Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Brand Loyalty, Brand Lunacy

The recent loss of a charger for my iPhone made me think about those brands whose loyal customers take brand loyalty to extreme. As I stood in the Apple store I marvelled at the glossy eyed stare of my fellow shoppers. Price sensitivity was not an issue here; desire for the brand and its products over ruled that. Apple, through its product ethos and marketing, has created in its hardcore customer base a personal investment in the brand. This is why people queue overnight when they release a new phone that looks exactly like the one in their pocket and the two other doppelgangers gathering dust in a drawer at home.

Apple is not alone in its ability to generate brand hysteria. Sony and Microsoft have done a similar job not with a DVD player and Excel but with the battle between the Playstation and Xbox games consoles. There is arguably very little technically different between the two but don’t put that on a web forum unless you want to be bombarded. The platforms and the games on them engender fanatical loyalty.

This is not a new phenomenon. Pepsi drinkers have been arguing with Coca Cola drinkers since forever. Brands that become a lifestyle also generate the same level of love. From Harley Davidson to sports brands such as Adidas, each one manages, through very careful and clever brand management, to find a way into the hearts and lifestyles of their chosen target markets.

The best example I can give of what happens if you get it right is Sriracha sauce. It has a simple website, no Facebook or Twitter profiles and does not do any advertising at all in the US where it’s based. Yet 20 million bottles of the hot sauce were sold in the US in 2012 alone. It, like Spanx, Rolls Royce and Krispy Crème doughnuts spend nothing on advertising and just concentrate on the product and the retail experience and let the brand advocates do to talking and buying. That’s careful brand management, a science and an art form.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant 

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