OPINION: QUELCH ON ... CONSUMER LOYALTY

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.

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

sentiment.



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has been replaced by a rabble of unreliable baby-boomers?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

stick-in-the-muds.



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

range.



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!



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