The New Morality of Brand Loyalty: from books to basketball

the new morality of brand loyalty christopher hopper

If you’re over the age of 30, you probably remember shopping at a particular store simply because your family were “faithful patrons.” A locally owned grocery store, hardware store, deli, or toy store. It meant you drove out of the way to buy from a trusted vendor, worked on a first name basis, and even purchased products knowing full well you could find them a few cents cheaper somewhere else. To those that remember, it was the way “things were done.” To those who don’t, it’s a foreign concept entirely.

But today, I primarily think about just two things when purchasing anything in 2010: 1) Where’s the cheapest place I can buy it? 2) How quickly can I get it without spending too much for the acquisition?

So how did I get from seeing my parents build 30+ year relationships with certain business owners to not eve caring what name appeared at the top of my receipts?

I have a theory.

The Internet taught me that online providers can sell products far less than I could find them in retail stores (low overhead, greater volume), and further still,  Google taught me I can search among those multiple virtual market places to find the best price. Because in the end, it’s all about me. Everything caters to my needs for expediency, customer experience, and price. Amazon saves my searches and recommends products; iTunes is so genius it tells me what songs I’ll like next; and Wal-Mart won’t even charge me shipping if it kind find what I want in their retail store.

Sure, their might be some semblance of brand loyalty hidden in the recesses of my heart, but more likely manifest in the need for desiring community with the “store closest to my work place” then true brand loyalty to a store owner’s benefit. Shoot, even my perceived brand loyalty to Apple would change the day their OS felt more like Windows than I was comfortable with.

I’m really just a shallow shopper.

As a result, retail stores learned they needed to make their prices more competitive, create franchises rather than one-of’s, provide online versions of their chain stores, and use eye-catching marketing to secure trendy buyers. With a few exceptions, mom-and-pops die off and price becomes king.

But is that where it ends? Has this new era of me-economics affected our morality as a culture, too?

Admittedly, I am not a basketball fan. But not even I could avoid the headlines of LeBron James‘ highly controversial switch from the Cavaliers to the Heat. And if you caught any version of any part of his interviews, it was apparent it really all came down to one thing: LeBron winning championships. For himself.

Forget the team that took a chance and made him the superstar he is today. It’s not about loyalty. It’s about me.

And then there’s employment. Ask the average teen or twenty-something how many jobs they’ve had in the last three years, and then what their plans are for the next ten. I know older Americans who’ve spent their whole lives working for an employer simply because their company helped put food on their table and kept the lights on. To them, to even think of changing jobs was tantamount to blasphemy.

Even the Church is fair game. Don’t like how you feel? The Pastor is too dressy, too casual? The worship not hip enough? A particular message offended you? That’s OK, you can shop around for the right church. And shoot, if you don’t find it, there’s church online.

And yet, there were basketball fans that cried faux pas when LeBron made his announcement…not just Cav fans. And I do know people that won’t set foot in an FYE, opting to for a crusty, hole-in-the-wall record store. And I’ve even had the privilege to meet congregants who stayed on through pastoral changes in leadership, opting to value the whole church above their personal desires.

Even I, while on tour, much prefer visiting the restaurants that make a city special than eating in the national chains with microwaved food.

But is this sort of person the exception, or is a possible return to the values of our parents’ and grandparents’ approaching?

Is it too idealistic to believe the general public lives above the power of the almighty dollar? Do you shop somewhere simply out of principle? Or has the trend of self-driven purchasing power even affected our loyalties to our employers and our churches? ch:

  • I think you actually touch on a few things here. As far as brand loyalty goes it’s still out there it’s just in a different form. It has more to due with I formation than product. Take this blog for example, I read it because I trust the spirit and motives of the author. I don’t read a lot if other peoples blogs because I don’t see them presenting I formation in a way that at least appears to be put forth with an honest attempt to see the truth in something. Personal bias will happen no matter who you are, the best we can hope for is to find a source that has pure motives.

    In an economic sense, I work hard for my money. Part of being a good steward over what God has given me is not foolishly giving it away. The simple truth is everyone else is looking for a way to make my money their money. That’s business and that’s the world we live in.

    There are a few things that will allow me to pay more for a product at one place, rather than just going for the cheapest price tag.

    1. Customer service: this is a big one, I will happily pay a premium if I know who I’m doing business understands that customers pay the bills.
    2. Business practices: if I know a company uses shady methods to get the product on the shelf cheaper than another company, I will pay the higher price to the honest man.

    I will admit brand loyalty (for the sake of this comment) as it relates to church is a joke these days. If your not being offended at least some at whatever house you choose to attend I find it hard to believe your growing. Part of maturing is identifying areas in yourself that are deficient. This is true in a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual sense regardless of your faith.

    I’m not talking about condemnation that has no place in a spiritual house (or any relationship) I mean conviction, a desire to change, In a safe and healthy way with supportive loving people holding you up.

    Well I’ve probably ranted enough. Great post, look forward to reading more.

    • Thanks so much for chiming in, Max. And I appreciate your vote of confidence.

      I love your two points that counteract the power of the dollar. Well said.

      But you bring up a good point: At what point does stewardship outweigh loyalty?

  • Sorry about the misspellings and grammar. iPhone FTW!

  • It outweighs it as soon as loyalty violates my core values. Consider myself a loyal friend but if you rob a bank I’m calling the police.

    • “It outweighs it as soon as loyalty violates my core values.”

      So how tight are this generation’s core values?

  • That is an interesting question because then we have to talk about being willing to do what’s right even when it’s not easy or comfortable. For me to consider the core values of a generation is impossible I just don’t have that kind of perspective. I can only approach it in the scope of my own children and close relationships.

  • Rinat

    Dude I’m not 30 but where i live I am loyal to my stores, restaurants and mechanic shops, car companies. I think this me me me even effects friendships because our values are not what they used to be and the mindset of if it’s no convenient then it’s not for me really is not helping our kids and families I mean look at
    Our iPhone they can pretty much do
    Anything besides shower us. We can take a
    Picture of our check and bam it’s in our account and we never left the house. Our social lifes are not as social as we think…

  • Hello Ch:

    I came across your blog right after submitting my review for your book Venom and Song through Book Sneeze. It was a fun read! 🙂

    Interesting questions. My husband and I are both suburbanites who recently moved to the city. We’ve found that we really enjoy the ‘feel’ our our dinky local hardware store. We recognize the employees and owners. We chat about the weather and other nonsense. We also pay more, but our son gets a free sucker out of the deal every time. We also go elsewhere when we know we’ll be spending a lot of money…

    It seems like in the city, more people have a loyalty to the locally owned shops. It’s harder to find that in the ‘burbs where Target is right around the corner.

    In regards to churches, even some churches themselves have bought into the trend of “me-serving”…attempting to give people exactly what they want to bring attenders. Pretty sad.

    I feel like loyalty to am employer depends a lot on the specific company. I’ve heard of lots of stories where people have remained loyal only to be “let go” and replaced with cheaper labor of younger people just starting careers. It kind of goes both ways.

  • Billy.J

    Well man, I’ve always enjoyed going to places my parents went to and were faithful, but you’re absolutely right. Those places are getting smaller and smaller. We now shop at any grocery shop with the cheapest food. Price Chopper and Aldi’s mostly. I personally buy most of my movies, books and the like from Amazon because I love their website and price. Whenever I buy in-store, I compare prices with Amazon. If I’m buying something from a friend, or say, a famous author I like, I try and buy from their website or such to give them more cash. But even that’s tough if they charge more than the average price other places. And my Dad and I did watch the interview with LeBron. And my Dad agreed with him. because he would be playing with huge pros and win more games than in other places. And I’ll admit, it is a good decision for him. Its his life, but I would have a lot of trouble making that choice. I’m not saying I wouldn’t, I probably would, but it would be very, very hard. To just leave my home-team and kinda betray my fans and stuff, for money. But money plays a HUGE part in the life of us now. For most, it rules us. Which is why we have to teach the kids to save and plan ahead like my parents did to me. And look to God for guidance when you really do feel overwhelmed. I’m not there yet, my purchases our for me. No cars, houses, boats, no credit-cards. I am scared of the day when I have to own a credit card. But it’s part of life and I’ll just have to trust God. I’ll stop blabbing now. Great post dude, Much love! 🙂