We often hear that loyalty is now dead and that today’s generation
of baby boomers are fickle and selfish, interested only in looking after
number one. Marketing managers complain about increasingly promiscuous
consumers who switch brands at the drop of a coupon.
So what has happened? There is no world crisis to galvanise patriotic
International partnership rather than unilateral action is the order of
the day. At the same time, cheap foreign travel, ever lower
telecommunications costs, and satellite television enable us to cross
national boundaries with ease.
People are more mobile as they spread out across the globe in pursuit of
better jobs. Most of us are better off than ever. That gives us the
self-confidence and the financial cushion to take a chance on something
new, to risk leaving the family, the village, the past, to pursue our
dreams. Wealth, not religion, is today’s insurance policy. Higher
discretionary income permits unprecedented choices.
Does this all mean that the steadfastly loyal World War II generation
has been replaced by a rabble of unreliable baby-boomers? I think not. A
lot of what looked like loyalty in the past was based on habit. You
didn’t change your bank account because it simply wasn’t done and there
was little to choose from among the alternatives. People today will
switch if they are dissatisfied. They also have more options and they
are taking them.
This is not disloyalty. It is smart consumer behaviour.
We’re also living longer than ever, we’re bombarded with more
advertising stimuli, and the pace of technology change requires us to
learn new tricks as never before. It follows that undying loyalty is for
Let’s give ourselves credit for being more adaptive and entrepreneurial
than previous generations.
Loyalty is not just a matter of consistent behaviour over time. Loyalty
is also a matter of feeling. An intense devotion to the same partner
over many decades speaks of loyalty. Strong brands build partnerships
with their consumers just like people. In today’s world, with so many
temptations to be disloyal, building such brand relationships seems
harder than ever.
Short of the brand loyalty that survives multiple repeat purchases is
the intense monogamous relationship that lasts a few months. This is the
young man who buys an MG, falls in love with it, but trades up to a BMW
three years later. In the case of low cost consumables, short-term, low
involvement flings are easy and almost risk-free. That’s why Kellogg’s
and McVities offer consumers lots of different cereals and biscuits so
that their variety-seeking flings can be satisfied within each brand’s
Despite the lack of loyalty in the marketplace, everyone still needs
some loyalty in their lives. However much marketers may dream,
developing a deep relationship with your new Alfa Romeo, or cuddling up
with a pot of Haagen-Dazs, is not quite going to do it. God, family,
friends and football still top most consumers’ loyalty lists!