Skip to main content

Are people loyal to other people or to brands?

In Creating Customer Evangelists (2007), Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba state:
"When we set out to understand what created evangelists for our case-study companies, we discovered a simple yet undeniable truth: People are loyal to people, not necessarily brands. That's the magic bullet about word of mouth and how it spurs evangelism." (p.3; emphasis in original)
The authors go on to describe how companies like Southwest Airlines, IBM, Build-A-Bear Workshop and others are enjoying the benefits of customer word of mouth.
While Creating Customer Evangelists is a great book, and I'll be talking more about it in this blog, I couldn't disagree more with the authors on their conclusions about branding. I say, people are not loyal to the customer service representatives they deal with. They are loyal to the BRANDS that those customer service representatives represent!
This is definitely true for consumer packaged goods, where there is no customer service aspect to the buying situation. And it is true as well for service brands, although trickier to see because you're dealing with service provided by people.
In my view, people REMEMBER a good customer service experience and ESTABLISH a relationship with the BRAND not the person they deal with. I'll go to any Starbucks coffee shop, not just the one on the corner where I recognize the people who work there. Every Southwest flight attendant has a humorous attitude; every Build-A-Bear workshop attendant provides a "heartfelt" experience to a child buying his or her bear for the first time. The service they provide is not spontaneous but BRANDED...and I think most people recognize that. You pay for the brand and expect the brand's promises to be fulfilled, whether by a product or by a person...that's it, end of story. 
Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Google, GE, Nokia, Toyota,  Intel, McDonald's, Mercedes...people go where the product and service best suit them.
Believe me, all those little girls walking around in princess outfits at Disney are not loyal to a person, they're loyal to a brand fantasy that exists only in their heads.
Other points of view are welcome, of course.

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …