Which is it – wide ties or skinny ties? Bell bottoms or straight legs?
I am convinced that if you wait long enough the old will become new again and the out-of-vogue will return to fashionable. Recently, I asked if brand loyalty was dead? In the context of that question I posed data to suggest that in some categories thought to have high brand loyalty (such as over-the-counter medication brands) consumer’s were trading down based on commoditized price considerations. But the pendulum appears to be swinging back again based on findings from the annual RetailingToday.com ‘s Top Brands report.
As you know the Top Brands survey has been going on now for over two decades and provides an important benchmark for the retail sectors since it tracks “consumers’ unaided expectations when it comes to brand names they look for at mass market retailers.” The study polls consumers on their expectations across 17 product categories, and this years results are of particular interest given the volatility of the marketplace. According to the results of the study “top brands weathered the recession and have emerged even stronger last year with an increased percentage of consumers in 13 of the 17 measured categories, indicating a stronger brand preference when compared with the prior year … In the other four categories where brand preference did not increase year over year, it either held steady or was down only slightly.”
The authors of the study go on to suggest that “The overall surge in brand preference is noteworthy because it took place against the backdrop of one of the worst recessions anyone can remember, which caused a predictable shift in purchase behavior as shoppers deferred purchases or sought less-expensive alternatives. However, that was only the beginning. Top brands also withstood efforts by their trading partners to reduce expenses and simplify operations by reducing assortments, oftentimes at the expense of shoppers who were then left to wonder why they couldn’t find the very item that was responsible for them visiting a particular store. In addition to retailers’ efforts to pare assortments, brands had to withstand retailers’ increased emphasis on their own brands, with notable examples involving the relaunch of Great Value at Walmart and the introduction of Up & Up at Target. “
If you have an interest in a specific sector of the retail market the RetailingToday.com results are essential reading. For those outside of retail, the broad implications of the study are also important. Consumers truly do seek out brands and expect to find major brands during their shopping experience. By creating not only product excellence but also a positive emotional connection through your products, people seek out your business as well.
People look for names like Coke, Nike, Hanes, Crest, and Cover Girl and frequent businesses that carry them. While those brand names have been aided by advertising and marketing, each has had to produce products that exceeded expectations and position their brand identity beyond the attributes of their product offerings. Each top brand has had to meld into the lifestyle and social identity of consumers such that buying the product connotes certain emotional and social truths for the purchaser.
So let’s bring this back to you, what one thing can you do to strengthen the perception of your brand? How do buyers in your market sector see themselves? What do they value? What can you do to authentically connect your brand to the things they value? What community events can you support? How can you infuse the customer experience with aspects consistent with their values?
While style fads may change and economic hardships can create temporary adjustments in consumer behavior, in the end “brand strength” and customer experiences WILL forever matter.
Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.
Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli
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