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The State of Brands: Brand Loyalty for Different Generations

I’m privileged to welcome Perry Stambler as a guest blogger for this next installment in our series, The State of Brands. Perry is a senior consultant with Clarkston and has amassed over 20 years of invaluable experience working with a variety of clients.

Is there a correlation between what drives brand loyalty and age groups? If so, what are the drivers and how should brands be positioned to appeal to their respective target audiences?

There is no simple answer, but the topic can best be described as a relationship to the personal values that are a part of people’s personality and have been formulated over a lifetime.  How one evaluates brands and makes purchases is often established between the ages of 18 and 30. For example, today Generations “Next” and “X” heavily consider factors like perceived peer value, technological relevance and social acceptance (i.e., status symbol to self and peers) when deciding which brands to choose. The baby boomer generation has different brand loyalty values and demonstrates belief traits such as independent thinking and selection. The boomers’ parents focus their loyalty on “tried and true” product performance and a desire to follow historical (family) purchasing trends.

Despite generational differences, there is common ground that all brand loyalty is based upon, like performance and how the product fits their lifestyle.  Particularly, brand longevity, form, fit, function and the company’s public perception as it relates to the group’s core values play a large part in driving brand preferences.

Public perception has been growing in importance as a key influencer of a brand’s reputation.  As companies shift toward becoming more “transparent,” their brands are becoming more appealing to younger audiences whose values are often closely aligned with societal issues. Companies that have taken this initiative are improving the health of their brands by cultivating long term brand loyalty among younger generations.  At the same time, these companies publicize product stability to retain older consumers who may have been loyal to the brand for years. For example, Proctor and Gamble promotes their environmental protective practices allowing the brand name to cater to both older consumers by name recognition/loyalty and younger consumers for ecological responsibility.  Courting multiple generations is possible without fragmenting brand positioning and is essential to extending brand life and remaining profitable in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.

Given the dynamic nature of consumer purchasing behavior, companies must be more flexible and adaptable in their quest to build brand loyalty regardless of age cohort.  The new standard for consumers is finding exactly what they want, when they want it, where they want it and at the price they want.  Within that framework resides generational preferences of how that decision is made, but in essence all groups are looking to be loyal to brands that align with their values, respect their individuality, and tailor the brand experience to meet their individual needs.  Some products are more naturally suited to this than others, but as a trend this is the future.

In essence, the future of brand loyalty is ever changing with consumers now asking for a more “personalized” experience when they make buying decisions. Read the next blog in this series, The State of Brands: Building Brand Loyalty Through Personalization.