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The age old question always haunts the seller – what is really more important when it comes to strategizing your sales. Is it really customer loyalty towards a brand, or is it the delicate balance of competitive pricing tactics? Both contenders have strong arguments when it comes to this debate. Moreover, there is virtually no way to dig for conclusive data points, because the market is so vast and can be looked at from so many different perspectives.

Brand loyalty is actually a very perplexing issue. What really creates this feeling of loyalty towards a particular brand? Asking this question to brand loyalists gives you a myriad amount of answers – Apple enthusiasts talk about design and simplicity, the so called ‘Android Army’ talks about flexibility and the power of open source – in essence – brand loyalists tend to find something that they can associate with in the brand and stick with it.

It is important to note that brand loyalty is everywhere – from apparel to toothpaste to electronic gadgets, we humans as a race, have a tendency to stick with brands. Brands on the other hand, rarely differ from each other drastically in terms of technology. What they do create is an image – one that the customer would potentially like to be associated with. Brand loyalty and consumerism thus becomes part of our quest to see ourselves the way we want others to see us – to become the image that the branding company presents in front of us. It really is a curious phenomenon, but it also seems to come from something fundamental to human nature.

Of course, there are some tried and tested tricks that brands use to promote loyalty among their customers. One such way is to establish a lineage – so you see advertisements like this one, whose premise is based on the rich history that the brand embodies. Other brands like Red Bull work with association. For decades, Red Bull has been involved in actively supporting and sponsoring two major subcultures – adventure sports through Red Bull Adventure, and contemporary music through the Red Bull Music Academy. Initiatives like these make sure, sometimes aggressively, that the brand name is almost synonymous with the particular pursuit, and it is rare to see an extreme sports event or a music festival without the Red Bull banner these days.

The Fickle Nature of Brand Loyalty

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Switching lanes

From all this, it is easy to see that brand loyalty is not a given. It is something that constantly needs to be cultivated. Sometimes, it is not even in the manufacturers hands – take the interesting example of the Casio F-91W1, also known sometimes as the ‘Al-Qaeda watch’. This digital watch that was extremely popular in the 90s, due to its design simplicity, affordable price and long battery life, found unexpected patrons in the form of the terrorist outfit, who started remodelling it to make time bombs. The brand soon became synonymous with hipsters and terrorists alike – Obama wore one, and so did Osama bin Laden! Talk about brand loyalty. The interesting aspect is that sales for this watch are still going strong, with the Japanese company producing a few million units every year.

What Motivates the Customer’s Sense of Loyalty?

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A great deal of psychology goes into figuring out why a customer buys one product as opposed to another. For newbie brands entering established markets, it becomes even more difficult to gain a following. This is why successful new brands tend to identify a niche and stick with it to create a sense of loyalty – the idea is that if your brand wants to gain loyalty, then the brand must first remain loyal to something. Thus you have brands like Vans involving themselves in the skateboarding subculture. Associating a sense of pride or belonging to something and reinforcing it over and over again in the image is a way to inculcate brand loyalty.

Is Brand Loyalty Everything?

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It is sufficient to say no, especially in today’s age. We are accustomed in seeing upsets by newbie brands all the time. A simple example is the rise of new competitors like One Plus in the phone manufacturing industry that captured the hearts and minds of millions of customers. In fact, the One Plus marketing campaign is a fascinating case study into how to deal with established competition using competitive pricing and inclusivity tactics. At the outset, One Plus subverted all the rules of the market by making their phones available by invitation only.

In an age where everyone was pushing to expand their reach in the market, this would have seemed like a stupid move. But the pressure that the move created in terms of desirability, the economy of invites that it generated on social media channels and the fact that soon enough, everybody started talking about it, made it into something to have. It was pure marketing genius. And it shows that established brand loyalty can be countered with flexibility in pricing and an innovative approach towards marketing.

To know more, get in touch with Browntape. We are India’s leading e-commerce experts, and we are always happy to help!

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