Last week we talked about marketing and how it assumes you are a moron who lacks the capacity to form thoughts and ideals of your own… that being spoon fed trite drivel is the only way you as the consumer can become said consumer but there is more, so much more…
Marketers must assume that you are just this side of braindead yet somehow ambulatory lest they lose their only hope of fooling you into thinking that your choice of their product over the competition is made from free will and not from a carefully orchestrated dance of manipulation and slight of hand. You are led from start to finish into what THEY want you to see, what THEY want you to hear and most importantly what THEY want you to spend not just your dollars on but what they want you to spend your time thinking about… they don’t want a one time consumer, they want a lifetime acolyte and they will use any and all methods to accomplish this. They want you as not just a lifetime customer to their product but also to their brand, they want your loyalty above all else because, you see, loyalty brings with it far more dollars than a simple one time purchase. Brand loyalty is something that is greatly desired in the marketing world and yet true brand loyalty is somewhat hard to procure partially due to the hidden nature of the brands themselves. Take for instance how a disgustingly high percentage of the products you are surrounded by are really owned by the same few parent companies. Kraft Foods owns these brands (to list only a few) A1 Steak Sauce, Air Crisps, Bulls-Eye Barbecue Sauce, Club Social, Cool Whip, Country Time, Cracker Barrel Cheese, Crystal Light, Easy Cheese, Handi-Snacks, Honey Maid, Jell-O, Jet-Puffed Marshmallows, Kool-Aid, Lunchables, Maxwell House, Miracle Whip, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Planters, Stove Top stuffing, Swiss Crackers and the Taco Bell store items. Most of you reading this have a multitude of these products in your home and yet I bet you had no idea all of them were owned by the same conglomerate, a conglomerate I might add which until relatively recently was itself owned by Phillip Morris, the cigarette company. So, with the bad rap (their term) that smokes have, Phillip Morris always went to great pains to disguise the fact they owned Kraft in fear that it would taint (even tangentially) how you looked at your Mac & Cheese or Lemonade purchase. This subterfuge is just one way their marketing distorts the reality of the situation, another would be the ads themselves but that is next week’s topic. They would love to have you as a lifetime and committed consumer of their entire line of products, yet they obscure the same line of products into seeming smaller and more independent.
With the idea of “brand loyalty” here, what does that actually mean? Well, brand loyalty would be this; when I say to you boxed Macaroni and Cheese you immediately think of the Kraft brand with that iconic blue box and the varieties of pop culture versions… but why did you go there first? Was it because Kraft Mac & Cheese is the best on the market or simply the one marketed the best? What about Annie’s All Natural Mac & Cheese? Betty Crocker has a boxed Mac & Cheese and hell even Goldfish has one but I bet none of those entered your mind even for a second because Kraft has your brand loyalty… even if you didn’t knowing give it to them. This is true of all commodities be it movie franchises, hair care items, medical supplies or that of consumables.
Brand loyalty is something that is worked at very hard in an effort to do just what I illustrated above, make you think of only one name in a given field of available products, to make you not even consider an alternative, to make the shopping trip about only one brand identity and leaving all others aside (and this leaving out the local “store brands”). Actually, lets not do that, speaking of those local brands lets look at the quality of the products themselves in relation to one another… at least in terms of actual performance. Using the Mac & Cheese example I have not tried the Annie’s or Goldfish brands myself (I don’t make boxed Mac & Cheese that often) but I have had many store brands in my lifetime and from my experience they all taste pretty much the same and looking at the contents and digging into things a little bit it would seem they all come from the same (relative) sources, this means that the products themselves are more or less interchangeable, the same macaroni noodles, the same powdered cheese etc… all that is really different is a small alteration in each formula which allows for trademarking, but the difference between the store brand and Kraft is negligible to say the least. That is for the product itself though, what makes one “better” than the other is how they are sold TO YOU.
Advertising, by definition, is all about massaging and cajoling but why then, knowing this, do you allow yourself to be massaged and cajoled? You allowed Kraft to worm it’s way into your life and to plant it’s seed in your mind and you did far worse than that, you allowed them to turn you into a brand loyalist who will forsake all others in the name of the one and only. They give you “free” t-shirts and posters and giveaways (all emblazoned with the corporate logo) and then you become further indoctrinated into the cult of the brand.* You become not only their billboard but also their preacher of the brand gospel, you spread the word that their product is the real deal and not to pay attention to those other false claimants. Now, with all sides playing this game (there is no impartial party in marketing and brand loyalty) it is hard to call one out over the other but no matter what YOU (and I) end up picking a side regardless. Now, when we pick a side it may be less of a brand issue and more of a quality issue, if you like those small alterations in the Kraft Mac & Cheese over the store brand one then that should be the deciding factor as to how you spend your money, but if on the other hand you simply like Kraft Mac & Cheese (the brand) over everything else including product quality, well then you have become a loyalist to the point that you are willing to pay more simply for the name/brand than what you get for what you pay. Why would you pay more for the logo than the actual product?
Brands are there for a reason, they allow a product (or acting as an umbrella of products) that tell you a certain message simply by the name associations and mainly by the strength or weakness of the very brand itself. You know that if you are in the market for a condom that Trojan has a history to it where Lifestyles or some off brand has none (to you) so it makes you feel safer in purchasing that “name” irregardless of the quality (or price) differences between the brands. I have a brand, the 1201 Beyond brand is mine and I would like to think that those who ingest my product into their cerebellum do so for the sustenance it brings to the mind and not to the brand itself. Brand loyalty is not something bad if that is indeed what you think is the best product there is… but the danger comes when brand loyalty supersedes all else and it (d)evolves into some far more cultish. When you begin to push the brand agenda then you have stepped over a line. Apple and Microsoft devotees are in that category, no matter the product, no matter how well it works, Apple and Microsoft cultists are fully indoctrinated and even deprogramming may not erase the damage done, they are examples of not brand loyalty but brand INSANITY.