Depending on your perspective, shopping can be a fun pastime or must-do drudgery. Either way, it eventually becomes unavoidable. While shopping, we are bombarded with multiple choices of products and services. No matter what we are searching for, there are endless options.
In some cases, we may make comparisons based on factors such as monetary value, ingredients or sensory influences, like touch, sight, taste or smell. In other cases, our decision may be based on past experience and brand preference.
Manufacturers, marketing and advertising firms are very skillful in identifying ways to establish such preferences. In fact, their savvy tactics sometimes push us to ignore comparable products or similar services in favor of more familiar or popular brands.
What is brand loyalty?
So what drives brand loyalty? In the end, loyalty is driven by the choices that we make as consumers. That’s why businesses devote so much time and money to vying for our attention and developing die-hard consumers.
Conversely, as consumers, we can sometimes be fickle, and such loyalty can be lost by one misstep or unfavorable consumer experience. The branding of a product or service has to be consistent and hard-hitting in order to retain us as loyal consumers but continuous monitoring of the consumer experience is also essential.
Even with all of the name-brand options available today, the number of generic and store-brand products are growing. Many times those options offer consumers better price points than the name brands. Because of those dollar signs, they are perceived as being a better value. The driver for those lower price tags is the low cost of product development and marketing.
In many cases, the key ingredients or features may be nearly identical to the name brands, but the cost of developing a customer base can be much lower due to the similarities to the better-known brands.
Take shampoo for instance. Most people use at least a few bottles of shampoo a year. It’s a consumable product, meaning the bottle lasts for a short while and is then replaced by another. If you compare labels, you will find most shampoos use the same core ingredients to produce the sudsy and cleansing lather. Of course, there are differences in other added ingredients, such as pleasing scents, color or conditioning elements. But in the end, they all accomplish the same core purpose. As a relatively low-cost product, consumers may justify an allegiance to a preferred brand.
By the same token, value-minded consumers may be more inclined to experiment with options of perceived better value, knowing they are not making a long-term commitment. That’s just the type of in-road the generic products are looking for. Ironically, if you really study those labels, you may find the name brand and generic products are made by the same company.
Another example can be found in any grocery store, where both the name brand and store brand products are located on the same shelves. Store brands are often a few cents cheaper but may vary slightly from name brands in terms of packaging, size, or even taste and texture. The value decision here is entirely up to you as a consumer. It’s easy to grab the name brand first as the packaging is designed to grab your attention, and you’re likely familiar with the name. Therefore, comparative shopping for the store or generic brand may take a bit more time,, but it may well be worth the effort at the checkout counter.
Higher end products
Now let’s take a look at the other end of the value spectrum: automobiles. Vehicles are a big-ticket item requiring a long-term commitment. Lots of people have a brand preference and allegiance to their cars and will stick with that regardless of other brand options. Value considerations may include reliability, economy, service, resale value, and available options.
Other consumers may want to shop around for the brand that best meets their value criteria, whether it’s based on the luxury or economy end of the scale. In the end, however, the consumer’s choice is a visible and personal statement of their values. Automotive history books are riddled with examples of efforts to develop low cost, generic, general-purpose vehicles, and nearly all were doomed to failure by lack of consumer acceptance.
Service driven loyalty
The story can be the same for consumers on the service side. That is really evident in the telecommunications industry, where a myriad of “deals” can be found on cellular phone offerings. Companies package their services with varying call and data plans, different price options, contract terms of varying length, plus replacement phone options. It can be really difficult to make a side-by-side comparison.
To further add to the confusion, there are also “generics” entering into that industry. They do so by contracting to use the same networks as the big-name companies. It may be possible to save some money with one of those options, but you have to be cautious in comparing factors such as geographic coverage.
Is brand loyalty worth it?
So are generics as good, better or worse than the name brands? In the end, it’s a personal decision that can only be made by you as a consumer.
When it comes to a decision on the purchase of generic brands, store brands or name brands, as a consumer you have the control but have to be willing to live with the consequences of your decision. Consequences may be paying a higher cost for the perceived extra value or accepting somewhat lower perceived quality as a consequence of the savings.
The decision is highly personal and will likely vary depending on your decision matrix. With the dizzying array of consumer choices available, it’s easy to settle for the status-quo of familiarity, but there are savings to be found if you are willing to put forth a little time and effort as a conscientious consumer. Good luck and happy shopping.