Quick…name your favorite brand of bottled water. Do you have one? Do you even care?
If you’re like me, you can probably name a few high-profile brands like Fiji, Evian, or Dasani…but do you actually prefer them? My personal bottled water purchases can usually be summed up as “whatever is readily available” or “the cheapest identifiable brand name that costs only a fraction more than generic bottled water.”
Recently I’ve seen very young kids ask for specific brands of bottled water—and also reject some other brands. You can either call that spoiled rotten or brand-savvy, but it showcases how early and often we associate brands with so many things in our daily lives.
Just a few weeks ago at a party, I saw a group of kids goofing on one of the group for having a “fail” because he wasn’t wearing the latest brightly colored Nike socks. His was wearing white socks. (This was an ironic reversal from the time I forgot my tube socks and had to wear black dress socks during a 7th grade football practice and got goofed on for the rest of the season. Of course, that was back in 1979, before fashion truly merged with sports.)
When I asked the kids about “the fail,” I wondered whether others of them were also experiencing fails because some had Adidas-logoed jerseys while others had Under Armour-logoed shirts. Turns out that their only fashion concern was the socks…
I don’t normally base my brand research on 10-year-old kids, but it just shows you how random, fickle, or inconsistent people can be when it comes to brands. Loyalty can end just as quickly as it can become the driving force behind a major life decision.
Think about early devotees of Martha Stewart who were used to shopping at Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue. When Martha broadened her brand to Kmart and Home Depot, do you think they followed her? Then again, there’s been more than one superstar high school basketball player who would only consider colleges that used the same shoe sponsor as his AAU team. [For a great peek into the world of AAU basketball and the shoe brand wars, check out this new documentary about shoe maven Sonny Vaccaro from ESPN’s “30 for 30” series.]
I’m sure you have plenty of extreme variations of brand loyalty in your own household. Based on the amount of money spent on ads ($509 billion worldwide in 2014), companies are spending a ton of money to get at the heart of the brand preference that drives the ad budgets.
When you think about your own brand experiences, it’s a great reminder that your customers are probably very similar to you in how they view brands. Simply understanding that fact and placing yourself in your customers’ shoes can help you make smart choices about your brand on a daily basis.
In the B2B high-tech world, people aren’t going to pay extra attention just because they see your logo on a bland, poorly written white paper. And they’re not going to automatically buy from you just because you’ve decided that it would be a fantastic idea to suddenly move into a wide range of adjacent markets.
In all likelihood, your customers will continue to scrutinize your products and look for the best deals they can find regardless of how much they like you and your brand. After all, loyalty only goes so far in business. And you need to prove yourself every time without counting on anyone choosing your brand simply because they feel a sense of loyalty to it.