Brand loyalty, and one step further, finding those few  users of the brand who will use no other, and demand their networks do the same, is the holy grail of most marketing. It comes up in almost every marketing brief ever written.

However, there is almost always a flaw in the logic I see used.

Heavy and exclusive use of a brand is interpreted as brand loyalty, and occasional users are disregarded except as a possible opportunity to increase usage, if they are even picked up in the data. Consumers usually have a small pool of acceptable brands, and expect to be satisfied by the product they buy, whatever the usage, or they do not return. The brand is just one of the the filtering mechanisms of varying strength they use to make the choice easier.

While loyalty and heavy usage may be in a very few cases generated by the brand, it may also be that the heavy usage is just habit, availability, convenience, the shape of the package, or many other factors other than a behaviour changing loyalty to the brand.

Heavy usage and brand loyalty do not always have a cause and effect relationship. There is certainly a strong correlation, not necessarily causation.

My father would only use one brand of mustard powder, a blindingly hot concoction he used sparingly on an occasional sandwich. The stuff was only purchased once every blue moon, as he was the only one in the household who would go near it. Far from heavy use, but very loyal.

Conversely, if you look in my sisters fridge, there is only ever one brand of natural yogurt, and she consumes a kilo or more a week, in a number of ways. However, the choice is driven not by  the brand, although it is entirely satisfactory, but by the fact that the small supermarket she stops at every couple of days on the way home because  of the easy parking and friendly environment, to buy her milk, and a few other staples, only carries that one brand. Convenience drives the purchase, not loyalty.

Anyway, the nonsense that gets touted around by snake-oil sellers about consumers wanting to have a relationship with their brand is just so much crap it makes me sick. Brand loyalty is a rare thing, and is always, always given as a part of a whole package of value that is delivered consistently by the product to the consumer.

Consumers want a lot of things from  their favoured brands, but only a very few with some sort of emotional incapacity see a brand as a substitute for a human relationship, so lets stop talking about it as if it were.

My thanks again to Tom Fishburne. When I went looking for a visual for this post, this cartoon says it perfectly.