Brand loyalty is typically thought of in a one-dimensional sense, meaning that brand loyalty is an allegiance to a brand and subsequently the values behind it. However, there are other ways of looking at brand loyalty. First of all, brand loyalty is tied in with branding. Companies and agencies are constantly evaluating brands as they update them and build new campaigns for them. How much can a brand change while still staying true to its roots? Can too much change cause a company to stray too far from a brand’s origins, resulting in a loss of relevance and connectivity throughout? These are the questions on the table. Two companies whose brands recently saw changes are Planters and Starbucks. Stuart Elliot, in “Mr. Peanut’s New Look? Old School” http://nyti.ms/doeuMX reports that Mr. Peanut’s new look updated him through animation and a speaking voice. However, it also discusses how his clothes evolved while maintaining a look based on earlier depictions of him. Hence they improved Mr. Peanut by making him more interactive and relatable, but showed respect for his origins by making subtle wardrobe changes reflective of his long-standing history. On the flipside of this is the example of Starbucks’ recent logo change as discussed in Tonya Garcia’s “The Latest Logo Redesign Is…” http://bit.ly/gm2JR6. Starbucks recently dropped the green and beige Starbucks outer circle and left the siren’s inner circle to stand alone in a slightly larger size with a green color change. I think that divorcing the Starbucks name from the logo still reflects its roots but simultaneously does a great disservice to the brand. It gives it license to move away from coffee and branch out into other merchandise. While that can be a positive I think that Starbucks should continue to focus more on being the best coffee company, key word: coffee. If it loses this focus then it loses its identity. For a brand, that is never a good thing.
Another type of brand loyalty is shown in TV lifestyle programs where guest ‘experts’ demonstrate brand loyalty through sponsored product pitches. In “On the Media: A plea for honesty in paid TV pitches” http://lat.ms/heMesD, James Rainey relates that while federal agencies mandate clear identification of commercial pitches it is not enforced in these instances. He specifically cites a “San Diego Living” holiday episode with Sean McEwen pitching specific holiday gift ideas for guys. The mention of items like the SodaStream soda maker went unaccompanied by any disclaimer save a vague one at the end for the sponsorship of Miller/Weiner. The featured companies paid Miller/Weiner to have Sean McEwen promote their products on “San Diego Living.” That brings up a question of ethics. Even though it may be an overt advertisement, clearly Sean McEwen is portraying a false brand loyalty because no disclaimer of company sponsorship appeared with any product. Another avenue of brand loyalty is found in the fact that companies expect a lot more from their employees today. Not only must they promote the brand but live the brand. Michael Schrage in “When Brand Loyalty Goes Too Far” http://bit.ly/dHzvFT talks about a future where company employees could be required to adhere strictly to the brand even in their off hours. An example would be that Wal-Mart promotes sustainability and employees could be required to ‘go green’ at home and stick to CFL lightbulbs. This standpoint of ‘living the brand’ is understandable in that the company wants to present a united stance and set an example. At the same time it is very restrictive and goes to an unnecessary extreme simply to prove a point. I am all in favor of brand loyalty and what it represents, but when it is misused and detracts from a brand’s core state then it is a negative. These examples showcase not just the positive and negative examples, but also the different aspects of brand loyalty. Brand loyalty goes beyond allegiance to a brand, it encompasses how it is reinterpreted, how it is related through the media and how it is presented by company employees. The right moves lead to success, while the rest are damaged and dragged through the mud.