Brand loyalty is an urban legend.
It’s a mythology marketers fabricated to convince themselves that people have some kind of deep emotional connection to their hair conditioner or wiper blades. I’m sure it makes it easier to show up to work every day when you’re peddling canned corn.
But it’s an illusion.
If brand loyalty wasn’t dead before COVID, it’s six feet under today. Supply chain challenges proved that brand loyalty ends where empty shelves begin. If your thing isn’t available, I’ll jump ship. I may come back, I may not. Loyalty has nothing to do with it.
Brand fickleness is particularly profound among Gen Z. If you can’t deliver your product in a couple days, they’ll buy something else. Now we’re seeing a throwback surge of in-store and mall shopping among our younger Gen X dopplegangers, partly because they appreciate the instant gratification.
Noelle insists she’s “loyal” to Nike, because “they’re the coolest.” Indeed, Gen Z is more likely to support a company based on its values or vibe. But they’re also deeply untrusting. If you stray an inch, they’ll cancel you without thinking twice. They’re loyal to principles, not brands.
We often conflate “I buy the same brand all the time” with loyalty. Wrong. From the first patch of peach fuzz on my post-pubescent face as a teen, I’ve never bought anything but a Gillette razor. Why? Because any time I leave one in a hotel room, I still have a drawer full of blades at home I need to use.
I may be tethered to a brand, like Apple, simply because it does the job, and it would be a pain in the ass to learn a new operating system. Or, Amazon, because it’s compatible with a bunch of other stuff I already own. That’s not loyalty. It’s Stockholm Syndrome.
There are rare exceptions. I know guys who are loyal to Chevy over Ford. That’s like being loyal to a sports team. You need enemies for that kind of loyalty.
I stick to some brands, like Shure microphones, because they’re the best in class. But if the quality slips, I’m gone. It would be like if Tara left me when I morphed into the dad-bod I’ve been sporting for the past 15 years. Thankfully, she’s actually loyal.
Be great at what you do. Be true to your principles. Keep your shelves stocked and your prices competitive. Imprison me with interoperability and switching costs. Maybe I’ll never leave.
Just don’t confuse it with loyalty.
Here’s what we’re seeing:
Household income continues to be a bright spot. While it may not seem like it some weeks, I’m far less pessimistic about the economy than a lot of the headline-seekers. Job numbers continue to pleasantly surprise. The mobility created by remote work will alleviate a lot of housing pressures. These things were never true during past recessionary periods. Meanwhile, Americans are still feeling relatively good about their income. Even after sliding since the beginning of the year, things seem to be settling. Nearly two-thirds of U.S adults still say they are equal or better off financially than they were before the pandemic. Only 28% say they are unsatisfied with their current pay, down from 30% a few weeks ago. Even job happiness is rebounding.
Credit card usage isn’t climbing as fast as you might expect in the inflationary maelstrom. This is an important opportunity to remind you that we have an increasingly bifurcated group of haves and have nots in our country, but overall household debt conditions remain fairly healthy. The percentage of Americans who say they have some form of debt with a credit card company is up just one percentage point since January. Inevitably those numbers will go up by the end of summer, as people charge their vacation and travel expenditures, but there’s still no guarantee it’s anything more than seasonal. Of course, CC usage among people making under $50k/yr is rising faster – and that’s a problem – but there’s still a lot of pent-up household savings buoying the rest of the market. You need to watch this data as closely as we do.
America’s emotional well-being is teetering but holding steady. Our collective levels of happiness, stress, and anxiety are proving to be remarkably predictive of consumer spending – which is why you should read our Well-Being Index for free a couple more times before we wall it off and start charging for it. The income correlations make it hard to argue that money doesn’t buy happiness. And the disparity between men and women is striking, never more so than during the week of June 26th. Wonder why.
Local sports is the last mile of the streaming movement. As much of a die-hard Pittsburgh sports fan as I am, I haven’t watched a regular season Penguins game or Pirates game (“regular season Pirates game” is redundant) at home in three years. Our local sports provider – AT&T SportsNet – isn’t available on Hulu Live and I’m not going to sign up for DirecTV streaming just to watch it. But I also know a lot of people who haven’t yet cut the cord – entirely because of local sports. This is fleeting. Only 17% of adults have subscribed to stand-alone local sports streaming services. There’s too much money at stake for this not to change.
The baby formula shortage has been incredibly disruptive for families. This is a disaster that lost its prominence in the news cycle far too quickly. By last week, 30% of Americans have been affected by the baby formula crisis or know someone who has. That’s up from 25% six weeks ago. Yet again, this is a problem affecting lower income households at a much higher rate. What are these troubled moms and dads doing to make their formula ends meet? The largest percentage are asking family and friends for help. An equal number are driving many miles to find product (with sky-high gas prices). This is a huge problem we need to solve yesterday.
Two more studies this week:
- The deluge of air travel disruptions and rising costs are impacting some carriers more than others;
- People who eat ice cream in a cup are happier than people who eat ice cream from a cone and other interesting factoids about ice cream eaters.
The most popular questions:
- Do you tend to embrace or reject awkward pauses in conversations?
- Do you have a go-to drink when going out?
- Do you find nutrition facts on a restaurant menu to be helpful or off-putting?
- How likely are you to tell a stranger they have something in their teeth?
- How far in advance do you begin planning a lengthy trip?
- Are you able to sleep easily when the sun is out?
Answer Key: They’re the worst; Several; Hate it; Very; A couple months max; I don’t sleep easily anytime.
Hoping you’re well.
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