Customer loyalty: So a few nights ago I was out for dinner with a couple of friends. Friend A had just spent a fair chunk of his wages on a brand new Macbook Pro and was, as Mac fans have a tendency to do (myself included), waxing lyrical about how seamless the experience was, how beautiful the design, how fluid the navigation, how quiet the machine etc etc etc.
Friend B, ever the techno-sceptic, politely informed Friend A how far he had lost control of his senses. Friend B looks primarily at price and value and would never be seen dead being serviced by a genius in one of Apple's temples of glass and brushed aluminium.
Whilst this discussion raged it got me thinking about what businesses I would consider as being the ones I pledge my loyalty to. I found myself torn between the views of my two friends. Staying with the example of the Mac, I can completely understand and appreciate the view of Friend B who sees the whole cult of Apple as being driven by intelligent marketers who's product is not fundamentally different to many other more affordable items on the market.
But at the same timeâ€¦ wellâ€¦ it's Apple! I can't quite explain why I am craving the new iPhone six whole months before it is due to hit the shelves. But I do and that's the end of it.
So I feel loyalty to Apple. What else?
I feel loyalty towards Pizza Express. Why? Well one of my earliest memories was sitting in the Teddington Pizza Express and chomping my way through what at the time felt like a titanic meal. Pizza Express will to me always be tied up with notions of family and youth and excitement in a way that for me restaurants like Zizzis and Strada can't, even if the pizzas they serve are more tasty and more filling. I can imagine if I had been taken to one of the latter restaurants more when I was a child then I would feel a similar loyalty to them.
Next. Primark. Now I'm well aware of the preconceptions around this store, and I admit that shopping in almost any Primark you go into on a Saturday afternoon can be a somewhat testing experience. But this value clothing chain appeals to the â€˜Friend B' part of my brain. If I can pick up a jumper or socks or bed sheets for a vast percentage less than if I went elsewhere then why not? While it is the emotive side of my brain that shouts at me to buy the latest product off the Apple production line, it is the calculating, logical side that tells me to check in Primark before I buy anything.
Fourth brand. Red Bull. Now I certainly wouldn't consider myself a connoisseur of all things energy drink, I would usually prefer to grab a coffee. But when I do grab one out of the fridge I always go for Red Bull. This isn't necessarily a case of price, as far as I am aware most of the leading energy drinks cost the same. It certainly isn't a matter of childhood memories. And I don't desire the Red Bull product in the same way I do a Mac. The reason I am loyal is because of the lengths that Red Bull have gone to make their brand more than just flavoured water with a bit of caffeine thrown in. The sponsorship of F1, the extreme sports, the air racing, it all combines to create an exciting atmosphere of adventure and possibility.
Finally. Sainsbury's. I suppose this is a similar case to that of Pizza Express. Seeing the orange carrier bags waiting to be unloaded in the kitchen is a strong feature of my childhood, and I would therefore always go to Sainsbury's if possible. I'm sure that if there had been a Tesco or a Morrisons nearby I would feel a similarly unshakeable sense of loyalty.
The conclusion of this exercise really shows that there is not one singular type of loyalty. It can be deeply logical or equally non-sensical. It can be a case of nature or a case of nurture. It can become deeply instilled at any time in ones life. And because loyalty means different things to otherwise similar people, marketers really do have a job on their hands in this age of choice.
For further information as to how a major brand engages their customers, take a look at this presentation from Tesco's Sir Terry Leahy