Consumers are forming strong emotional bonds with brands to the point of suffering separation anxiety if they cannot purchase those brands.
A study from the USC Marshall School of Business indicates that the bond can be so strong that consumers will sacrifice time, money, energy, and reputation to secure that brand attachment. The greater the attachment, the greater the sacrifices. The study even suggests that some consumers see brands as an extension of themselves. Study authors also suggest that managers have much to gain by targeting consumer brand attachment.
A 2001 issue of the Gallup Management Journal (GMJ) also showed that customers develop “emotional, even passionate, ties to an extremely broad range of the products and services they use… suggesting that companies in almost any industry can attract life-long customers.”
Humans are emotional creatures. It is perfectly natural to have passion for something we find pleasing, but it is important that we ask ourselves why we are bonding with brands.
Media Awareness Network (MNet) is a Canadian-based non-profit organization that promotes media literacy and digital literacy programs. MNet focuses efforts on equipping adults with information and tools to help young people understand how the media work and how their lifestyle choices are affected by media.
Young people today are the most marketed-to generation in history and brand loyalty can be established early on. That’s why it is important that we — and they — understand the extent to which they are being well-informed.
According to MNet, North Americans are exposed to an average of 3,000 ads per day. Think about it — television, radio, Internet, airports, gas pumps, movies, magazines, newspapers, wireless media, video games… the list goes on and on. Finding a public, or even a private space free of advertising is becoming increasingly difficult as marketers find new ways to infiltrate our eyes, ears, and thoughts:
Ambient Advertising: These are the ads in public places that cannot be avoided. They appear on public transportation, elevators, park benches, etc. Ads are even appearing on school property and in educational materials.
Stealth Endorsers: This is when celebrities wear or use products in public appearances, or promote them in the media without making it clear that they are paid spokespeople.
Naming Rights: When corporations purchase naming rights to public venues, providing municipalities with cash revenue without raising taxes.
Targeted Advertising: Through data collecting technologies, websites take personal information and preferences to tailor ads to that individual user.
Cross Merchandising: That’s when products or artists are cross-promoted through big conglomerates to reach massive audiences.
Product Placement: When a product is highlighted within films or television programs.
Digital Advertising: Ads are digitally placed on playing surfaces during sporting events, for example. Such ads can be placed in television scenes after the scenes are shot, and can be altered to create new advertising for syndication.
Buzz Marketing: Cool kids have clout and have always set the trends. Marketers target the coolest kids to use or wear their product to create word-of-mouth advertising.
There is nothing wrong with advertising, as long as we guard ourselves — and especially our children — against marketing that plays to insecurity, materialism, and the desire to fit in. Casting a critical eye on ads and understanding why we are prone to purchase particular brands is an important step in that direction.
Writer Ann Pietrangelo is a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes, and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Author’s Guild. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo