The rebirth of Brand Loyalty

12 08 2007

As a kid in the 50’s I heard people refer to facial tissue as Kleenex and refrigerators as Frigidaires. These days no one refers to a GPS by it’s brand name. Even if a product is referred to by a specific name, it is more likely to be a model name than a company name. I don’t say that I drive a Toyota but a Prius and even with that fairly recognizable model, people often ask, ‘That’s a hybrid, isn’t it?”

So is brand dominance a big deal today? Well, we have been referring to computers as PC’s for a while now, indicating not a brand but certainly referring to a machine with a Microsoft operating system. And, even though we rarely mentioned that we were using a Dell, the fact was that a large percentage of us were if only because that company was leading a pricing race to the bottom where now they along with other manufacturers are failing to make money on computer sales. It is often less expensive and quicker to buy an HP or a Compaq (same company, you don’t need to choose one to be loyal to) locally and to put up with the junk software they pile on the hard drives and their rebate headaches than to have Dell force you through15 computer screens full of potential add-ons before they allow you to check out.

Still, some companies have been winning the public over even in the computer business. Two giants in this area who dazzle us with quality, and innovation are Google and Apple.

Google gives us new toys to play with almost monthly at no charge other than being exposed to a tasteful bit of advertising (their real business.) They have quietly built an online version of a Microsoft Office-like suite. (Office is the biggest money maker for MS who are planning to post a free version of Office’s significantly poorer cousin, Works, on line with only ad support. Never mind that Works was bundled for free with PCs for years and most of us ignored it.)

Google has given us loads of online functionality. Many people, use Google’s gmail, calendar, news reader and maps everyday. In fact each of those applications opens up each time I run Firefox, a web browser to which I have brand loyalty. Never mind the fact that, although there was a huge and competitive search engine business before they arrived, searching itself is often referred to as Googling.

Apple and it’s Macs and iPods and now iPhones have gained more brand loyalty traction than any high tech products I can think of. There was a time not too long ago when Apple enthusiasts were a small but vocal minority who were denigrated in the workplace and often not even allowed to join corporate networks. Now, Macs are the fastest growing type of computers by a significant margin, the iPod is the most successful music player in history and the iPhone has had a terrific launch and is poised to change the entire cellphone industry.

So what would it take for other companies to move from the commodity arena into the realm of a beloved household word? A dedication to the needs of the end-user, innovation and quality would be a great start. The minute a business begins to spend more time locking down their product with digital rights management or forcing customers to pay for technical support to make up for poorly written or absent product manuals or spending more money on lobbying the government for protections and favors than on R&D; they are starting down a slope on oblivion. After all if your brand is one the public associates with windfall profits, pollution and graft, is it a brand you really even want any more?

In the interest of full disclosure, this blog is provided free for me to write and for you to read by Google.

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One response

26 09 2007
Three Score and Ten or more

You sound a lot like the Alan I knew and loved. I think the last time I heard from you was when you steered me to Newsvine. I certainly agree with you about Dell. Jan used a Dell, but I hate the boxex you have jump though to find one.

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