Probably it is better said, the lack of brand loyalty in running – at least from my experience.
Brand loyalty is something that companies have tried cultivate with their customers, ever since people began to buy/sell or trade. If a company can get you to believe that their product is better for you than their competitors, you will come back for repeat business when you need that product again.
Companies/brands also hope that you tell your friends, family or others that you have influence with, about how great a product that company has, so they will in turn buy from them. A very simplified version of marketing 101.
Am I an expert on marketing or how to develop brand loyalty? Hardly. I am simply a consumer, who has bought a lot of stuff over the years. I have also been a runner for a while and have seen a lot of the running companies attempts to garner my brand loyalty, to their products or company.
Not very loyal
To be honest over the years that I have been a runner, I really have not had much brand loyalty to any running products company or brand. I have tried products from the major running companies (A to Z) and some of the smaller companies in between, along with multiple retailers to sustain my passion for running. I tend to go with what works for me or can afford, while attempting to ignore the hype and hoopla as much as possible – but even I get sucked into it from time to time.
Over time I have developed a few preferred companies and retailers (brands) that I usually look to, before I look at others, based on my previous experience with those brands. However, that doesn’t mean that I will automatically buy their product or buy there – just because it is one of my preferred brands.
Evidence of that is that I have multiple brands of running shoes, running clothes and accessories, that I have gotten over the years from various places. Honestly, I picked them out less on brand name than fit/function and the price they were.
What are the reasons that I do not show more brand loyalty:
To be blunt. The marketing/advertising techniques about different products or brands can be effective and sway my choices. Those efforts can piqué my interest in how a different product compares to my present one or how it could improve what I am doing, based on X, Y, or Z. Especially, if what I am using is not working as well as I expected. I wish I could say that I can always avoid the noise, but that would not be honest. Marketing/advertising does work to get me initially interested in a different product or brand.
Price plays a big part of whether I buy a brand’s product or not and when. In today’s reality of limited discretionary spending, if products are similar, I go with the lower cost item. If I am looking for a specific brand/item, I might delay purchasing the item (if I can), until it goes on sale or closeout as a more cost-effective way to stay with a preferred brand that works for me.
Reviews by people who I think know what they are talking about or that I know and trust.
Something is going wrong with my training or an injury (small or large) and I blame it on the product, whether it is actually the product or not. When I believe I have had a bad experience with a certain product, I am leery about using similar products from that company/brand again and will look elsewhere.
Customer service, if I have a question or problem with a product, how the brand responds to my problem or question, will go a long way in whether I will use that brand again or not.
Availability of a product in an area where I live. Unfortunately, where I live now, some products or brands are not readily available for me to try or see in person – which is something that I prefer. I am one of those who prefers to still see what I am buying before ordering it. Yes I do use online, but generally on a subsequent purchase, not an initial purchase from a brand or a new line without knowing how it will fit me.
Rewards Programs – they do give a little push to keep using a brand’s product, but it also depends on what the rewards are and how difficult it is to retrieve them.
Freebies – when the brand sends you free samples of their product to try, in hopes that you will return as a paying customer in the future.
This is a relatively new one and has become very powerful in my world.
How the brand, company or their representatives interact with me on social media sites like: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, etc. make a big difference. Their responses to my questions has become a very important consideration in how I perceive a company and their products.
The Internet and social media has made communications between companies (brands) and their potential or loyal customers, much easier. Social media has made it possible for consumers to have “conversations” with the brands, which allows consumers (like me) to make a different level of connection, with a brand than we have in the past.
Especially if I ask specific questions about their product on one of those hubs and get ignored or worse am given BS or canned answers – it makes me question, whether I need to do business with that company or brand. Which has happened and I tend to avoid those brands now.
I understand that social media has exploded over the past 5 years and many brands are scrambling to keep up or catch up with the early adopters of these new streams, that have developed. For many of these companies/brands, this new method of communication with their customer base, can be both intimidating and more than a little risky.
The communications are instantaneous, in writing – there is a record of what is being said that the consumer also has access to (as a consumer I like this, some companies may not), conversations are usually public initially and by their nature the conversations on social media sites are not always able to be answered with scripts and controlled brand speak from “on high” to ensure a standard brand answer to all questions. So this is a big change for companies and the level of control that they have over their brands or products.
However, if companies continue with the old model of “we advertise and market downhill”, via the traditional mediums of TV, radio, magazines, websites and mostly ignore the potential of social media communications and making connections with their potential or loyal customers, they do so at their own risk.
Social media is allowing smaller and/or more forward thinking brands, who are more agile, to communicate directly with the consumer and establish relationships with those customers, before they are planning to make a purchase. Then when it comes time for consumers (like me) to make a purchase, we tend to look first at those brands that we have made connections with on social media sites, because we “know” the brand.
I know that when I was recently searching for my new running shoes, the brands that answered my questions and “talked” with me through social media about their product or made suggestions that helped me with my search. I looked at those brands much more favorably and actually went a good deal out of my way to try to find their product to see if it met my needs.
The reality is that
How I look at being loyal to a certain brand of running products depends on a lot of factors, but increasingly one of those factors is how that brand that brand communicates with me on social media sites.
If brands or their representatives do not respond or “talk” to me about their product, I don’t bother to look first or as closely at their product, when I go out to buy something. I won’t go out of my way to find their product, even if there is a lot of hype and hoopla around that product from the advertising/marketing machines.
Instead I go ahead and look at the products and brands that I have been “talking” and making connections with on social media sites first, to see if their products will work for me.
I have a feeling that Brands are going to have to keep working harder to keep me and many other customers loyal to their Brand, with the many other options that are available to us today.
I also believe that brands who use social media effectively to establish more connections, dare I say be more personal connections with their potential customers will be more successful in establishing brand loyalty with that customer. I know that it will work this way for me.
When I or others like me ask questions or try to “talk” with your brand there – don’t ignore us or give us your scripted answers. We remember when you do – at least I know I do.
To all the brands out there who are attempting to earn my loyalty to your brand (that’s right you have to earn my loyalty – it is not the other way around), remember to communicate with me on social media before I am looking to buy, so that when I am looking to buy I will probably look closely at your product first.
Have a quality product that works for me, is reasonably priced, every so often reward me for being a loyal customer and in today’s world don’t ignore me when I ask a question about your product line on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube or any major social media site.
The bottom line is that if a brand wants to keep me as a loyal customer – give me a reason to be a loyal customer.
Not an expert
Nope I am not an expert in brands, marketing or social media – like many claim to be, but I am a consumer who uses social media to help me decide which brands I want to look at closer, when making a purchase.
The old ‘caveat emptor-buyer beware’ is now moving a little more to “brands be aware”.
Questions for you?
- Are you loyal to a certain brand? Why?
- If a company or brand ignores your questions on Twitter or Facebook, how does that make you feel about the company?
- Do you look at the brands who do communicate with you there more favorably and look at their products before those brands who do not communicate with you on social media?
The brands who’s images I used in this post were brands that went out of their way to help me via social media during my latest shoe shopping experience and I want to show them some brand loyalty for their help during this process.
A reader complained on Twitter that “but was not fond of all of the advertisement throughout your post”. I want to clear the air and make sure that no one misunderstands why I put those images in this post. It was not for the purpose of advertising as this person indicated.
The 5 images are of brand logos that were very helpful to me while I was researching which running shoes to buy this past month. There are no advertisements for their products and I purposely did not link to their site with the logo. Advertising would indicate that I received some sort of compensation (money, free gear, etc.) for putting those images in the post, which I definitely did not.
Adding images of their site’s logo was me showing a little brand loyalty to those brands that were most helpful to me over the past month.
In 4-6 months when I start searching for a new pair of running shoes (that never ending process), which companies do you think that I will look at first?
FTC Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation or free products from any of these companies to write this post. I was selected as a Brooks Running Wear Tester in October 2011, but I have not been selected to take part in any wear tests.
*The logos that I have used in this post are screenshots taken from those company websites.