Thursday, June 12, 2014

Brand Loyalty

Otherwise known as "They changed it, now it sucks."

You don't have to drill down very far to see that most of the products at the supermarket are the same thing in different-colored wrappers. There's a range here; aspirin is a regulated substance and to within error bars, every tablet is identical. You are paying for confidence in their quality control, at best. Soft drinks, although they are generically water and sugar and a dash of artificial flavoring, at least allow picking a pleasing flavor as a valid choice.

If you are like me, you gave the red bottle a try, and the green bottle, and decided that the blue bottle was "just right." So now each time you shop, unless there is an intriguing novelty being offered or some other reason to explore, you can just reach out for the same bottle each time.

Manufacturers know this. They stamp not just label, but color and pattern choices, bottle shapes, and a range of other products that will tempt you into brand loyalty. They reinforce, making sure you know when you got Brand Z milk you know it is the same Brand Z as your butter, and that tempts you into trying the Brand Z yoghurt.

Or they should know this. But what happens in reality?

As soon as you've settled on a product that meets your needs...they change it. Perhaps they change the bottle to something that they hope will entice the wandering eye of new customers. Unfortunately, they changed it so far you can no longer recognize it, and end up trying something different.

Or -- more often -- they change the product. Because having achieved product satisfaction and brand loyalty, what would be more natural than to get rid of everything that had led you to that choice in the first place?

Add to this the non-Moore's Law of most mass manufacture; the onus is to cut costs wherever possible, so using thinner thread, less metal, cheaper materials, etc., etc., etc. will always appear as a win to the paper pushers.

The game actually appears to be;

1) Entice you into trying something via advertising, novelty, or just bright flashy colors.

2) Make it just good enough you are confirmed in that choice.

3) Each fiscal cycle, make it a little crappier, counting on customer inertia and diffuse brand loyalty to keep the customers purchasing.

4) When you've reached the total crap stage, dump the product and make something else -- preferably even cheaper, but by this point the only customers you are trying to please are those who already got burned by a competitor who did the same damned thing to theirs and are desperate for anything different.

And, yes; this applies not just to processed food-like products, but electronics components, software, clothing, cars.....

(I'm not the only person I know who is hoarding a few things -- like Pilot Precise rolling-ball pens -- against the time when that manufacturer decides it makes more financial sense to entice idiots into trying something "new" that can be made even cheaper, rather than continuing the boring course of continuing to offer a product that actually works.)

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