Stop all the clocks, because brand loyalty is dead – allegedly. Where once the biggest brand names could sit back and rest easy in the knowledge that they weren’t going anywhere, now the internet is abuzz with claims that the days of customers pledging unswerving loyalty to brands are well and truly over.
According to a 2015 study, the hardest hit have been the household goods brands – 90% of whom have seen their market share slump. But it’s not just washing up liquids and breakfast cereals that are seeing loyalty drop away – everywhere you look you’ll find the death of brand loyalty being declared on the internet, or being pondered over by every marketing agency. London in particular gives a striking glimpse into a future of wandering loyalties – a report from Accenture Strategy found that nearly 90% of consumers in the city are quicker to switch brand loyalty than they were three years ago.
The most obvious explanation for this is the mass migration of consumers onto the internet over the last 20 years or so. Whereas once the holy grails for any PR agency were television ads and billboards, now new consumers have access to a much wider, and far more fragmentary, range of brands. According to a 2016 Retail Perceptions study, 81% of teens would happily switch from their ‘favourite brand’ if they found a similar one of a higher quality. That’s right, you can add brand loyalty to the increasingly bizarre list of things people have blamed the millennials for the decline of.
In fact it’s notable that some of the long-running brands which don’t seem to be going anywhere – Nike, Coca-Cola – are the ones that firmly sunk their roots into the ground during an era in which they dominated traditional advertising. Think how many times you’ve heard someone say, only half jokingly, that Christmas hasn’t begun until the Coca-Cola advert has been on TV. One aspect of the decline in brand loyalty that seems hard to argue with is that brands are finding it harder to maintain the same kind of cosy recognition and loyalty via internet marketing.
So what can brands do if they want to try and maintain the attention of an emerging generation of digitally nomadic consumers? Quality may be catching up with brand name recognition, but it seems that there’s one big thing that every company and branding agency should be focusing on if they want to salvage loyalty – personalisation. According to data by Apptentive and SurveyMonkey, 97% of consumers said they would be more likely to remain loyal to a brand that listened to, and implemented, their feedback. Again you can detect the influence of the internet here – having brought consumers and companies closer together, feedback is louder, and more visible, than ever.
Nowhere can these new lessons of brand loyalty be seen more clearly than in the case of Spotify and its rival Tidal – the battle of the streaming service. While they may not have been the first ever streaming service, Spotify had the advantage of being one of the first to capture mass attention and begin building a user base in a really significant way. But despite Tidal storming onto the scene armed with a full-bore launch campaign and the backing of a glittering coterie of the rich and famous, their 3 million users still pales into comparison alongside Spotify’s 50 million. Why did Tidal fail to make the sort of waves some were predicting? In part, because every change Spotify has made to its product has introduced more and more personalised content – tailoring the experience to each user.
With more choice in front of them than ever before, consumers aren’t getting attached to brands in the way they have historically – and it will be the brands that can engage with their audiences, listening to and being seen to implement their feedback in innovative ways, that will be able to maintain a loyal base.