What’s in a name?
So what’s in a name? Plenty, if all the time and money spent on market research and advertising is anything to go by. Manufacturers invest heavily in promoting brand loyalty. But what is it exactly ? According to leading experts, brand loyalty implies that consumers bind themselves to a product as a result of a deep-seated commitment. (Bloemer and Kasper 1.).
A deep-seated commitment? Sounds serious.
Well, yes. For have you not heard it said…“Coffee just isn’t coffee unless it’s …” “No-one makes jaffa cakes like …” “Easter wouldn’t be Easter without …” “I wouldn’t use anything else on my face but …”?
It’s a commitment that is not just about authenticity of taste, but about a product that becomes the norm, a standard against which all others are measured and found wanting.
Let’s take tomato ketchup as an example.
My Dad, having worked for Heinz in the fifties, knows the lengths that Heinz went to to establish the brand. As early as the 1930s, Heinz salesmen were expected to be at least six foot tall, impeccably dressed and particularly eloquent (2). Along with prolific advertising, they ensured that although other tomato sauces would come and go that were far more ‘tomatoes‘, their ketchup would remain universally popular. In 2006, the year that Heinz tomato ketchup celebrated its 130th birthday, 72.7 million bottles were sold in the UK.
It’s about the products that have found a place inside our comfort zone. We know exactly what we are getting. We find reassurance in a familiar taste. It reduces the number of decisions we have to make. It’s a given in an uncertain world.
It’s why as a family we can’t resist a trip to McDonalds occasionally. We know before we get there what we will order and what it will taste like (we even know that we will still be hungry when we get home but we choose to turn a blind eye to that fact) and it is a strangely pleasurable experience.
It’s why people are prepared to pay three times as much for a Starbucks coffee so big that they need an hour to drink it, because the logo and the décor are so reassuringly alluring.
It’s why church councils all across the land have fought for years over serving fair trade coffee after the service (and some have even resorted to putting fair trade coffee into a Nescafe jar, believing I’m sure that the end justifies the means).
The only way of competing must be through the conscience. Brand loyalty can be challenged by ethical thinking. There are people out there making a stand on ethical issues every day. In Tescos the other day, I witnessed a student choosing a Green and Black’s Butterscotch chocolate bar over a larger bar of Galaxy of equivalent price, much to the incredulity and ridicule of her friends.
Keeping ethical issues at the forefront of our minds will influence the way that we shop. According to an article in The Grocer (20/9/08), even in a time when we are counting the pennies, there is a loyalty amongst shoppers to ethical buying – “Despite feeling the pinch, 92% of consumers still claimed to be willing to pay extra for a product perceived to be ethical”. There is a new kind of loyalty out there, a loyalty to issues rather than brands.
I’m not suggesting you change the entire contents of your shopping trolley in one go. Why don’t you identify one branded product to which you are loyal and find an ethical alternative? A Fairbreak instead of a KitKat? Ecover washing powder instead of Persil? People Tree fashion instead of Next? Divine instead of Dairy Milk?
Then look into the reasons why so that it becomes not just about taste but also about environmental and social impact.
Give it a month.
- If going without your brand name of choice has significantly changed your life for the worse, then return to your old habits.
- If not, be assured that you have significantly changed the lives of others for the better and make a commitment to ethical choice.