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It’s no secret we live in a fast-paced world, one in which new ideas, products and trends come and go faster than you can say, “You’re fired.” While I used to worry about keeping up, lately I find myself less concerned with passing fads and more interested in what makes it past the censors; what we, as consumers, deem worthy of investing in, literally and figuratively. Catch phrases, product slogans, even jingles have worked their way into the collective consciousness (up there, that was a reference from The Apprentice, but you already knew that), but not all of them make the cut. That’s how I got to thinking about voting. Not for politicians, but for products and their evolving images.
The value of what I like to call “The American Idol Effect” extends beyond entertainment. By asking us to get involved and vote on their latest mascot, packaging and slogans, smart brands such as Brawny, James Hardie, M&Ms and even Microsoft are building a different kind of customer loyalty. They’re also redefining what it means to be a consumer.
Is it just me blogging out loud, or is consumerism no longer solely about purchasing power? It seems it’s also about having our say, and having our say matter. Brand loyalty is not just driven by the brand; suddenly, consumers are co-pilots.
That said, a recent study by comScore reports a steep decline in brand loyalty over the past two years, ultimately concluding that as of March 2010 less than 50 percent of American consumers were purchasing brands they most desired. Says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni: “A decline in loyalty to consumer goods brands is typically one of the byproducts of a recession as consumers give greater consideration to price.” He goes on, however, to say, “Despite these shifting consumer dynamics, research has repeatedly shown that premium brands which invest in marketing and promotion activities aimed at maintaining buying at ‘preferred’ levels are able to minimize short-term erosion of share to less expensive brands and position themselves for a bounce-back when the economy improves.”
In response to this, a blogger at Mobile Marketing Watch asserts “utilizing mobile concepts to engage an audience on new levels and insert a brand image in contextually relevant and highly targeted content can do wonders for a brand that’s quickly seeing a loss in customer loyalty.” And although we’ve seen this mostly in television, where shows like the aforementioned American Idol and Dancing with the Stars empower audiences to help decide the winners, it is popping up elsewhere, too. In popular music, we’ve seen bands such as Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones encourage fans to vote for songs to be played live (Bon Jovi did this on the Grammy Awards earlier this year). It’s hard to go online without wandering down the rabbit hole of one sweepstakes or another, asking little more than the voter’s age, gender, zip code, and a simple “yes” or “no.” In this way, it’s fascinating to consider how technology (i.e., cell phones, the Internet) can work to both a brand’s and customer’s advantage. It’s equally fascinating to consider how old-school (nay, classic) brands have made an old trick new. No longer are they simply appealing to us on a basic need and/or want level; they’re saying, “We want to hear what you think.” The louder message though is in the implication — that our voice matters. Do you think it’s working? Dial “1” for “yes” and “2” for “no.”