Would the offer of a cheaper price cause you to consider abandoning a brand that you’ve grown to love? Would you switch from Diet Coke to Diet Pepsi if it meant getting two 12-packs of a less-favored brand for the price of one that you love? Is there no brand loyalty left in the Age of the Always Changing Deal?

“It’s a little known fact….”

Steve Olenski, writing at the New School Marketing Blog at Responsys.com, says right off the bat that he believes “very much in the power of branding”. But he also seems taken by what he sees as a growing trend: Consumers chucking brand loyalty overboard in favor of getting the best deal possible on a product or service.

Not that Olenski would go so far as to declare price the ultimate victor in this battle. His tactic in setting up such a contest seems in service to making a different point stick all the more. One we’ll get to after a basic review of some of the stats he cites:

  • Results from a survey sponsored by AisleBuyer indicate that about 3 out of 4 people would switch brands if they were offered deals and promotions on their smartphones while shopping in a store. Which doesn’t make someone abjectly disloyal so much as willing to take advantage of a present opportunity.
  • Pulling from a Forbes Magazine story that he wrote earlier this year, Olenski cites a WSL Strategic Retail study that found 75% of females as saying it’s more of a priority to get the lowest price, regardless of brand – a figure that’s up over 20% since 2004. Then again, so are choices and quality across the board over the last 9 years. And that 5- or 6-year interruption to the economy brought on by the recession, the housing bust and Wall Street’s volatility plays into this how, exactly? Losing your life for your country is one thing; losing your shirt to keep buying top-of-the-line when a step or two below will do is another – particularly if household members are un- or underemployed. That’s not disloyalty; that’s survival.
  • A 2011 study on social media says that 65% of people connect with brands on social networks for the games, contests and promotions – which supposedly means that people would abandon their normal brand in favor of a promotion on Facebook for a brand they don’t particularly favor. Because we all want Facebook to tell us to change our lives permanently by enslaving us to its endless promotions. Couldn’t be that people, for their own reasons and perhaps quite temporarily, are cashing in on what looks like a fleeting opportunity.
  • According to another survey cited by Olenski, 49% of those responding said they visit a brand’s social media site because of “attractive deals/promotions/sales”. 28% visit because they’re interested in new product offerings, while 26% check out the page because a friend or expert recommended it. There 8 other reasons listed. The 11 categories don’t add up to 100%, meaning that people responded to more than one category. Which not only skews the importance of one category’s numbers over another, but also says more about people’s perceptions of social media – it’s there to offer deals and information – than it does about brand loyalty.

Olenski notes that none of this should come as a great shock to marketers because, as he puts it, “Consumers are people, people. Get it?” He goes on to say that people generally want the best deal, period – though he doesn’t define what that means. Is it a deal to get a lousy tasting product that’s cheap? Or is it considered deal-worthy to get a significant discount – still priced above Generic Land – on a brand you love? Given what he apparently knows about people, it’s strange that he doesn’t say.

His point, and he does try to make it

Olenski then tackles this looming question: Are brands that don’t respond to price pressure destined to fail?

His answer? “No, of course they are not doomed to fail.” This is because, he explains, many brands have something called – wait for it — quality.

After all of the surveys cited, the colorful graphics used, the constant harping on price as the be-all and end-all, this Marketing Macbeth finally looks into the seeds of time and declares that the ones that will grow are the cheapest. And the best. Plus, he adds in a couple of brief paragraphs before quoting a Responsys colleague at length, all brands need to wake up to the fact that – attention freshman marketing majors — relationship marketing is the key to success or failure.

So get those social media sites teeming with deals. Cut costs where you can. Keep up the quality. And treat your customers as they wish to be treated.

As if you didn’t know all of that already. Class dismissed.

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