Loyalty is a virtue; no questions asked or doubts raised there. Human bonds are held together by the tender glue of fidelity. What’s a man who is not faithful to his partner or a son not devoted to the family that raised him? But loyalty to brands – is that a virtue? Well, not anymore, I should say.
There was a time when an entire family used the same brand of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, hair oil, & toothbrush. Rexona, Chik, Lifebuoy, Surf, Medicare, Parachute were not brands, they were family! We continued to use them, from the time we learnt to wash ourselves, to the time we got married or got jobs, whichever came first. Once your father made up his mind about a product, the product stayed with you for life.
In fact, if my parents were alive, you’d still find them using Colgate (recommended by the Dental Association). However, jobs opened the world of ‘choice’. It meant we’d try Close-Up or Ultra-Doux or Dabur Almond Oil or whatever else caught our fancy.
Now, when Sathya & I, do our monthly shopping at Spar, we are spoilt for choice. Shall we use Park Avenue this time instead of Lux? Shall I try Dove soap? I find the shampoo is great. No, I’ll pass Dove. Let me try the fancy new tea oil herbal soap.
Can we club 1 trial pack of Adidas deodorant with the 3 regular Axes? Hey what about detergent? Which one this time – the one with 50gm more or the other with a scratch card? The question always is: What’s more VFM (value for money), especially when the quality is same? What’s the harm in trying anyways? It might be good, for all you know. The only thing I am loyal to these days turns out to be the humble coconut. No negotiations there. Pick the one you lay your hands on, shake it near your ears (that’s how generations of humans choose their coconuts!) & get going.
The endearing form of loyalty existing today is the emotional one: the undying connect some brands have with their customers. Maggi Noodles, for instance. I’ve been using it since 2000. TEN years on & I still haven’t switched my loyalties to any other brand. In fact, I’ve added one more loyal consumer to Maggi’s story: my daughter. However, this is an exception.
The fact is there’s no blind loyalty to any brand today. Especially in sectors like FMCG, apparel, broadband, cosmetics & mobile handsets. Look at handsets. They’ve such a short life, thanks to those who want to constantly experiment, experience new features & explore fresh ideas – be it the touch screen or a new version of an operating system or an upgraded model of an existing phone. And whoever is loyal to phone companies & airlines as they are not even loyal to you? With them it’s always “Conditions Apply”.
Interestingly, brands know they cannot expect consumer loyalty anymore. They know they have to relentlessly prove themselves or find themselves replaced. After all, what we think today about a certain product could later be updated, upgraded or revised – whether it’s in the pricing, features, accessories, look, packaging or even the main characteristic of the product on offer. It’s a fascinating new world for the consumer. I am NOT complaining.