The Exciting (New?) Phenomenon of "Brand Loyalty"

Hey internet people! The other day, I was driving to see my boyfriend (who happens to live 2 1/2 hours away) and listening to the audiobook he had lent me (grammar is hard sometimes), Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I spent most of the time laughing out loud and grinning to myself in the car, looking appropriately insane, but I also found it a very thought provoking read (listen?). Incidentally, I definitely recommend grabbing a copy (audio or otherwise, although you know how I feel about eReaders). But that’s not why we’re here today.

We’re here because one of the passing comments made in the (audio)book struck a chord with me. Tina (we’re on a first name basis because I spent over 5 hours listening in my car, right?) mentioned something about brand loyalty, and how it was a relatively new thing, something her parents had definitely not experienced when they were growing up. For some reason, perhaps because I am so guilty of feeling exceptional (and often illogical) loyalty to certain brands, I was surprised to hear that. You mean people haven’t always scanned the electronics section to find their brand of choice? Haven’t always carried customer loyalty cards and credit cards to their favorite stores? What?!

The infamous Sony mp3 player that started it all.

Maybe it’s just me. But I love Sony so much I might consider marrying them (I exaggerate). I’ve got a Sony laptop (fondly named Ronaldo) and a Sony Walkman mp3 player (which I realize makes me deeply uncool). I would probably return an iPod if someone ever bought it for me, and smash any iPads that came within my reach (or sell them… let’s face it, I’m poor). If anyone asks me WHY I feel this way, well, I brought this example up for good reason. I dropped my beloved Walkman once. My beloved, $150 walkman, the source of all music in my life. I cried. I looked up the warranty. I emailed the company. And like magic, a brand new beautiful purple Sony mp3 player showed up on my door step. It was love at first customer service, and I would never look back. The day I went to Best Buy to pick out my laptop, I was sold the moment I laid eyes on the gleaming white Sony Vaio and I wouldn’t take Dell for an answer.

That I can explain. What’s a bit harder to explain is why I  shoot people dirty looks when they say they don’t like to shop at American Eagle. “Do you HATE comfortable clothes?!” I want to shout, as if American Eagle was a close personal friend that had been insulted. Or when I see someone walking around with their iPhone why I want to wave my Andriod in their face, showing off my imagined superiority because I have some kind of personal issue with Apple, as if we’re sworn enemies. Apple never did anything to me. American Eagle could probably care less about the amount of time I spend in their store pointing fondly to all the clothes I already own and the ones I wish I could afford. So why the imagined personal relationships with these companies?

Me in (one of many) AE shorts. Never mind how unflattering the picture is.

If you recall my post about companies “coming out” with their stance on gay marriage, I’d like to postulate a correlation here. I think that, in the social media/internet age, we’re beginning to see corporations as PEOPLE. They aren’t just companies anymore–they have Facebook pages, which you can comment on an expect a response from a faceless person that may as well embody Sony or American Eagle themselves. They’ve got Twitter, they’ve got blogs, they respond to emails complaining about broken mp3 players promptly. And now they’ve even got OPINIONS on political issues? Well, they’re practically capable of attending your slumber party and braiding your hair,  aren’t they? May as well get a BFF necklace and make it official, right?

Brand loyalty might seem a little strange when you break it down, but I think it’s just part of the shifting idea of the company in our society. So tell me–what brands are your BFFs, and why?

EDIT: I felt so terrible upon realizing I forgot to mention my loyalty to Pepsi that I had to mention my loyalty to Pepsi. I always choose it over Coke. For no good reason except it’s DELICIOUS. Having had to give up soda, it’s forgivable that I forgot… right? (Incidentally, Skyline over Goldstar. Just throwing that out there.)

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4 thoughts on “The Exciting (New?) Phenomenon of "Brand Loyalty"

  1. Gosh I hope not. Employees have historically represented the company that employs them. Legally and culturally. Disney pioneered this, to an extent, although the robber/barons of the 19th century became avatars for the companies to which they lent their names long before Disney. Carnegie was US Steel, Rockefeller was Standard Oil, etc. The popes have long represented the Church, same as kings represented nations to other nations. People have adopted corporate identities in the past. Men like the fictional Don Draper of “Mad Men” had to put their personal lives aside, and become someone else at work, someone who could close the deal, make the company look good. I see corporations becoming more human. Hopefully not in a powerful way, or a replacing way (“More human than human, that's our motto.”). I would like this humanizing of companies help consumers hold companies accountable, and help society deal with businesses better.

  2. It would be nice if a humanizing effect on companies helped consumers to hold them accountable. As it is right now, it seems like a harmless but interesting change in the views of people as a whole. I know I feel as though I am representing my company whenever I have my name badge on–instant associate identity.

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