CPG Brand Loyalty: ‘I’m not dead yet!’

CPG Brand Loyalty: ‘I’m not dead yet!’


If you’re familiar with the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you may remember the scene when victims of the Black Plague are gathered for burial. A premature effort to put one elderly man in the ground ends with him exclaiming, “I’m not dead yet!”

Last week, we looked at the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry and asked, “Is brand loyalty dead?” If given the chance, it would scream like that old man or quote Mark Twain, who said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Brand loyalty is not dead. Rather, the drivers of loyalty have changed, and CPG companies need to manage their brands accordingly.

I would argue that all brand loyalty boils down to two types—functional and emotional.

Functional Brand Loyalty

You could also describe functional loyalty as habitual or convenience loyalty. For example, my family uses Tide as our laundry detergent of choice. We have for many years (decades actually). Having resided in the Cincinnati area as well as having a wife that used to work for P&G, we tend to buy Cincinnati-based P&G products. But we also use Tide because it does its job of cleaning clothes well; this is the “second moment of truth” that we discussed in last week’s blog.

Would other detergents clean just as well and potentially cost less? Possibly. But it is easier to stick with a brand we trust will get the job done. That said, I am not connected to the brand on an emotional level. This relationship is based purely on function. When loyalty is functional, brands must continue to fulfill their brand promise while also innovating to ensure their products evolve and improve.

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Emotional Brand Loyalty

The second type of brand loyalty is emotional, and often far more valuable to the brand. Think for a moment of the brands you love—absolutely love. Personally, I am fanatically devoted to a few brands, and it would be unlikely for me to stray from them. Here’s an example.

For much of my career, I traveled extensively for work, and the repeated lifting of a heavy bag into the airplane overhead damaged my rotator cuff. It was a real struggle. It seemed my only options were to check my bag (and risk it being lost plus add time to each trip for waiting at baggage) or lighten my load. Since I don’t like to be delayed, I focused on making my luggage as light as possible by reducing what I brought. But how do you reduce an already small amount of clothes for three-to-five days of travel?

As a hobby, I camp and backpack. In backpacking, the goal is obviously to have as light a load as possible. There are multiple strategies to accomplish this, but the one I pursued involved clothing made from wool; specifically Merino wool because it is not as scratchy as some other wools.

Wool is, in some ways, a “magical” fabric. It insulates when wet, keeps you warm when the weather is cold, and breathes to keep you cool when the weather is hot. Most importantly, it has natural antimicrobial properties. Hikers have boasted about wearing the same wool t-shirt for days on end without having odor issues.

So my thought was how do I combine the properties of wool hiking clothing into business casual attire? Is there a company that makes wool dress shirts, etc., that would allow me to travel with less clothing? The internet provided the answer. Yes, there are companies like this, and I focused specifically on one called Wool&Prince.

Mac Bishop, the founder of Wool&Prince, has a fascinating founder story. The ethos of the company and its authenticity—not just the capabilities of the clothing—drew me in. The sustainable nature of the clothing addressed my environmental concerns about having too much stuff. The community between the company and its customers delivered a level of engagement I craved. And practically speaking, it was a game changer. I could travel for a week with a single bag, and my shoulder healed without surgery.

OK, if you’ve stayed with me for that rather long story, you may be asking, “So what?!”

The “so what?” here is that I discovered Wool&Prince, not the other way around. While it worked out for me, that model really doesn’t scale for a brand. The ideal situation would have been for Wool&Prince (or one of its competitors) to have discovered me.

The data is out there … facts about me camping, backpacking, and traveling for business are available. Of course, my medical history and shoulder pain wouldn’t have been known. But wool clothing brands looking for potentially enthusiastic and committed customers could have found me.

Once I was “discovered,” if the brand engaged with me in an authentic and credible way, I am sure I would have been hooked. Not only am I brand loyal, I am also a brand advocate. I have told my Wool&Prince story to many people, so much so that some friends just call me Mr. Wool—think of the value of this earned media!

How CPG Brands Can Find Enthusiastic Consumers

What is preventing brands from discovering and developing brand advocates? It’s a lack of integrated and actionable consumer-level data.

This is the data needed to discover insights and leverage predictive models powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence. But finding the right consumers is only part of the challenge. Then you need to engage with the right message at the right time.

What steps can marketers take to proactively gain more emotionally loyal consumers—the kind that will evangelize both the product and the brand?

  1. Gather, collect, and enrich as much first-party data as you can. Clearly this is easier for digitally native companies, such as Wool&Prince. But established brands can tap into call center data or possibly launch a DTC initiative to not only develop a new revenue stream but also collect valuable consumer-level data.
  2. Deploy a customer data platform to provide analytics, predictive models, and insights to get true value from your data. For example, look-alike modeling allows brands to scale existing data to find more high-value targets for engagement.
  3. Ensure your technology supports real-time engagement. It is critical to target the right person with the right message, and to do so at the right time. A well-timed engagement can build trust and credibility while a message delivered at the wrong time can do the opposite. (Ever receive a coupon code right after you make a purchase? It’s annoying.)

Keep up with the latest CPG industry news and trends. Join us here next week as we explore real-time engagement in our blog, “Pardon the Interruption.” And checkout Episode 6 of CPG Bytes where we talk about Burberry’s success in digital transformation.

David McCarty
David McCarty
David McCarty has over 30 years of experience in the CPG industry. He consults with CPG and retail clients to develop and implement strategic, digital transformation initiatives. David’s areas of focus include marketing, trade promotion, ecommerce, new product innovation, and supply chain. His passion and motivation are driven by helping his clients leverage innovative technology to drive profitable growth.
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