One of the best ways to start a conversation about brand loyalty is to think about our purchasing commitments. A great place to start is to think about food. Most of us can remember our favorite restaurant. The place we know we have to go to at least once a week. If we think about why we go there, it will likely be for more reasons than just the food. Maybe they know your name and have memorized your order since you are a repeat customer. Do they offer discounts and rewards for ordering from them a certain number of times? Is their customer service superb? Whatever the case may be, you feel compelled to visit again and again. This is what brand loyalty is all about, creating a desire for the customer to want to make repeat purchases with a particular brand.
What Leads to Brand Loyalty?
According to a study released by the American Marketing Association, there are two main types of brand loyalty: those who are satisfied and then those who are committed. Satisfied customers would likely make a repeat purchase because they know the brand to be dependable. Committed customers have a more intense attachment to a company due to an emotional connection. The brands that were listed to foster a sense of commitment with customers were Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, and Chick-Fil-A. Each inspired the customer to purchase for reasons other than the product itself.
The Loyalty Report
This year, Edmunds released their annual loyalty report that highlighted brand commitment trends in the automotive industry. As far as the type of car that customers feel the most loyalty to, all signs point to the SUV. In 2017, 75 percent of SUV owners traded in their vehicles for another SUV. With gas prices staying steady, more fuel-efficient options, and growing millennial families; consumers have remained loyal to these larger vehicles. However, one of the more interesting stories lie with the passenger vehicles who are still yielding positive results. The report noted that Japanese automakers like Toyota and Honda still manage to do well in selling passenger vehicles. Nearly 50 percent of all car trade-ins last year were from a Japanese brand. Both automakers have established themselves as a “gold-standard” for passenger cars. They are known as fuel-efficient, reliable, and cost-effective. It makes total sense that this U.S. News List for the “8 Best Choices for a First Car” is dominated by Toyota, Honda, and Mazda. They are likely the first brand choice for a lot of young adults, which also garners a long-term and nostalgic loyalty.
In the last ten years, one of the most remarkable stories in the automotive industry has been Subaru’s rapid rise to success. In the Edmunds loyalty report, Subaru placed second behind Toyota at 61 percent for those who traded in to purchase from the same brand. They did benefit from the trend toward SUVs and crossovers, but their positive gains also involve their intentional cultivation of brand loyalty. A few years ago, the company started the “Love Campaign.” Commercials begin to address the substantial emotional connection owners felt to their Subaru, the loved ones they share the car-riding experience with, and causes in the community that matter to someone who drives a Subaru. This step not only increased the positive perception car buyers had of this brand, but it also increased the number of consumers who said they would consider a Subaru for their next purchase. This brand pushed through dependability to garner a full-on commitment from car buyers.
The Threat to Brand Loyalty: Changing Consumer Tastes
As Edmunds mentioned in their report, car buyer tastes are forever changing. What customers enjoy today may not be something they look for next year. Gas prices, household incomes, and unemployment rates could upend the automotive industry and change consumer preferences at the drop of a hat. This is why brand loyalty the stories of companies like Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Mazda, and the newly up-and-coming Volkswagen are so important. They provide a glimpse into what makes customer stay with a brand for the long-term. Adequate pricing, vehicle size options, corporate social responsibility programs, excellent customer service, and dependability are all factors that keep these brand’s customers coming back. The goal is to make the brand stand for a vision that customers can believe in whether it be a feeling of nostalgia or the brand’s commitment to fostering community and safety. As consumer tastes continue to change, car brands will have to continue to be innovative in their ways to keep consumers coming back.