Brand loyalty: Flirting with a new relationship

August 26, 2013

I have a confession to make: I’ve been cheating on my toothpaste brand.

I had been a Crest user for years. My parents used Crest, so that’s what I found in the bathroom drawer growing up. It was only natural that I was destined to buy Crest for my family. Oh, I flirted with trendy Aqua-Fresh, tried a health food tooth powder, been infatuated with a bold Swedish licorice brand. I even had a serious relationship with Colgate. And then I met Trader Joe's Peppermint Toothpaste with Baking Soda & Fluoride. My mouth never felt so natural, so loved, so refreshed, and so healthy. Goodbye Crest. It’s not you, it’s me. But why did I feel like I was cheating on a brand I’d been loyal to for years?


Strong brand loyalty is the ultimate goal of any product or service. It’s that bond that can endure price changes, packaging redesign, brand extensions and market scarcity. Is it any surprise that stores that specialize in the old time brands—such as the Vermont Country Store in Weston, Vermont—can still stock and sell soap brands like Lava and Lifebuoy long after marketing for those brands have faded from memory?

With the exception of my toothpaste affair, I’m loyal to a lot of brands: Lexus cars, ecco shoes, Nordstrom department store, my credit union, Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap, Banana Republic slacks, Heinz ketchup. But what happens when I have to choose a new brand for a product or service in a category that is entirely new?

How does brand loyalty begin? First, the product or service has to attract the consumer based on specific personal criteria: Is it priced right? Does it have preferred features or ingredients? Is it aligned with one’s personal beliefs (such as natural or organic). Packaging, awareness, trusted recommendations also play a powerful role in the impulse to try a new brand.

Consistency is very important in cementing loyalty. Once established, products and services that consistently meet consumer expectations are in a better position to build a loyal following. But loyalty is evidenced more than through repeat purchasing. True brand loyalty has all the earmarks of a passionate relationship. Ask anyone who is faithful to a brand of detergent or soda or sports team or cars. They will sing the brand’s praises, defend it from criticism, cherish its qualities, share it with others and suffer disappointments when the brand doesn’t live up to expectations.

So the next time my eye starts to wander in the Shampoo aisle of my drug store, am I going to be attracted to that slim little number with the mango fragrance?

What brands are you loyal to? And have you ever cheated?

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