Small Business Branding: Are You A Loyalist or Switcher?

loyalist or switcherA loyalist or a switcher? What makes you loyal or what is it about the competition that lures you away? I was reading an article by new blogger Adam Marcal about this very topic.  Adam, in his Boundaries of Brand Loyalty article, speaks about how he shared a meal with Heinz’ Vice President Bill Simon (US Category Development & Sales Operations) and the conversation shifted to the non-condiment division, namely Smart Ones Healthy Meals. Speaking quite candidly, Adam said that he is driven to purchase the competitor by price. Does this make him a switcher? Is he or any consumer that is driven by price and that brands are interchangeable?  Are there some brands that are interchangeable where others are not? What makes a brand interchangeable? Do we sacrifice taste or in other instances quality to save a buck? Or as consumers are we not seeing any difference between products which makes us buy based upon our perceived value?

Brand loyalty, we all strive for it. We want and need our customers to be loyal to us. We work hard to make people to notice us by traditional advertising and building an online community all to elicit brand loyalty. As we build a client base and have new offerings we are confident that our current client base, provided they are the core target, will jump on board and purchase. If not why would anyone ever introduce a new product … on a whim that someone random person who has never been exposed to us nor have their trusted resources will buy?

What Builds Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is more than performance. Consumer demands are higher and they expect more from their brand but where does differentiation exceed interchangeability? A product must meet or exceed expectations but that is after the sale. Loyalty begins before the sale as if they never purchase, they cannot be loyal. So, how do you elevate your brand and avoid switching? Does longetivity equal trust and loyalty? We see online or in traditional advertising where the company mentions how long they have been in business. Does that connect emotionally to make them buy because you have been around longer? Probably not. So what outside of personal preference, when we think of brand loyalty and building it, what do we do?

1. Competition Differentiators. What sets you apart from the competition? Starbucks created an entirely new lingo for ordering coffee sizes. This is on a larger/big brand scale but as a smaller business it means narrowly defining your offering and creating your differentiator that clearly sets you apart from your competitor. What really separates you from the rest? As an advertising and social media agency that caters to small business owners, what sets Kherize5 apart from the others? Is it as simple as who we have worked with or is it how we can make you look good and get noticed?

2. Features & Benefits. Features and benefits draw people in to develop a need and want to have. In products the features range from taste for food and drink to convenience to affordability.  Think as a consumer … why should this my product and extend to service industry how does what I offer become a  part of their life?

3. Interchangeability. What is the driving force to make people switch? Price? Do people think “It is almost as good and I can get by?” The key is to make sure that there is not a reason to switch or even be interchangeable. This is not to smear the competition as we can differentiate and resonate with consumers by focusing on offerings and not the generic things that are different. What makes Diet Pepsi the ONLY diet soda that I will drink? What makes Vlasic pickles and Heniz Ketchup the only pickles and ketchup for me and my son? Is it all that we know or are we making that choice to not go with what is the cheapest on a whim?

There is so much more that we can think of or experience but the underlying factor is what makes you worth listening to and buying from? Yes the emotional connection is big but how do you get there? What are you doing to not be interchangeable? The advertising and social media marketing industry is swamped but yet it is not. The food industry is flooded but yet new restaurants still open. All industries or most are flooded but there are people or companies that stand out – are you one of them or just interchangeable?

So what are you doing to not be interchangeable?

Interested in reading or hearing more about Adam, check out his blogfollow him on Twitter (he is a meterologist and n0w a new blogger who is defecting to the business world as he embarks on is  MBA in the fall).

photo credit: Lani Barbitta

  • Loyalist or switcher? Depends.

    On commodity products it's usually comes down to price. Premium products get loyalty because there is some aspect that makes them “better” than the competition. That advantage is where the loyalty resides.

    Trading Up is a good book explaining how brands like BMW, Callaway & Chipotle are more expensive and have extreme loyalty.

  • Bob

    Thanks for the referral to the book. I will have to check that out for sure. They do have extreme loyalty but it seems almost to be industry specific. Many car makers have that loyalty as does some make-up brands. John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing had a great post on something similar today about habits and how it is a fierce competitor. It is a different way of looking at it but in a way it is not. Are we just so used to going and grabbing X brand off the shelf that we are not even open to other choices? At what point then do we go from the habit to now paying attention and looking for a reasonable alternative to our usual brand? Generally price is a motivator.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

    Suzanne

  • Corporate brands & individual identity frequently get tied together in the buyers mind. You are right this is seems to be especially true with things like cars and makeup.

    Habit is a major contributor to brand loyalty especially with things that have a lot of competition. It might only be a couple of dollars to give an alternative product a try but there is a larger perceived risk with trying something different and being stuck with an inferior product.

  • The larger perceived risk is a big factor as it has happened to all of us. We buy stray from our usual brand and it is such a poor alternative that we almost lose trust in every alternative regardless of the type of product. Many do this with restaurants. We order the usual as when we order something else and it does not meet the standard, we are disappointed. I guess that is where the habit comes in.

    Great addition to the blog with the perceived risk.

    Suzanne

  • The larger perceived risk is a big factor as it has happened to all of us. We buy stray from our usual brand and it is such a poor alternative that we almost lose trust in every alternative regardless of the type of product. Many do this with restaurants. We order the usual as when we order something else and it does not meet the standard, we are disappointed. I guess that is where the habit comes in.

    Great addition to the blog with the perceived risk.

    Suzanne

  • I have to admit at restaurants I am extremely bad about having a usual. The first 3 or 4 times to a restaurant I will order different things then from that point forward I will rotate between 2 menu items.

  • I like this post. Great to recommend to friends and small business owners alike. Keep good blogs coming.
    Cheers!

  • Bob

    You are such a risk taker. I generally get the same thing at certain restaurants so that I am not disappointed.

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  • Emily

    Thank you for the kind words. This blog is all about sharing ideas, thoughts and marketing principles for small business owners to refer to.

    Suzanne

  • Emily

    Thank you for the kind words. This blog is all about sharing ideas, thoughts and marketing principles for small business owners to refer to.

    Suzanne

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