Brand Loyalty in Running

*Saucony

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.

*Brooks Running

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.

Social Media

This is a relatively new one and has become very powerful in my world.

*Altra Running

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.

Why

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.

*Natural Running Store

Forward thinking

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.

Personal Experience

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.

Competition/Options

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.

Brand Loyalty

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?

Disclaimer/Image Information

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.

Quick update:

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.

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19 comments on “Brand Loyalty in Running

  1. I am definitely not brand loyal when it comes to shoes and clothes. With clothes I go with what’s cheaper and that has worked for me so far. For shoes, I go with what works without consideration for cost.
    Food? I am loyal to Clif- I love their all/almost all organic products! Mojo, Bars, Kids Clif, Luna and their Gels- delicious and made in a healthy way!! Now if I can get them to be loyal to me…

    • Eric you bring up an interesting point – are brands loyal to the runners who are their loyal customers? What do the brands believe constitutes being loyal to their customers – that would be an interesting thing to know wouldn’t it. Would be a great follow-on post to this one tomorrow, if you don’t mind I will run with it 🙂

  2. interesting I have thought about this before.. I am usually loyal to a shoe for quite sometime because if it works that piece I am hesitant to change…I also tend to stock up on certain items when I really like them, but yeah I haven’t used any 1 product other than body glide for all 10 years

    • Thank you 🙂 Running clothing brings out almost as many biases as do shoes, but I find that the clothes last a lot longer, so when I get something, I try for quality and look at my preferred brands first. However, looking at the different brands in my closet and dresser, it only goes as far as the next sale sometimes. 🙂

  3. 1. Honestly, I’m not loyal to any brand. generally I would say I’m anti-loyal to several brands (where I always consider their product last)

    2. I’ve actually had a company completely ignore me on twitter and FB. This is really annoying especially if its a small business where their is no reviews for me to refer to. It made me buy a competing companies gear.

    3. Yes, I love when companies help on social media.

    • Alex – I agree with your point about anti-loyal to some brands, especially those who snub me on social media sites or as I have said before offer the “scripted” reply. When small companies do that it is very annoying and they are the ones who should be working the hardest to get us to switch to their brand.

      • I’ve actually found that anti-loyal to brands that are more interested in you changing you than making a product that suits my taste. Unfortunately, these are more glamourous running brands. For the small companies that don’t respond, I have gotten a sense from them that I’m not a good enough customer. That I don’t run far enough for them to care to even talk to me.

  4. As someone who consults small companies on marketing and brand building I love this post!

    Personally I have my favorite brands that I will look to first but I’m far from brand exclusive.

    I have had companies ignore me on Twitter and they’ll probably never see a dollar of my money. I have also had some very helpful companies via social media, and I look upon them very favorably.

    • Thank you, from what I seen I think that we all have our preferred brands, but if a good enough deal comes up or something really grabs our interests, we go for it and it doesn’t matter which brand it is. I had a couple of companies that when I asked questions about their product, I got no answer or the stock answer go to the website and use the shoe selector – not what I was looking for and I didn’t look further at those shoes. I want to be treated like I matter to the company and if they don’t treat me that way I go somewhere else.

  5. I have bad feet & thru the years I have had to change basically based on what would fit me. Now with really bad feet, the Hoka OneOne running shoe is the only one that works for me & honestly, the best shoe I have ever run in so I am glad I found it & am very loyal to it. I understand it is not for all but it is the one for me. I am writing about this tomorrow on my blog BTW! 🙂

    • I look forward to hearing what you have to say about the Hoka, I have read a lot of great things about them.I think as we get older, we find what works for use and tend to stay with it. 🙂

  6. I don’t know, perhaps I am a little. I tend to stick with what I know and don’t always try something new, especially due to advertising. If I am after something in particular I do a small “trade study” (the engineering geek in me) and try to get the best value on most items. From then on I stick with it. This is certainly true with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS’ that I’ve purchased over the past year (5 pairs, number 6 is on the FedEx truck as I write this). When I went out looking for shoes initially I went to a local store to get them to help me in my selection. They looked at my gait etcetera and we came to three different shoes and the Brooks stuck and I’ve been buying them ever since. Now, as you know, I’m considering going minimalist after my half (Go! St. Louis) in about 8 weeks. When I do that I will perform another mini-trade study to come to reasonable conclusion, however this might take some trial and error perhaps until I fins what I really want there, if at all.

    • Aaron you sound a little like me and my approach to buying running shoes (although I am not a very engineering type – probably the opposite and go by the seat of my pants too much), but when it comes to shoes, I do my research pretty carefully. However, I have not been lucky enough to have found the shoes that I want to stick with as yet. Maybe the Kinvaras will be that shoe, the early returns have been promising, but we will see. I will be interested to see how your search for a minimalist shoe goes. How about running clothes, do you stick with Brooks or get what you can when you can?

      • I guess running clothes is hit and miss. I do have some Brooks clothes, some Nike, some Under Armour, and a bunch of tech shirts from races. LOL As for getting clothes I haven’t cared too much. I do like the Bolga socks I bought to stay dry for Long Runs, and they are the most comfy socks I’ve ever worn. I will likely get more of those. But shorts, shirts, I don’t care so much, likely my 20 years in the USAF that influence my PT clothing. Nothing fancy, best to be covered up, not too revealing, least expensive. Like I mentioned in one other post, I use an old velour jacket for cold runs, and I have some Under Armour sweat pants (I think they’re cold weather type, maybe Cold Gear?). I like the Under Armour and their particular purpose (Cold Gear). But I’m not scientific about my approach with clothing. Perhaps I should be.

        I hope the Kinvaras stick for you, it did sound like they were working out pretty good for you.

  7. I am loyal to products but not exactly the brand. I own 2 pairs of Mizuno Wave Rider 13’s but when I needed new shoes and they had moved on from the 13’s I moved on from Mizuno. Not because I didn’t like my experience with the brand but because they changed up what they had – kind of a reverse disloyalty?

    For clothing my closet makes me look loyal to C9 but really, I only buy of the sales rack regardless of the brand. I’m a huge cheap-o when it comes to clothing! The same goes for random gadgets and “must haves” for running…price makes a HUGE difference.

    • That brand disloyalty is something that Eric brought up earlier and is a great topic to look at further. I think people tend to be more loyal to a brand when it comes to shoes, but clothing is different and price/quality do make a big difference. It does for me as well, if I can get the name of one of my preferred brands on a piece of clothing that is gravy, but like you I really look for is good quality clothing at a price I can afford.

  8. Pingback: Questions about Brands being Loyal to Runners « A Veteran Runnah

  9. Pingback: AVR – Week in Review 2-26-12 « A Veteran Runnah

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