Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Brand Loyalty...

Wait'll next year...

I'm a Cubs fan. I'm not a diehard follower of every game. I don't get to watch much baseball. But of the two teams here in town, I've always favored the Cubbies. And we've chanted every year the same phrase: "Wait'll next year!" and remain loyal despite a non-World Series record older than I am.


I don't know. I don't think most Cub fans know. The team always chokes in the end. Their ballpark is ancient. They don't have a parking lot. And their mascot is a not-very-threatening baby bear.

Ask any brand loyalist and few can articulate why they prefer Colgate to Crest or Coke to Pepsi. In fact, most answers you get are more tied to emotion than reason: "My mom always bought Tide." "You know Ford stands for Fix Or Repair Daily." "I've eaten Wheaties since I was a kid." "Head & Shoulders works for me, why risk trying something new?"

So how do you fight brand loyalty. It's very, very hard.

One thing you don't want to do is directly bash the favored brand. That can force loyalists to dig in their heels. It's like saying something bad about America. I can do it. But let an outsider say a word and I'd be all over them.

There are two common approaches to help sway brand preference: Get to prospects before they form a brand allegiance and/or be as different from the favored brand as possible.

Brand allegiances can be strong. That's why banks offer children of depositors free savings accounts. And that's why I suggest my tool & equipment clients get their products into as many vo-tech schools as possible. Students who learn on a product tend to favor that brand.

And strong brand differentiation helps. Rather than being a horse of a different color, you need to be an entirely different animal. More like a camel. The novelty or uniqueness of your approach can't be subtle. It should be so different it draws prospects in to try it. For instance, Starbucks doesn't sell coffee -- they sell an experience.

I’m still a fan of my Cubs, and wait'll next year!

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