March 14, 2017

by Nigel Hollis

If you ask me about my car, then I might well reply, ‘I love it’. If so, I have been thinking about cheating on my car for some time now. If I really loved my car then would I not cherish it, keep it in pristine condition and ignore new car reviews? Whether it is a car, bank, candy, phone or soft drink I doubt many people love the brands they buy.

I am not alone in doubting the power of brand love. Members of the Ehrenberg Bass Institute have long ridiculed brand love as an influence on purchase, on the grounds that the users of any brand tend to say they love the brands they buy, it is not a differentiating feature. But whereas The Ehrenberg Bass Institute would see the pursuit of brand love of futile, research by Kantar Millward Brown and Kantar Worldpanel proves that a little bit of love can have a substantial sales effect.

To my mind people do not love brands but they do quite like them. Kantar Millward Brown’s Emotional Priming research demonstrates that most brands evoke a mild, instinctive liking, not some more passionate response. And while Ehrenberg Bass are right in saying that most users like the brands they buy, this ignores the fact that some brands are liked more than usage alone can explain.

BrandZ data shows that the brands which are liked more than usage alone would predict are more likely to be seen as worth the price than ones that are less liked, but does this attitude translate into more sales?

New research based on combining BrandZ data with that from Kantar Worldpanel allows us to examine the level of attitudinal affinity consumers have for every brand they purchase. In research studies covering 34 brands, the research found that different brands achieve vastly different levels of affinity per purchase, and this variation bears no clear relationship to brand size.

The paper reviewing the findings from this research and more is detailed in a recent Admap paper authored by my colleague Josh Samuel, Head of global innovations at Kantar Millward Brown. He reports that brand affinity has an important role in encouraging repeat purchase. People are almost twice as likely to buy a brand again if they like it to start with. Josh states,

“50 percent of pre-wave brand buyers with above-average affinity for the brand repeat their purchase in the nine-month post period. This is nearly twice the repeat purchase rate of pre-wave buyers with below-average affinity, 26 percent of whom repeat purchase. This result holds true even when you adjust for pre-wave purchase frequency, so we know it isn't just due to an overrepresentation of heavy buyers in the group with high brand affinity.”

So while most people do not love brands, it seems that a little liking can go a long way to boosting repeat sales; they are not just a function of brand size. Our conclusion must be that, given an otherwise equal choice, people will pay more for a brand they like and be more likely to buy it again. But what do you think?




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