I originally drew a version of this cartoon back in 2005 and it’s still one of my more frequently licensed and referenced cartoons. I wanted to redraw it in color and because my drawing style has evolved.
Brand loyalty is more fickle than many marketers imagine it. Marketers often overestimate the role of consumer brands in consumers’ lives. In the world of FMCG, consumers are generally loyal to a repertoire of brands, not to a single brand.
This overinflated conception of brand loyalty can lead marketers to focus too much on current customers than on attracting new ones. In 2010, Byron Sharp rattled a lot of firmly held beliefs in marketing with his book, “How Things Grow”. He asserted that brand penetration is much more important than brand loyalty.
As Byron Sharp put it at an event last year, “We are loyal switchers. We don’t feel disloyal to Kellogg’s if we buy another cereal.”
Yet brand positioning statements are often written as if consumers constantly think and obsess about the brand. Social media from brands can make it sound like every consumer is a cult follower.
Here are a few more cartoons I’ve drawn over the years on the topic of keeping brand loyalty in perspective.
12 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Caroline Jarrett says
You cartoons are always amusing, and I particularly enjoyed the one about ‘inside the mind of the consumer’.
But, but, but. There are consumers who are brand loyal, and it seems increasingly that marketers are obsessed with getting new customers at their expense. For example, in insurance in the UK: if you’re loyal to a particular brand, you’ll be punished for that loyalty by being overcharged. You have to switch brands, continually, or threaten to, to be given a decent deal. It’s tiring and rude.
It’s no wonder that consumers are swayed by offers and competition, when brands aren’t trying to keep them loyal but instead are focusing entirely on winning new customers.
Richard Warland says
I agree Caroline. How often do you see really attractive “acquisition offers” from a company to which you are paying higher prices?
Case in point – I have 3 cars, a trailer, my home and its contents insured with the same company here in Australia. They are running a very attractive competition in which the public get a free entry simply for getting a quote… For all my business I get “one free entry”…
Richard Warland says
Love the pickle relish Tom. It is often obvious that the young marketers on the other side of the brand are TOO young to understand their customers.
How can you think like a consumer if you have never been one?
Chris Collis says
To be fair, many young marketers are TOO young to understand what pickle relish is.
Richard Warland says
Oun Tanwa says
I would say consumers are “loyal”… it’s just that they’re loyal to their needs, wants and interests … and not to the brand. If the brand meets these desires… then you they will be loyal to the brand. Otherwise, they’re happy, loyal switchers.
BTW, love the fantasy brand wedding…
Sharp makes some valid points, but he conveniently skirts around making the clear distinction between behavioural and attitudinal loyalty. He focuses primarily on the former, but there is real value in measuring the latter.
Factors directly influencing behaviour are important as one layer of holistic brand management. Penetration is an outcome, not a strategy in and of itself.
Allen Roberts says
Absolutely right Tom,
All the nonsense from various rent seeking pundits about consumers, wanting a relationship with a brand makes me want to chuck.
You have relationships with people, brands serve a purpose, are bought in various circumstances, for differing reasons. While you may favour, even strongly favour one brand, should it disappear, few need therapy as a consequence.
We can look at Brand Loyalty as Inertia.
Consumers will stick to current choice unless there is an external force. It could be stock-outs of preferred brand or a promotion of a competing brand or in fact, a relaunch of the same brand.
So, I’d look at the focus on acquiring new customers as not just the absolutely new but also the potential drifters from the same brand. What can we do to retain them with us?
Todd Foster says
Very true. sad but true
Steve Santangelo says
Does no one read Andrew Ehrenberg? His research showed definitively what a lot of rubbish the entire idea of brand loyalty is. Ehrenberg was a researcher who studied key issues in marketing over several decades and across categories. One of his key findings relative to brand loyalty was “100%-loyal buyers are few, and most buy little.” In other words, true brand loyalty should not be the holy grail of marketing. His research showed that the consumers most valuable to a brand typically purchased “promiscuously.”
Christian Gatlin says
Great discussion happening so far!
I love your in-depth analysis and comparison between the customer’s loyalty and a brand. It’s true that customer loyalty exists to a certain extent. The customer will more often than not drift toward the brand that shows itself most beneficial at a given time. This article is also a great tool for businesses to utilize when considering how to incorporate the 4 P’s into their branding strategies.