Big brands like Coca-Cola, Google, Starbucks and Apple all have one thing in common. They have a large loyal customer base who buy their products repeatedly and often blindly ignoring other brands. It has even been scientifically proven that Apple products activate similar brain regions as religions. So are some brands brainwashing us or are we simply loyal to them due to their product being superior? And is there a difference between brainwashing and brand loyalty at all?
Is our love and loyalty for brands the same as belonging to a religion?
For the BBC documentary “Secrets of the Superbrands”, a team of researchers investigated the effects of well-known brands on the brain.
The editor of “World of Apple” Alex Brooks, was the subject for this experiment. He has personally attended 30 Apple Store opening parties so ‘superfan’ would be the best way of describing him. In the BBC show, they connected him to an MRI scanner which made his brain activity visible so it could be analysed. The researchers showed how certain areas of the brain behave when Alex Brooks looked at images of Apple products vs other brands. When the images showed Apple products, the MRI scan reported a higher activity in the visual centre of the brain compared to other brands. The same brain activity you can observe in religious people when engaged in religious activities. In conclusion, the thought of God and of Apple stimulates similar brain regions which is worrying to say the least!
How can you influence customers into always buying from your brand?
Marketing psychologists are constantly finding new ways to get consumers to buy something or at least come to a conclusion subconsciously about.
One way of subconsciously influencing is emotional advertising. These emotions are generated either by the advertisement or by the program in which the advertisement is placed. Emotional advertising usually focuses on the two main reasons for buying: feel pleasure or avoid pain. Studies have shown that emotional advertising remains the most memorable. If it’s possible to establish a link at an emotional level, consumers are much more likely to remember an advert more easily at a later date. In addition, colours, tones and smells are often used to evoke certain associations and feelings in consumers. In some bakeries, for example, they place the ovens in such a way that you smell their freshly baked bread as you walk past, making you much more likely to buy it.
Another way to keep them as loyal customers is to convey the illusion of innovation. The trick is to launch a new product on the market on a regular basis, which in fact contains only a few minor changes. The owner of the older model will feel the urge to buy the new innovative model. The changes from iPhone to iPhone are often negligible yet people often buy the newest iPhone without question due to their blind loyal.
Companies often present their customers with three options to choose from, often nudging them to decide on the middle one. Most people find it hard to decide on an offer, so you can help them to choose and make them buy what you want them to. A cool real life example is in restaurants they list their cheapest bottle of wine as their second cheapest bottle. Because a lot of people don’t want to ‘look cheap’ they often buy the second cheapest bottle and thus the restaurants margins are increased as this bottle generally is sold the highest amount.
Greenwashing is also a strategy to make people feel good for buying a product by portraying an environmentally responsible public image. A well-known example are sweets for children marketed as containing a lot of nutrients and high fruit content, making them supposedly healthy snacks. Thus parents buy their children the sweets thinking they are doing a good thing when in fact the sweets are often not too dissimilar in sugar content to generic sweets.
How can you achieve brand loyalty?
Brand loyalty is the tendency of consumers to continuously purchase one brand’s products or services over another. It is a consumer behaviour where consumers have positive feelings towards a brand and become committed to a particular brand. But how do certain brands now achieve brand loyalty with their customers?
First of all, it is important to offer something that no one else provides so that it makes no sense for customers to switch to the competition.
Customer service is also extremely important. Good customer service will help to retain and grow your customer base. It’s incredibly beneficial to an organisation if when a customer has a bad experience that their customer service clears it up to the extent where the customer comes away thinking more about the company than before due to their great customer care. The customer not only forgets about the bad experience but is likely to tell their friends about how great a customer care service the company has.
In addition, you should build a personal bond with them, for example by congratulating them on their birthdays and showing them that they are not just another buyer but are part of the family that is the brand. By producing effective social media content you can interact with customers boosting the engagement of your brand in a public forum.
One obvious trick to keep customers loyal to a brand is a rewards scheme. People love prizes and the idea of ‘getting something for free’ is usually enough to drive the purchase of a product to an extent which is beneficial to the company. The age old example being buy 1 get 1 free or the more impressive cash winner of buy 8 coffees and get your 9th free. In regard to the loyalty card situation, you secured a returning customer and the cost of giving them their 9th coffee for free is so minuscule to the company when taking into account the business they have brought. As a customer if you need to purchase an item but two shops sell it at the same price and similar standard then why wouldn’t you go to the one which eventually gives you one for free.
Do we brainwash ourselves?
Scientific studies have proven that we need to be able to justify our actions. Whether those actions are as simple as eating cake or as expensive as staying loyal to a single brand of car. Our brains help us with this by coming up with plausible explanations. We become committed to our “preference” and will fight to hold onto it. Acknowledging that a change would be better goes against our loyalty. Since our brains are already primed to create rational-sounding reasons for our “preferences”, adverts can help to exploit this. By providing us reasons to buy a product our brain is happy to use them to justify our purchase since it requires less work for our brains. Hence why a good marketing campaign can have such a beneficial impact on the sales of a product or service.
Marketers have many strategies to tie customers to brands. However, once customers have found a brand with which they identify, then an advertisers job becomes so much easier. As long as you don’t have prolonged negative experiences, then you find it easier to stay with a brand. Nevertheless, employing the strategies spoken about can be very helpful to win customers and retain them. Brainwashing is a strong word to describe these strategies. It’s more the knowledge of how the human body works and how people will react in different situations.