Brand Loyalty and Experimentation

wine brandsThis brief summary of the reasons behind brand loyalty entitled “Why Do People Fall in Love With One Particular Wine? provides a correct analysis of the phenomenon but it just shows how peculiar this behavior is.

The article focuses on a regular wine consumer, Allison Sperlongo, who apparently drinks nothing but Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay ( which is the number 1 selling Chardonnay in the U.S. so she has lots of company.)

“I know exactly how much I can consume, and how it will affect me,” Sperlongo explains.

Dr. Jared Watson, assistant professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, then provides a variety of explanations for brand loyalty:

Knowing what you’re getting is a significant part of brand loyalty, Watson says. There’s even a name for it: prevention-focused mindset. This mindset — I know what I will get with the purchase and it’s good enough for me — drives consumer behavior to a certain extent, but it’s not the whole story.

People also internalize brands. In what’s called a self-brand connection, we “feel like the brand embodies who we are, our actual self, or who we want to be, our ideal self,” Watson explains….

There is also another effect: the mere exposure effect, which states that the more you’re exposed to something, the more you’ll like it, just because you’re more familiar with it…

“Whenever possible, we want to minimize the exertion of mental effort,” and this behavior makes us “cognitive misers,” Watson explains.

These are all good reasons for sticking with a brand and I imagine most of us are creatures of habit most of the time when shopping for commodities. The differences between various brands are often marginal unless you spend more, which is itself a deterrent to breaking a habit. (Of course, to me, wine is not a commodity; my wine buying proclivities are far outside the norm and not a basis for comparison here.)

What I find peculiar is how relentlessly all-encompassing the behavior described in the article is. The mind-set seems to be actively opposed to any experimentation.

When I go to the supermarket I, for the most part, buy products I’m familiar with for the reasons given above. But that “for the most part” is a meaningful qualification. I’m open to alternatives and when something catches my eye and looks interesting, I will give it a try. We are creatures of habit but that also lands us in a rut sometimes and there is satisfaction to be had in just breaking out of it.

Habits are important but so is experimentation—why live a life devoid of exploration?

I understand the behavior; it’s the full-throated endorsement of the behavior I find peculiar.

One comment

  1. Dwight,

    In one sense, it’s really nothing more than a safe subset of wine as a beverage and nothing more.



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