Candy bars, cereal, social networking platforms, and shoes. What do these products have in common? They carry brand names people crave. Snickers, Frosted Flakes, Facebook, and Nike are extremely popular brands, but they, like any other brand, can be discarded if suitable substitutes exist. Companies should consider that thought when managing consumer expectations and working to maintain brand loyalty. Even though substitutes often don’t provide the same joy as that original favorite product, substitutes can win the hearts of consumers over time. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, if a favored product becomes temporarily inaccessible, consumers can quickly forget about that product when offered a “decent enough” replacement.
Optimal Production Strategy
People may be skeptical at first when moving to a substitute. They may proclaim they will patiently wait for the return of the original product, because the substitute doesn’t satisfy their cravings. However, recent studies from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business showed that patience may not last. Researchers conducted five studies to measure the amount of desire for a product that became unavailable to consumers. The buyer grew disinterested in their favored products, such as Facebook, when given a substitute like WhatsApp or Instagram (ironically owned by Facebook). However, if consumers did not find a substitute, they began to crave the original product more, over time.
To combat the possibility of brand desertion, brands, both small and large, must maintain the availability of their product. Companies need to evaluate and understand the market and consumers in order to plan the optimal production strategy for their product. After all, consumers expect their favorite brand to be available, and the study proves that consumers are quickly willing to switch loyalties if they find a suitable substitute. If the demand is not met, businesses should expect consumers to switch brands. Companies need to protect and grow their brand by utilizing marketing strategies at effective times, without changing the product.
One method to increase brand growth is through persuasive messages, a typical marketing strategy. The researchers state that persuasive messages of brands are most effective when the consumer can no longer control their craving for the brand. Take, for example, the Twix candy bar, which bears the slogan, “Need a moment? Chew it over with Twix.” If a consumer has not had a Twix in a while, a commercial that displays the slogan can potentially increase a craving for Twix.
Another way for brands to retain consumer loyalty is to honor both the consumers’ values and the promises that have been made to them. For example, customers who enjoyed Wendy’s fries for years may have left for Burger King fries when Wendy’s changed to the “natural-cut” fries. Any change to a brand or any promise unfulfilled will increase the risk of abandonment of the brand.
Companies must hold a strong balance of persuasive marketing strategies, kept promises, product availability, and loyalty to the consumer in order to retain consumers. After all, if the brand can maintain a symbiotic relationship with the consumer, not only will the brand grow, but the satisfaction and referrals of the consumer will as well. At the most basic level, stay available to stay successful.