I love this distinction by Martin Bishop between the brands we’re stuck on versus the ones we’re stuck with.
Brands we’re stuck on captivate us. Brands we’re stuck with hold us captive. As Bishop points out, “Consumers may be loyal to both types of brands if loyalty is simply measured in terms of repeat business but their feelings about the two types brands [are] very different.”
Brands we are stuck on reward us emotionally through the relationship we have with them. We are loyal to them, and our relationship is expressed through repeat business. Brands we are stuck with are there strictly for functional compliance – because we feel we have no choice but to have a relationship with them, or with someone equally as unattractive. And we engage with them as much as we have to, but only to that point.
Similar metrics, very different feels
The difficulty for brand owners is that the metrics for these two very different levels of “loyalty” can look very much the same: low churn; repeat purchase; consistent revenue. The difference lies in how the customers themselves feel, and whether they openly express that or not. And the litmus test for such loyalty is when a viable and competitive alternative offer hits the market. Those who are stuck on the brand may notice it but consciously choose to stay away. Those who feel stuck may well decide not to stick it out any longer or at the very least to look to escape at the first opportunity.
The stuck-on business model is hard work. It takes commitment and responsiveness, inventiveness and a genuine wish to do good by those who are loyal to you. That can be time-consuming and tiring, but very rewarding. The problem with the stuck-with is that it’s a bit like a Ponzi scheme. It works for a while and the returns are good … as long as you can keep feeding people in the top of the funnel. But social connectedness now means that the viability of doing that at a sustainable rate is diminishing.
Loyalty may look much the same in the numbers (for a time at least), but it feels very, very different on the ground.