Evolution of Brand Loyalty

Buyer Psychology & Behavior Series 

Brand Loyalty is an intangible asset for marketing managers and coming-of-age brands in the modern marketplace. 

The metric is complex and typically made up of the emotional and psychological attachment consumers place on a said brand or company. This then leads them to an established preference for that brand over other alternatives, a preference that could last indefinitely. 

The tangible connection is made over several instances (usually positive) or multiple exchanges of buyer/seller transactions in which strong brands sew an engrained favorability via consumer perception.  

The evolution of this loyalty has indeed shifted over the years. The coming of the internet, social media, the death of the shopping mall, to the now induced reality of a pandemic economy. What was once a buzzword in marketing agencies is now a studied science and ordained practice. 

Perception has indeed shifted across the collective buyer persona; the rise of category specification has left department stores empty and given rise to new distribution methods altogether. These new patterns/trends/marketplaces are shaping our collective interest in fashion, lifestyle, technology, and grocery brands overall.  

Perception Shifts Purchases

Loyalty is not achieved without sweat, blood, and tears. 

Metaphorically speaking a customer does not just sell their heart on their sleeve. That being said, rarely is potent loyalty achieved exclusively of some type of customer journey, promotional efforts, or imposed sales-funnel brand’s target with consumers. 

The most identifiable change in Brand Loyalty today has to be the overarching consumer shift in perception. 

Globally, confidence about an economic recovery is down and consumer spending is lagging with a pandemic still at its heights. 

Consumers are much more mindful of how and where they spend their money in 2021. 

Rightfully so, marketing managers are tasked today with finding context between their brand, their customers, and the fluid marketplace. 

Lululemon, an established women’s athleisure brand, spawned off yoga-like inspiration and well-crafted, functional workout attire, has driven loyalty by their interconnectedness to wellness and health

The way brands are perceived these days has a lot more to do with reputation, philanthropy, promotional activities, affiliates, or even previous experiences. At least 80% of customers surveyed claim it takes at least three purchases with a brand before they became “loyal” to the particular company. 

Brands need to be transparent and at that, accountable for their achievements and mistakes equivalently. 

Nike’s push behind Colin Kaepernick’s “Believe in Something” campaign after his release from the NFL was a moment of brand boldness

So much so that their bet landed them millions in revenue gains and established brand loyalty with a young generation in a particularly conflictive moment in social conversation.

Category Specification

 With a reported 75% of Americans switching brands during the pandemic, times have surely changed our perceived sense of what matters most.

Perception leads to changes in the established demand within an economy. This leads shoppers to make different choices over the season and ultimately different products, services and brands over the social-economics and demographic backgrounds. 

The thinning and slow decline of heterogeneous categorical retailers or department-like stores has allowed for a new emergence in private labels. 

Specialized brands, now focused on the function prioritized for a specific segment, have blossomed ie. Lululemon, Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club, and Away Luggage. 

With the introduction of private labels came categorical supremacy, heterogenous brands fall then fell short and lackluster over time. This changed brand loyalty and the conversation around it. 

A good example is the highly sought-after Supreme brand. As a 90s New York-established lifestyle fashion brand, they have gained a surprisingly devoted and engaged audience. 

Where companies like Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Calvin Klein, and Even Tommy Hilfiger may have specialized in Men’s tees and polos, the emergence of a private/craft label, replicating similar products, leads to brand loyalty because of the specificity. 

E-commerce and OmniChannel

This combination of changing times and scaling technology mixes with new channel distribution strategies like e-commerce and omnichannel retail. 

The change may not be perceived by some customers, because they are knee-deep within the rat race that marketing managers want them to be in.

A brand like Amazon, not only benefits from its user interface, light speed Prime shipping, and enormous stock list, but its heterogeneous product line allows it to match legacy brands. 

The product line alone does not win the race, but the combination of the light-speed shipping and global supply lines that Amazon dominates allowed its e-commerce business to become the biggest in the world.

At a time when convenience and price are a priority for the shopper, loyalty to brands like Amazon will grow in periods of economic difficulty. 

Thus, loyalty becomes more of an ephemeral loftiness in our present times. 

Apple brand loyalty reached an all-time high of 92%, up from 90.5% in 2019. Statistics found that while Apple’s loyalty is increasing, similar shares for Android and Samsung are in decline. 

The answer can probably be found in Apple’s competitive advantage and omnichannel strategy that allows their locations to supersede Samsung’s. 

Conclusion

With scaling technology all the more pervasive, wider global supply lines, and the emergence of secondary/tertiary retail markets, this brand loyalty will continue to shift over time. 

However, the tenets that shape brand loyalty are not going anywhere over time. 

This science will only continue to become top of mind for marketing and brand managers entering the ever-changing retail landscape.