another example is the story of how Dove created the “Real Beauty” campaign, which resonated with women of all ages and backgrounds.
2. They focus on your experience as a customer.
Some of the most successful brands in the world have built their businesses on the back of providing a great customer experience. Here are just a few examples:
Amazon has built a reputation for excellent customer experience. Adopting one-click check-outs removed barriers to purchasing, making spending even easier on its platforms.
Luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz is another brand that puts customer experience at the forefront of its business. The company offers a range of services to make ownership easy and enjoyable, such as pick-up and delivery for service appointments and a concierge service for ordering parts and accessories.
3. They build a strong and recognizable brand identity.
Coca-Cola is one of the most popular brands in the world, and its strong identity is a big part of that. People all over the globe recognize the company’s iconic red and white logo, and its advertising campaigns are always memorable.
McDonald’s is another brand that has built a strong identity over the years. The company’s Golden Arches logo is one of the most recognizable in the world, and its restaurants are easily identifiable thanks to their bright red and yellow colors.
4. They cultivate a community of passionate fans and advocates.
Apple built an ecosystem that supports the use of Apple products. From iTunes to iMessages, now anyone with an iPhone hates sending SMS to an Android.
Amazon is an excellent example of a brand that has built a strong community around its products and services. The company has created a space for its customers to connect, share reviews, and reap financial benefits by linking to products sold on Amazon through influencer programs.
All of these strategies work to create an emotional connection between the consumer and the brand. And when that connection is strong, it can lead to some pretty impressive results.
How to overcome your brand loyalty
Whatever the reason for our loyalty, it can blind us to the potential benefits of trying something new. If you’re stuck in a rut with your current brands, here are a few tips to help you break free from the status quo and find the products that are truly best for you.
1. Do your research
If you’re not aware of the other options available, you can’t make an informed decision about which brand is best for you. Make it a point to research and explore different brands in your product category.
Read reviews, compare prices, and look for other factors that might be important to you. Once you understand the landscape well, you’ll be in a better position to decide which brand is right for you.
2. Ask around
If you’re unsure which brand to choose, ask your friends, family, or colleagues for their recommendations. Chances are, someone you know has already done the research and can give you insight into which brands they think are best.
3. Be open to change
If you’re used to buying the same product brand, breaking out of that habit can be tricky. But it’s essential to be open to change to find the best option.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. You might be surprised at how much you like it.
4. Consider your budget
One of the main reasons people stick with the same brands is because they’re familiar with the price point. But just because a brand is familiar doesn’t mean it’s the best value for your money.
If you’re on a tight budget, comparing prices and finding the option that fits your needs is important. Don’t be afraid to switch to a less expensive brand if it means you’ll be able to get more for your money.
5. Be patient
Switching brands can be a significant change, so give yourself time to adjust. Don’t expect to find the perfect brand overnight. It might take trial and error before you find the one that’s right for you.
But if you’re patient and willing to try new things, you’ll eventually find the perfect brand for your needs. And once you do, you’ll be glad you made the switch.