Brand Loyalty


Fictional fashion icon Carrie Bradshaw expertly outlines how cognitive dissonance induces brand loyalty.

Cast your mind back if you will to 2001.

Wikipedia was born (I know right!) Being Bootylicious officially became a thing and Sex and the City was in its fourth season.

Carrie had rid herself of Mr Big for the 37th time and shacked up with everyone’s favourite furniture designer: Aidan. However, their courtship had hit a huge stumbling block when Carrie experienced the ultimate 21st centurion nightmare – her computer crashed and nothing was backed up.

​Aidan’s valiant attempts to come to Carries aid were futile because alas, she was a Mac and he, a PC. The final nail in the coffin of what was admittedly a pretty vanilla relationship came in the form of Brand Loyalty.
Brand Loyalty is defined as the forgoing of all other brands in favour of purchasing products solely from brands which match the attitude/social grouping of the individual, regardless of the cost (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001). In effect, when it comes to brand loyalty, money is no object. Brand loyal consumers disregard the pricing of the brand and forego cheaper alternatives because “they perceive some unique value in the brand that cannot be provided by an alternative” (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001).

However, when discussing brand loyalty, the word ‘alternative’ has no meaning. There was no way Carrie was going to upgrade (or downgrade depending on which side you’re on) to a PC. She was a Mac and a Mac she shall remain.  When it comes to alternative options you will find no shortage of people who fiercely ignite the flames of brand rivalry at the sheer thought of changing sides. Some well-known brand rivals include Dior vs YSL, L’Oreal vs Estee Lauder and Nike vs Adidas.  In regards to the latter, if you were in any doubt about the extent that some are willing to go to express their brand loyalty have a listen to the Kanye West song ‘Facts’ or as it was originally titled: Why Nike Sucks (Adidas is Awesome).

So, what happens when you strip away the logos, the names and the signature colours and you leave consumers with a decision to choose between two seeming arbitrary products? If you thought that loyal consumers would instinctively chose their cherished brand, you’d be wrong.

in Blakeslee’s study (2004), brain scans of participants were monitored whilst they embarked on a blind taste test of carbonated rivals, Coca Cola and Pepsi. Activation in the brains reward system was observed when participants drank both soft drinks. When judging which drink they preferred, participants were evenly split. 

​However, when the drinks were revealed, activity in brain structures linked to brand loyalty were activated and “overrode original preferences” (Blakeslee, 2004). Instead of an even split, after the reveal, three out of four participants indicated their preference for Coca Cola.

Brand loyalty is an important driving factor of any company’s success as brand loyal customers make repeat purchases even when faced with numerous, cheaper and often extremely similar substitutes (Schaefer & Rotte, 2007). Especially when a brands’ chief marketing point is that they are better than X, Y or Z there will be no shortage of customers seeking to pledge allegiance to their flag(ship).

So to all you diehards out there, there really is no harm in seeking out a bit of objectivity (even a tiny bit). 

Read the essay in full here.