Forget Brand Loyalty

This post originally appeared as a guest post on WeWork Magazine.

There are dozens of marketing sub-genres. From inbound search to direct mail, even Permission Marketing (credit: Seth Godin) now lives on the unofficial Wikipedia list.

But something’s missing in 2013 — I like to call it “Principled Loyalty.”

Let me explain.

Marketers have spent years and billions of resources asking “How do we build brand loyalty?” After all, we understand the foot-in-the-door concept and know that making $5 more from an existing customer is easier than $1 from a new one.

But with the advent of daily deals (Groupon, LivingSocial, etc) and moreover their astounding success, I can’t help but wonder if we’re missing the mark in our efforts to differentiate brands.

So let principled loyalty be defined as a consumer’s loyalty to a concept instead of a brand.

Concepts include option clarity, convenience, and scarcity. Tactically this might mean “50% off” or “during lunch only,” two common pieces of ammunition oft used by the slew of daily deals behemoths.

Now for the fun part.

If I loved pizza (and I do) in the 1990’s (and I did) I’d order Pizza Hut. Their product aligns with my interests and prices are reasonable. If I have a coupon, even better, but ultimately I prefer their taste so that alone drives my Y2K purchase.

This is a marketer’s dream – I was “brand loyal.”

What about today?

If I want pizza in NYC I know a few things, thanks to technology:

  • Tons of choices (why settle for the place we always get?)
  • Tons of daily deals (forget paying list price, baby!)
  • Tons of trusted reviews (no need to trust my gut or store signage appeal)

Combine these and you’ve got a former Pizza Hut soldier making meal decisions exclusively by principles – where am I, what food category do I prefer, and which places (nearby) are offering a discount?

What’s interesting is that my sentiment towards Pizza Hut hasn’t changed – I love their product and am supporting it here on my blog.

But unlike the 90’s when my next step was to dial delivery, this “brand loyal” twenty-something that was sought after by the marketers of yesteryear now does nothing for Pizza Hut’s bottom line.

So if you want brand loyalty, cool. Keep the status quo and do those commercials with the cheesy crust.

But if you want more profits, try something else.